I have been following the congressional hearings on the the events of January 6th, 2021 when hordes of Trump supporters attacked the Capitol building, breaking in and defacing it and stealing property, in their futile effort at stopping Congress from certifying Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 election. They were responding to Trump’s call to action, duped into believing his pathetic and obvious lie that the election had been stolen from him and that he had been re-elected.
One feature that is emerging is that the people who were employed by the White House in any kind of professional capacity, such as his attorney General Bill Barr, lawyers or employees of various governmental agencies and even his campaign manager, kept telling Trump that there was no evidence of massive fraud.
But clearly Trump had decided even before election night that he was not going to concede defeat and the rumors fed to him by some of political advisors, including a possibly drunk Rudy Giuliani, gave him the means to propagate the Big Lie that the election was stolen from him, even though it was known to be false from the get-go by those close to Trump who were working in the White House. Even Trump’s daughter Ivanka said that she accepted Barr’s opinion.
The hearings revealed that Trump would raise an allegation of fraud that he had been told about and when he was told that it had been looked into and there was nothing there, he would shift to another allegation. When that was shot down, he would shift to a third. And so on. Since the toadies who surrounded him kept feeding him these wild rumors, there was never a shortage of new allegations for Trump to cling on to.
This type of argumentation will be familiar to anyone who has dealt with conspiracy theorists, or anti-vaxxers or climate change deniers or anti-evolutionists. They too keep shifting the nature of their objections without defending their debunked hypotheses nor conceding that they were mistaken. This enables them to raise those same hypotheses again at a later time as if the previous debunking never happened. They have decided on what they believe and nothing will shift them from it. They avoid answering the question: “What would it take to persuade you that you are wrong?” because they do not want to be pinned down to specifics.
Monday’s hearing also tried to understand why Trump was doing this. The answer, as is almost always the case with anything associated with Trump, is that it at least partially served as a grift , to separate the rubes who blindly believe in him from their money.
The hearing closed with the jarring words of Eric Herschmann, a White House lawyer, who recalled a phone call with John Eastman, another of the president’s lawyers whom a judge has said conspired with Trump to overturn the election.
“I said to him, Are you out of your effing mind?” Herschmann recalled. “I said I… only want to hear two words coming out of your mouth for now on: orderly transition.”
Before the hearing ended, the committee’s senior investigative counsel Amanda Wick outlined one possible motivation for why Trump stuck with the fraud claims: they were a money-making opportunity.
“As the select committee has demonstrated, the Trump campaign knew these claims of voter fraud were false, yet they continue to barrage small dollar donors with emails encouraging them to donate to something called Official Election Defense Fund. The select committee discovered no such fund existed,” she said.
Wick goes on to say much of the $250 million raised for the supposed effort was funneled into a political action committee that made donations to pro-Trump organizations, as well as confidantes like his chief of staff Mark Meadows. The barrage of fundraising emails to supporters “continued through January 6, even as President Trump spoke on the ellipse. Thirty minutes after the last fundraising email was sent, the Capitol was breached,” Wick said.
The public hearings will continue, with the next one on Wednesday, where they will reveal more details.
Hearing 3, June 15 will target Trump’s alleged plot to influence and possibly replace the U.S. Attorney General in order to further false election claims. Set to testify are Jeffrey Rosen, who was then acting attorney general, his deputy Richard Donoghue and Justice Department official Steve Engel. The Post says their testimony will take place in the morning.
Hearing 4 is intended to outline Trump’s efforts to pressure VP Mike Pence to stop the electoral count. There is some indication this hearing will take place Thursday, June 16. Greg Jacob, the former chief counsel to the vice president will reportedly testify.
Hearing 5, June 21 will trace the then-president’s alleged efforts to unduly influence state legislators and election officials. Brad Raffensperger, secretary of state of Georgia and Gabriel Sterling, one his top aides, have been subpoenaed to testify.
Hearings 6 & 7 are meant to detail how “Trump summoned a violent mob and directed them, illegally, to march on the U.S. Capitol” and how he failed to act to stop those same people as they invaded the Capitol building. No date is yet set for these proceedings.
The key questions are whether these hearing will persuade many people to change their minds about Trump and the Big Lie, and whether they will persuade the Department of Justice that there is enough evidence to criminally charge Trump and others.
Seth Meyers summarizes the hearings so far.
Trevor Noah also had a good summary.