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January 6 Committee Hearings Day 2: ‘The Big Grift’

The second day of the investigation into the Capitol insurrection suggested Donald Trump misled his supporters about the outcome of the 2020 election as part of a cynical money-making scheme

Vice Chair Liz Cheney speaks as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds its second public hearing. Photo: UPI/Alamy

January 6 Committee Hearings Day 2 ‘The Big Grift’

The second day of the investigation into the Capitol insurrection suggested Donald Trump misled his supporters about the outcome of the 2020 election as part of a cynical money-making scheme

“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 that the vote-counting stop… to falsely claim everything was fraudulent,” Rep. Liz Cheney, the committee’s vice-chair and a Wyoming Republican told Congress.

Thoughtfully and meticulously, the House Select Committee let members of Trump’s own party expose his lies, and the lies of some of his allies, and by taking this tactic, snuffed out the counter-narrative from Trump’s camp that the hearings are being conducted by a “Communist Committee.”

“The Committee seems to understand that anything that sounds political from Democrats is counterproductive so they are allowing Republicans to say everything for them,” disinformation specialist Jim Stewartson told Byline Times

Monday’s televised hearing focused on disinformation as a means to an end, showing a stark contrast between the world of facts and the world of propaganda that Trump and advisors such as his lawyer Rudy Giuliani appeared to inhabit.

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Heidi Siegmund Cuda

Technologist Dave Troy told Byline Times that the Day 2 hearing “showed just how far former President Trump tried to warp reality, and that many of his closest advisors and family members were not aligned with the plan being hatched by the most unhinged around him.”

Troy said “from ‘inebriated’ advisor Rudy Giuliani to plots dependent on the dead Venezuelan communist dictator Hugo Chavez, the committee re-conjured Trump’s demon-filled world,” which he noted is wholly incompatible with the peaceful transfer of power. 

On 6 January 2021, the world watched in horror as armed crowds marched on the US Capitol Building, while Senators gathered inside to confirm President Joe Biden’s election win. Instigated by tweets and a speech by Trump, thousands swarmed the Capitol, desecrating the building, attempting an insurrection, chanting to kill Vice President Mike Pence and threatening House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Four people lost their lives.

On Day 1 of the hearings, Committee chairman Democrat Rep. Bennie Thompson and vice-chair Cheney illustrated how Trump was at the centre of the attempted coup. 


‘Detached from Reality’

On Day 2, panel member Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-D) explained that the “Big Lie was also a big ripoff,” as the committee revealed Trump’s false claims of election fraud raised $250 million from donors who believed their money was going to investigate voter fraud.

According to an investigator for the committee, most of the money did not go to investigating voter fraud or litigating the election but did go to the following: $1 million landed in Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows’ charitable foundation; $1 million to the America First Policy Institute which employs Trump insiders. The investigator said $150 million was raised in the first post-election week, and that some money went to Trump hotels.

Among the testimony heard on Day 2 were video depositions from former Attorney General Bill Barr, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, campaign advisor, Jason Miller, and campaign manager Bill Sepian, who was scheduled to testify in person but cancelled due to his wife going into labour. 

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Barr notably said of Trump’s refusal to accept there was no election fraud: “He’s become detached from reality if he really believes this stuff.” Barr also mocked the conspiracy theory film ‘2000 Mules’ in the deposition.

Stewartson said “it was a stroke of genius to allow Bill Barr to dismantle the propaganda film ‘2000 Mules’ which has been endlessly remixed by the Trump cult to support the Big Lie.”

A chilling moment came when former Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt testified about the death threats he faced after Trump targeted him on Twitter.

Stewartson noted “the exhibits they showed of death threats against the Philadelphia City Commissioner came from people who identified with ‘Q’, a conspiracy scheme to brand the Democrats as a Satanic paedophile cabal. He added that he hopes the Committee will explore “ties to Mike Flynn and QAnon in future hearings.”

The former general and National Security Advisor who has called for ‘digital warriors’ was among the Trump associates present at the December 18 meeting that figured prominently in Day 1 of the hearings.

Cheney said of the meeting that also included lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, the attendees “discussed a number of dramatic steps, including having the military seize voting machines and potentially rerun elections.”

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So far, the committee has laid out motive, means, and execution. Now, said retired Internal Revenue Service criminal investigator Martin Sheil, it is imperative they follow the money.

Sheil told Byline Times: “Trump, whether in denial or self-delusion at the prospect of his imminent loss of power turned to his real passion as compensation—the pursuit of money.”

Sheil called it “a callous attempt to make lucrative lemonade out of a lemon” and advised the Department of Justice to take a cold, hard look at where the money was spent and who paid for the insurrectionists to travel to Washington, D.C.

It is clear by the 840 arrests and testimony from white nationalists, that they went to Washington D.C. because Trump told them to. Sheil wants to know how they got there.

“Since we know the bulk of the $250 million did not go for legal representation, where did it go?” he asked. “What pockets did this grift end up in? Who subsidised the insurrection financially?” 

There are five more hearings. 



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