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In a hearing Monday morning, the January 6 Committee laid out an extraordinary scene in the White House as the results came in on Election Night in 2020.
On the one hand, many of Trump's closest and most loyal advisers were telling him that there was no evidence of fraud and he should not declare victory. Jason Miller, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, advised the president that he "should not go declaring victory until we had a better sense of the numbers." Bill Stepien, Trump's campaign manager, told Trump that it "far too early" to declare victory. Stepien called the cadre of Trump advisors urging caution, a group that allegedly included Jared Kushner, "Team Normal."
Facing off against Team Normal on Election Night was a "definitely intoxicated" Rudy Guiliani. The former mayor of New York City regaled Trump with wild claims of election fraud and urged Trump, on the basis of these unsubstantiated claims, to declare victory that night. Trump listened to Giuliani, who went on to assume a central role in Trump's ill-fated effort to overturn the election results.
“This is a fraud on the American public,” Trump said at 2 AM on November 4, 2020. “This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election.”
What's astounding is that 19 months later — after numerous lawsuits and audits failed to uncover any evidence of meaningful fraud — the leadership of the Republican Party is still on Giuliani's side. Top Republicans refuse to acknowledge that Trump and Giuliani's claims of fraud were baseless.
Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who many believe will be the next House Speaker, refused to acknowledge that Biden's election was legitimate last week. Under questioning from ABC News' Jon Karl on Thursday, McCarthy repeatedly refused to say whether Trump was wrong about the election being stolen and said there were "a lot of problems with the election process."
KARL: Can you just clarify something? Do you believe that Joe Biden was the legitimate victor of the 2020 election? And do you believe that Donald Trump is just flat wrong when he says the election was stolen?
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Look, we've answered this question a long time -- Joe Biden is the president. I think you could look that there is a lot of problem with the election process. They just arrested a former Democratic Congressman — was it yesterday in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia? — and as we find a lot more information out there. We want to make sure more people have the ability to vote, and that it's secure…
KARL: That wasn't my question. We know the president lives in The White House. Was it legitimate? Is Donald Trump wrong when he says the election was stolen?
MCCARTHY: You know, Jonathan --
KARL: It’s a very simple question --
MCCARTHY: -- a long time, I’ve already answered that question.
KARL: No, no. But what was the answer?
MCCARTHY: Thank you.
KARL: Is Donald Trump wrong --
MCCARTHY: -- we’ll move on now --
KARL: -- when he says the election --
MCCARTHY: Thank you very --
KARL: -- was stolen?
MCCARTHY: -- thank you very much.
KARL: That’s the basis of this.
MCCARTHY: Thank you.
KARL: So you won’t answer that?
MCCARTHY: Jonathan, I've answered it numerous times. I know you have a microphone, I know what you want to do. I've already answered the question --
KARL: I just want to know --
KARL: -- is he wrong when he says --
MCCARTHY: Thank you for your time.
The arrest of a former Congressman that McCarthy referred to involved Democratic primary elections between 2014 and 2018. It has absolutely nothing to do with the 2020 presidential election.
McCarthy refuses to cooperate with January 6 Committee, receives financial backing from major corporations
McCarthy was subpoenaed by the January 6 Committee but refuses to comply. He claims that the Committee, which is investigating an attack on the United States Capitol inspired by Trump's lies about election fraud, is "not exercising a valid or lawful use of Congress’ subpoena power." McCarthy, through his attorney, describes the entire investigation as an "attempt to use the full force of the federal government to attack perceived political rivals."
Nevertheless, McCarthy — who voted to overturn the election on January 6 — continues to receive financial support from corporations that claimed to be deeply disturbed by the January 6 attack. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, a massive coalition of health insurers, issued this statement in January 2021:
At the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, we continuously evaluate our political contributions to ensure that those we support share our values and goals. In light of this week’s violent, shocking assault on the United States Capitol, and the votes of some members of Congress to subvert the results of November’s election by challenging Electoral College results, BCBSA will suspend contributions to those lawmakers who voted to undermine our democracy.
On April 12, 2022, however, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association donated $5,000 to McCarthy's leadership PAC, the Majority Committee. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association also donated $15,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, a multi-candidate committee dedicated to reelecting all Republican House objectors.
Cigna, another major health insurer, issued a statement in January 2021:
There is never any justification for violence or the kind of destruction that occurred at the U.S. Capitol last week – a building that stands as a powerful symbol of the very democracy that makes our nation strong. Accordingly, CignaPAC will discontinue support of any elected official who encouraged or supported violence, or otherwise hindered a peaceful transition of power. We will continue to evaluate our PAC contributions aligned to business objectives through the filter of our country’s and company’s core values.
McCarthy "hindered a peaceful transition of power" by voting to overturn the election on January 6. But Cigna donated $5,000 to McCarthy's Majority Committee on December 14, 2021.
Other corporate PAC donors to McCarthy and his leadership PAC since January 2021 include American Airlines, Comcast, Ford, FedEx, HomeDepot, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Procter & Gamble, Truist, USAA, and Walmart.
The $250 million ripoff
The false claims of election fraud did not keep Trump in the White House. But they were an extremely effective fundraising tool. According to the January 6 Committee, the Trump campaign raised $250 million to fight "election fraud." Supporters were bombarded with "as many as 25 email solicitations a day" to donate to the "Official Election Defense Fund." The Committee determined that the "Official Election Defense Fund" never existed.
Almost none of this money was used for election-related litigation. Instead it was transferred to a new entity, the Save America PAC, which distributed millions to organizations affiliated with Trump staffers and Trump hotels.
“We found evidence that the Trump campaign and its surrogates misled donors as to where their funds would go and what they would be used for,” Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) said. “So not only was there the big lie, there was the big ripoff.”