Yout was election night at the White House, and Rudy Giuliani was drunk and wanted to talk to the President, according to testimony from Donald Trump’s aides. Giuliani had served as Trump’s personal lawyer in recent years, and his efforts on behalf of the president had played a central role in Trump’s impeachment a year earlier.
Trump’s top advisors had tried to keep Giuliani from Trump for most of the night, and were huddled with the former New York City mayor on the first floor of the White House, in an antechamber next to the historic Map Room.
“The mayor was definitely intoxicated,” Jason Miller said in a recorded deposition that was shown publicly for the first time on Monday during the House Jan. 6 committee’s second public hearing. Giuliani asked Trump to disregard the math immediately and declare victory. “‘We need to go and say that we won,’” Miller recalled Giuliani saying, and that anyone who disagreed “was being weak.”
That same night, Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, had a tense meeting with the president in which he counseled him that “the votes were still being counted” and “it was too early to call the race.” Stepien had warned the president that key mail-in voting tallies coming in later on election night would likely weigh toward Joe Biden, as Trump had told his supporters not to trust mail-in ballots. Trump “thought I was wrong, and he told me so,” Stepien said.
Both scenes revealed a core thesis of what the Jan.6 Committee attempted to relay to the American people on Monday. Trump had many advisers trying convince him of truth but chose to ignore those telling him what they wanted.
Trump ultimately followed Giuliani’s plan and declared victory early in the morning on November 4, 2020, when the outcome of the election was still unclear. Trump delivered the speech from the East Room of the White House, calling the election “a fraud” and saying, “we were getting ready to win this election—frankly, we did win this election.”
That lie of Trump’s, spoken while votes were still being counted and no major news outlet had called the race, set into motion two months of Trump parroting false claims of election fraud and insisting the election had been stolen from him, driving forward a chain of events that culminated in the deadly riot on the Capitol Building on Jan. 6.
“President Trump rejected the advice of his campaign experts on election night, and instead followed the course recommended by an apparently inebriated Rudy Giuliani to just claim he won and insist the vote-counting stop, to falsely claim everything was fraudulent,” said Rep. Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican and the vice chairwoman of the committee.
The committee showed pointed testimony from Trump’s allies and aides that contradicted many of the president’s public claims. Stepien described in recorded video testimony how he told Trump on Nov. 7, the day some major media outlets called the election for Biden, that his chances of winning were “very, very, very bleak” and that Trump’s own campaign team thought Trump had very few “realistic” legal challenges. Stepien had been scheduled to appear in person Monday. However, Stepien’s lawyer informed the committee that Stepien could not attend as his wife was having labor.
Trump’s campaign lawyers pursued allegations of voter fraud, malfunctioning voting machines and other issues throughout November. None of these cases were able to be proven or sustained in court. The Justice Department also pursued similar allegations and found nothing that rose to a criminal case or could have reversed Trump’s loss.
Former Attorney General Bill Barr told the committee in video testimony shown Monday that Trump’s claims of election fraud were “crazy stuff” and “bullshit.” Barr said he found Trump’s claims that Dominion voting machines were somehow being tampered with to be “complete nonsense” and the “most disturbing” because it was undermining voters’ trust with no evidence.
Barr informed Trump during an Oval Office meeting in December that the public claims he made were not true. Barr stated that Trump became the most angry he’d ever seen after Barr spoke out to an Associated Press reporter, claiming the claims of election fraud were unfounded. He recalled Trump saying, “This is killing me. You didn’t have to say this.” Barr said Trump then began speaking of himself in the third person and accusing Barr of turning on him, saying, “You must have said this because you hate Trump. You hate Trump.” As he watched Trump continue to repeat the lies in public, Barr said he had determined that Trump had “become detached from reality if he really believes this stuff.”
Trump spread misinformation in a flurry of tweets, public statements and social media posts, making it easy for him to raise a huge sum. Trump’s political fundraising arm took in $250 million dollars in donations after the election, the committee found, after weeks of soliciting his supporters to help with Trump’s election defense fund. During Monday’s hearing, the committee showed video testimony of a Trump fundraising official saying that a Trump election defense fund never existed.
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