Donald Trump was told many times by his senior advisers that he had lost the 2020 presidential election, according to members of a congressional panel investigating last year’s attack on the US Capitol.
The bipartisan committee investigating the violence of January 6 2021 began laying out its evidence on Monday that the former president was repeatedly advised that he had lost to Joe Biden.
But Trump refused to accept the advice, they said, choosing instead to make false claims of widespread voter fraud which helped whip up his supporters before last January’s riot.
Bennie Thompson, the committee’s Democratic chair, said: “Donald Trump lost an election, he knew he had lost an election, and as a result of his loss, decided to wage an attack on our democracy.”
Liz Cheney, the Republican vice-chair, said: “In the months following the election, numerous credible sources from the president’s inner circle, to agency leadership and statisticians, informed President Trump and Dr [John] Eastman [one of Trump’s lawyers] that there was no evidence of election fraud sufficient to overturn the 2020 presidential election.”
She added that the committee would show evidence that Trump was urged by a drunk Rudy Giuliani, one of his close allies, to “just claim he won” on the night of the vote.
Members added that Trump used the false claims of election fraud to raise money from supporters. “The Big Lie was also the Big rip-off,” said Zoe Lofgren, the Democratic representative from California.
The hearing is the second in a series of public sessions being held by the committee with an aim of focusing public attention once more on Trump’s behaviour after the last election and his role in inciting the riot on January 6.
In the first hearing last week, a US Capitol police officer described the chaotic scenes as pro-Trump protesters stormed Congress in an attempt to overturn the presidential election results.
Members of the bipartisan committee also showed evidence to suggest the attack was carefully planned by the two far-right groups at the heart of it: the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers. The leaders of both groups have since been charged with sedition.
Members had hoped to interview Bill Stepien, Trump’s former campaign manager, on Monday. But Stepien cancelled at the last minute, citing a family emergency because his wife had gone into labour, so the committee showed clips from pre-recorded interviews with him instead. He would have been the most senior member of Trump’s inner circle to testify in person had he appeared.
The committee will also hear from Chris Stirewalt, the former political editor of Fox News, who caused anger among Trump’s inner circle on election night by calling the close vote in Arizona for Biden.
Members will hear testimony too from local officials who stood up to Trump’s claims of election fraud, including BJay Pak, a former US attorney in Atlanta who resigned after refusing to back Trump’s claims.