Former U.S. Attorney General William Barr and numerous other White House and political aides to then-President Donald Trump said they had repeatedly told him that his allegations of fraud in the 2020 election were baseless and that he had lost reelection, even as Trump repeatedly claimed he was cheated out of a second White House term.
Barr, in videotaped testimony shown Monday by the House of Representatives panel investigating last year's January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, told lawmakers that many of Trump's claims of election irregularities were "completely bogus and silly."
"I told the president the claims of fraud were bullshit," Barr said, recalling one of his several White House meetings with Trump before resigning in late 2020.
"He was indignant about that," Barr recalled, saying he left the meeting thinking, "He's become detached from reality if he really believes" he was defrauded out of reelection.
"There was never an indication of interest in what the actual facts were," Barr said of Trump.
Watch Monday's Committee Hearing:
To this day, Trump claims he legitimately won the election two years ago, and that Democrat Joe Biden became president through fraudulent vote counts in several states. Recount after recount in those states, however, showed that Biden had narrowly defeated him, and that any minor irregularities uncovered would not have been enough to upend the outcome.
Polls show that many of Trump's supporters continue to believe his false claims that he won the election.
"Obviously he lost the election," Barr said of Trump. "There was zero base of evidence sufficient to overturn the election."
The investigative panel showed several videos of officials in several key states debunking Trump's claims, including that a truckload of Biden votes had been delivered to vote counters after the election, that thousands of dead people had voted, and that a ballot box of votes had suddenly been pulled from beneath a table as workers counted votes in the Southern state of Georgia.
"I told him lots of information he's getting is bogus," Richard Donoghue, a former acting deputy attorney general, testified in another video clip shown by the committee.
Former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien had been scheduled to testify Monday but bowed out after his pregnant wife had gone into labor. The committee instead played clips from his earlier testimony in which he told investigators he and others had cautioned Trump on election night to not declare victory while millions of mail-in ballots, which went heavily for Biden, had yet to be counted.
Instead, Trump listened to his longtime lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, described by witnesses as inebriated on the night of the election, who persuaded him to declare victory.
Trump, in the early hours of November 4, 2020, told supporters at the White House, "Frankly, we did win this election," and claimed that the ongoing vote counting was "a fraud on the American people."
Stepien said he did not mind being characterized as "Team Normal" for urging caution in declaring victory, compared with Giuliani and other Trump lawyers, who pushed the president's fraud claims in the weeks after the election.
In another video, committee investigator Amanda Wick alleged that the Trump campaign used his election fraud claims to raise nearly $250 million to fight the election outcome before January 6, when some 2,000 of his supporters stormed the Capitol to block lawmakers from certifying Biden's victory. But she said much of the money went to other Trump-favored political pursuits.
One member of the House panel, Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren, contended, "Not only was there the 'Big Lie'" about purported election fraud, "but the 'Big Rip-off'" raising the money.
In a 12-page response to the hearings released on Monday, the former president continued his false claims of election fraud and said the Democrats were using the hearings to distract from a series of economic issues facing the country.
“They are desperate to change the narrative of a failing nation, without even making mention of the havoc and death caused by the Radical Left just months earlier. Make no mistake, they control the government. They own this disaster. They are hoping that these hearings will somehow alter their failing prospects,” Trump said in a statement.
The committee is holding a series of hearings this month to uncover how the January 6 insurrection occurred and what role Trump played in fomenting it.
Attorney General Merrick Garland, who is deciding whether the Department of Justice should prosecute Trump, said Monday of the hearings, "I am watching."
"And I can assure you the January 6 prosecutors are watching all of the hearings, as well," he told a press briefing.
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press.