1. “Donald Trump cannot escape responsibility by claiming he is willfully blind”
Did Trump know he lost the election and lie about it anyway, or was he tricked into thinking he won? The House Jan. 6 committee thinks it’s the first, but either way, they’re pushing for him to be punished for claiming widespread voter fraud and inciting an insurrection. On Tuesday, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) argued that Trump was, at the very least, “willfully blind” to the facts his own advisers were telling him.
Cheney acknowledged that some of Trump’s defenders argued he was misled by others and tried to overturn that.
“The strategy is to blame the people his advisers called ‘crazy people’ for what Donald Trump did,” Cheney said Tuesday. “This, of course, is nonsense. President Trump is a 76 year old man. He’s not an impressionable kid. Like everyone in our country, he is responsible for his actions and his choices. … Donald Trump cannot escape responsibility by arguing that he is willfully blind.
“Willfully blind” is a legal term. As Aaron Blake of The Post reported, “As recently as 2011, the Supreme Court reiterated that people who choose to remain willfully blind ‘are just as guilty as those who have actual knowledge.’
If the committee cannot prove that Trump knowingly lied to stay in power, it will try to prove that he chose to look the other way when presented with the fact that he lost the election. This suggests the committee is still considering referring Trump to the Justice Department for prosecution.
2. A fight between Trump advisers over voter fraud – leading to a crucial step for January 6
“The crazies” Cheney referred to in his opening remarks are how Trump advisers described those who, in December, still believed there was widespread voter fraud and a legal path to keep Trump in power – even though his legal team had lost dozens of court cases across the country, including before Trump-appointed judges.
That team included attorneys Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. And on Dec. 18, 2020, days after the Electoral College confirmed President Biden’s victory, this trio — alongside former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne — somehow made their way into office. oval to talk to Trump alone, just as they were pushing an idea that he could grab the voting machines.
According to Powell’s testimony, White House attorney Pat Cipollone came running into the Oval Office in an attempt to intervene. And that led to a six-hour meeting that turned into a howling match between Trump’s outside advisers promoting allegations of voter fraud and White House advisers trying to convince the president he had lost and that he had to concede.
As Cipollone said, in newly recorded testimony shared by the committee today: “We were asking a simple question, broadly speaking. Where is the evidence ?
He said Powell responded to the effect of, “What do you mean, ‘Where’s the evidence?’ You should know,” and that his answers had “a general disregard, I would say, for the importance of actually backing up what you say with facts.
At one point, Giuliani said he called White House advisers weak (although he used much more explicit terms). As White House staffer Cassidy Hutchinson described the meeting, in a text message posted by the committee: “The West Wing is UNLOADED.
It lasted six hours, finally ending after midnight.
It ended with Trump saying he would appoint Powell as special adviser – the White House advisers’ worst nightmare. (Powell and others had proposed that Trump give him the power to seize voting machines.) But Trump appeared to back down in the following days and instead posted the tweet the committee said would lead to the attack.
3. What Happened After Trump’s “Be There, Be Wild” Tweet
On Dec. 19, hours after that meeting, Trump tweeted what the committee said was a call to arms for his supporters to undo his election loss: “Big protest in DC Jan. 6. Be there, it’s going to be wild!
He was referring to the “Stop the Steal” rally one of his supporters was organizing on the day Congress and Vice President Mike Pence certified the Electoral College results.
It was clear almost two months earlier, after all the votes were tallied, that Trump had lost – but he and his supporters spent the normally silent election certification process trying to challenge the results in court. When that failed, they lobbied Republican lawmakers to help him reverse his losses in key states, and Justice Department officials to legitimize bogus claims of voter fraud.
When all that fell through — and after White House lawyers angrily terminated people who were raising conspiracy allegations in Trump’s ear at that Dec. 18 meeting — the president turned his attention to the Congress, the final step in the certification process.
It almost worked, the committee said.
Within hours of the ‘will be wild’ tweet, a pro-Trump group, Women for America First, demanded to move their assembly permit from Inauguration Day, Jan. 22, to Jan. 6, the newspaper showed. committee.
The next day, Raskin said, Ali Alexander, the head of the Stop the Steal organization and organizer of its Jan. 6 rally, registered wildprotest.com. Trump supporters, including Alex Jones, have called Jan. 6 a “historic day.” And many others responded with violent threats: “Jan. 6, hit that [f—ing] door open.” “It will be ‘wild’ means we need volunteers for the firing squad.”
What the committee is trying to do is connect Trump with the most extreme and violent elements of the insurgency. They argued that Trump had a direct influence on their decision to storm the Capitol and encouraged them. The committee also recently alleged that it knew armed protesters were coming to the rally and encouraged them to come to the Capitol anyway — and even tried to physically wrestle its Secret Service agent to let him join them.
During that hearing, the committee also shared evidence that Trump may have spent the next few weeks after that tweet helping rally attendees march to the Capitol — suggesting that his call to do so in his speech was not not impromptu. The committee shared a never-before-seen draft tweet that Trump had seen (but hadn’t sent) encouraging people to march to the Capitol, and raised questions about whether Trump’s White House allies had communicated with the organizers of the rally about this plan.
It is potentially a politically and legally perilous position for the President, given that the leaders of the two main militias present that day, the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, have been accused of seditious conspiracy.
This post will be updated as the hearing progresses.