June 16, 2022
Many officials have told the January 6 committee that they tried to dissuade the former president from his bid to overturn the election. But in public at the time, their words were far different, reports The New York Times.
For example, when Bill Barr stepped down as attorney general in December 2020, he showered then-President Donald Trump with praise for his “unprecedented achievements” in a flowery letter and vowed that the Justice Department would continue to pursue the president’s claims of voter fraud “to ensure the integrity of elections.”
However, 18 months later, Barr sounded more than slightly different. In videotaped testimony played at the first two public hearings held by the House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol, Americans have now learned what Barr avoided saying publicly about Trump at the time.
Barr’s thinking, he said, was that the president had “become detached from reality if he really believes this stuff. On the other hand, when I went into this and would tell him how crazy some of these allegations were, there was never an indication of interest in what the actual facts were.”
Barr’s testimony, as well as that of several aides played at the hearing, represented candid, more brutal versions of what they were saying in public shortly after the election, the Times said.
Bill Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager, and Jason Miller, a top adviser, testified to the committee that they failed to keep Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, away from him on election night. Giuliani, whom Mr. Miller described as “definitely intoxicated,” told Trump that he should declare victory. “It was far too early to be making any calls like that,” Mr. Stepien testified.
Stepien also testified that it became clear after the election that Trump did not have any realistic avenue to overturn the election. But in the days immediately after the vote, he did not publicly challenge Trump or Giuliani. And two days after Election Day, Miller raised the idea on a call with reporters that mysterious bags of ballots were showing up in states where Trump was still contesting the results.
Both appeared to believe that there was an opportunity for challenges that passed in the middle of November. Both continued working with the campaign, but receded from the forefront as Trump put Giuliani in charge of the efforts to overturn the results.
The change for some of the aides reflects the legal consequences of lying to a congressional committee, and how much Trump’s grip on his former aides has loosened in the 17 months he has been out of office.
The testimony so far reflects only what has been released publicly, and it is unclear what else the committee may have. In books written about the election in the last year, Trump’s aides are portrayed as believing that the data showed a likely victory until the afternoon of November 5, when it changed.
Barr, who testified to the committee voluntarily, spoke on the record to Jonathan Karl of ABC News in 2021 about his exasperation with Mr. Trump’s claims of fraud. Barr also recounted tense private conversations with Trump in his memoir this year.
In other cases, people such as Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and daughter Ivanka began to look toward a life after the White House in Florida, while staying inside the Administration. They tried to solidify policy issues they had worked on and, according to their colleagues, said little to try to dissuade Trump from his bid to stay in power.
And yet they remained silent in public as the president, his advisers and political allies pushed the claims on Americans and used them for fund-raising for Trump.
“After the election, he’s advised by his own people not to go out and declare victory, that they needed time for the votes to come in,” said Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California, who led the questioning at the second committee hearing on Monday.
She added: “They directly told the president over and over again, they were false. These were his people. This is Trump World, telling the president that what he was saying was false. And he continued to say the same thing.”
Research contact: @nytimes