What Are The Punters Making Of The Public Hearings So Far?
I know everyone has moved on from the first select committee public hearing last week and is now discussing how drunk Giuliani was when he pointed Trump down Treason Boulevard and how much grift was involved for Trump and his whole despicable, grifty family in the insurrection circus. Or almost everyone. But not quite.
Morning Consult had an instant national tracking poll in the field June 10, 11 and 12 to test how the revelations from the first hearing were impacting registered voters. Today they reported that they asked voters whether or not each of these things are crimes:
Elected officials misleading Americans about the outcome of an election- 69%-21% said it was a crime
Elected officials attempting to overturn the results of an American election- 69%-20% said it was a crime
Elected officials claiming that presidential elections are fraudulent without evidence- 55%-34% said it was a crime
The they asked if the Justice Department should bring charges against those who have done those things.
Elected officials who have misled Americans about the outcome of an election- 63%-26% said yes
Elected officials who have attempted to overturn the results of an American election- 67%-20% said yes
Elected officials claiming that presidential elections are fraudulent without evidence- 55%-34% said yes
And then they started asking if certain groups were responsible for the sacking of the Capitol:
Democrats in Congress- 33% to 53%, yes
Republicans in Congress- 49% to 39%, yes
Local law enforcement- 36% to 49%, yes
Defense Department- 30% to 51%, yes
Señor Trumpanzee- 57% to 35%, yes
Mike Pence- 27% to 57%, yes
Biden- 26% to 61%, yes
The people who broken in themselves- 85% to 8%, yes
State elections officials- 33% to 48%, yes
State legislators- 34% to 46%, yes
News media- 57% to 32%, yes
Social media companies- 60% to 28%
So how much will this impact the way you vote?
Major impact- 32%
Minor impact- 18%
No impact at all- 50%
As for today's hearing, it got started 45 minutes late because Bill Stepien, Trump's former campaign manager, who had already cut plenty of incriminating footage, announced he couldn't show up because his wife had just gone into labor. The committee showed the tapes of him testifying instead. "In some ways," reported CNN, "the outcome gave the Democratic-run committee more power to control what the public heard from Stepien. He wasn't in the room to say his piece, which could have included some defenses of Trump and some pushback against the committee. Instead, the panel could pick and choose which deposition clips it played, and they focused like a laser on the most damaging material for Trump.
The Committee has featured clips from Barr's deposition more than any other witness so far, and they interviewed more than 1,000 people as part of their yearlong investigation. These clips have established Barr as the highest-ranking Trump administration official to affirm the legitimacy of the election results and disavow Trump's relentless effort to claim that the election was tainted by fraud.
During Monday's hearing, Barr dismantled specific Trump-backed claims about illegal "vote dumps" in Detroit, nationwide vote-rigging by Dominion with its election machines, and other conspiracy theories.
Unprompted, Barr even went out of his way to criticize 2,000 Mules, the film created by right-wing activist Dinesh D'Souza, a convicted felon who claims that the 2020 election was stolen. (In a deposition clip played Monday, Barr laughed off the film and said it was "completely lacking" in evidence.)
Barr said the theories Trump supported were "idiotic" and "amateurish" and "detached from reality." This rhetoric is strikingly close to what top Democrats have said all along about Trump's fraud claims.
To be clear, Barr is still a hardline conservative. Just a few weeks ago, he made several false claims in a Fox News interview about the Trump-Russia investigation, and backed up Trump's baseless assertions that the entire probe was a fabricated "hoax" perpetrated by Democratic operatives and the FBI.
One of the primary areas of focus of Monday's hearing was to underscore the idea that Trump and some of his allies continued to peddle false claims of election fraud after they were personally told those claims were not legitimate.
The committee made the argument that Trump was repeatedly told by his own top officials, including Barr and Stepien, that the myriad of fraud claims he was pushing were groundless and were certainly not evidence that the election was stolen.
"I specifically raised the Dominion voting machines, which I found to be among the most disturbing allegations-- disturbing in the sense that I saw absolutely zero basis for the allegations, but they were made in such a sensational way that they obviously were influencing a lot of people, members of the public," Barr said during his deposition, according to a video played Monday.
Yet, Trump and some of his allies continued to push these false claims all the way through January in what the committee attempted to show was a bad faith effort to overturn the election despite consistently being told those claims were not valid.
During their December 2020 Oval Office confrontation, Barr said that Trump gave him a report that claimed "absolute proof" the Dominion voting machines had been rigged. Barr said that the report "looked very amateurish to me," and he "didn't see any supporting information" for the fraud claims.
Barr would resign in December 2020 shortly after his last meeting with Trump and was replaced by acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, who also faced a similar barrage of pressure from the former President to investigate the same unfounded election fraud claims that Barr had warned him were baseless.
Ultimately, Trump considered replacing Rosen with a relatively obscure environmental lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, who had demonstrated a willingness to pursue the fraud claims that other senior DOJ officials would not.
Clark drafted a "Proof of Concept memo" for overturning the 2020 election and sent it to top Justice Department officials on December 28, 2020, two weeks after Barr's resignation. That memo relied heavily on many of the same debunked fraud claims that Trump had already been told had no merit.
At the same time, Trump's allies were pushing the Justice Department to take Trump's false stolen election claims to the Supreme Court in an effort to prevent the outcome from several key swing states from being counted. The brief sent to Rosen and other top DOJ officials by Trump's personal assistant at the White House cited the same report on Michigan voting machine irregularities Barr had told Trump was "amateurish" and failed to include any supporting information.
The committee focused on testimony Monday that distinguished between two groups advising Trump in the days after the election: "Team Normal" and those who were with Rudy Giuliani pushing baseless claims of voter fraud.
"We called them kind of my team and Rudy's team," Stepien said in deposition video played by the committee. "I didn't mind being characterized as being part of Team Normal."
The committee traced back the divide to election night, when Stepien and others were telling Trump it was too early to call the race, while Giuliani told him to declare victory.
"The President disagreed with that. I don't recall the particular words. He thought I was wrong. He told me so," Stepien said of a conversation with Trump on election night. "And that he was going to go in a different direction."
The committee worked to undercut the wild claims Giuliani and Sidney Powell were making about votes being changed and foreign countries being involved-- all of which were untrue. They showed video from depositions Giuliani and Powell juxtaposed with officials like Barr and Stepien saying the claims were simply nonsense.
The committee even took a dig at Giuliani and his state of mind on Election Night, playing video from Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller's deposition where he said that Giuliani "had too much to drink."
"I mean, the mayor was definitely intoxicated," Miller said. "But I did not know his level of toxic intoxication when he spoke with the President, for example."