Trump has continued to insist that the election was stolen from him. This has worked for Trump and his apologists as a form of exoneration: He genuinely believed that was the case and simply exercised whatever legal options he thought were available in response.
But this story will explode at the House select committee hearing on Monday. It will focus on Trump’s “big lie” about losing him and how he supported his attempt to overturn the result for weeks. Central to this will be showing that Trump made I know I had lost before launching that effort.
“I think we can show any reasonable, open-minded person that Donald Trump absolutely knew this,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the committee, told CNN on Sunday.
One of our biggest collective failings in response to Trump’s determination to destroy our political system has been the credulity given to the idea that “Trump and his supporters actually believe the ‘big lie.'” That refrain has been ubiquitous for 18 months.
But this notion, which is usually accompanied by hand-wringing about our “two separate realities,” leaves Trump and his allies off the hook. The far more sordid story is this: They planned and executed a far-reaching and premeditated plot to illegitimately keep Trump in power, in full knowledge that losing him was procedurally legitimate.
This is the story that the committee must expose. We already saw former Attorney General William P. Barr testify before the committee that he told Trump that the claims of a stolen election were “bulls—.” In response, the former president lashed out at Barr, showing that Trump knows how damaging this is to him: a huge vulnerability.
Now the committee will demonstrate in greater detail how Trump refused to accept his own advisers’ insistence that he had indeed lost the election. Critically, the committee will place particular emphasis on Trump’s victory declaration. on election nightdespite being told there were no votes for him to win.
Here’s why it’s so important: It conclusively demonstrates that Trump’s plan to nullify the election was deliberate and premeditated corruption.
This fact keeps getting lost, but Trump telegraphed his strategy as early as July 2020. Basically, Trump told reporters he would take advantage of expected delays in counting mail-in ballots to use an election night advantage to declare himself. victor and argue that the uncounted mail votes were fraudulent.
Trump also privately told his advisers that he would do just that. And that’s exactly what he ended up doing.
All of that became the basis for everything that followed: pressure on election officials and the Justice Department to fabricate impressions of widespread voter fraud, on state lawmakers to certify fake voters, and on Vice President Mike Pence to subvert electoral count in Congress.
The committee’s intent to show that Trump’s planning started early might be politically powerful, but that’s not all: It also points directly to potential criminality.
If Trump and/or his accomplices are criminally investigated in connection with January 6, a potential crime could be obstruction of an official proceeding, in this case the count of presidential electors in Congress. Prosecutors must show that Trump or other perpetrators did this “corruptly.”
“He would have to show that when he was trying to find various means to nullify the election, he actually knew he had lost,” former US Attorney Barbara McQuade told me.
Showing “corrupt” intent implies showing knowledge of an “illicit purpose,” McQuade said. He pointed out that “willful blindness” might be essential to showing this.
“If you close your eyes to the high probability that a fact exists,” he said, “you can’t use that to evade responsibility.”
In a kind of collective act of self-enlightenment, much of the public has been disarmed by Trump’s tendency to blatantly project his corruption, as if gleefully signaling his intentions somehow takes the corrupt intentions away from them.
In fact, Trump informed us in advance of the corrupt scheme he intended to carry out and then executed it according to plan. However, the story we constantly hear is that Trump “believed” that his efforts had some kind of legitimate basis. That’s absurd.
Of course, it is unknown whether Trump and his coup gang will be criminally investigated. But whatever happens on that front, Monday’s line of inquiry has the potential to forcefully expose to the public the beating core of premeditated corruption at the heart of Trump’s plan. And that could broaden the public’s understanding greatly.