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‘Apparently inebriated’ Rudy Giuliani told Trump to declare victory after Election Day 2020

“My recommendation was to say that votes were still being counted. It’s too early to tell, too early to call the race,” Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Bill Stepien told the select committee in an interview. Stepien said Trump disagreed, instead delivering a combative statement that declared victory and alleged widespread fraud. Those claims were later proven false.

“Frankly, we did win this election,” Trump said on Nov. 4, 2020.

The Jan. 6 select committee used Monday’s second of six scheduled public hearings to highlight the corrosive effect of Trump’s lie and his weeks promoting it with the help of political allies, friendly media megaphones and members of Congress. Trump’s campaign and the Republican Party raised hundreds of millions of dollars in the weeks between Election Day and Jan. 6, 2021, a haul heavily influenced by those efforts to sow doubt about the results.

Those lies served as scaffolding to support every other aspect of Trump’s effort to remain in power, from his push to get the Justice Department to legitimize his false claims to the pressure he piled on then-Vice President Mike Pence to derail the transition of power. Eventually, Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud masking his victory fueled the mob the battered its way into the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 — and the select committee says it intends to show that messages from Trump and his allies may have helped radicalize rioters.

“Some of those individuals … echoed those very same lies the former president peddled in the run-up to the insurrection,” a select committee aide said Sunday evening.

The Jan. 6 committee sees Trump’s preparation for delegitimizing the election results as beginning well before Election Day; he questioned the integrity of mail-in voting, for example, even as numerous states began expanding its use amid the Covid pandemic. Though even many allies had urged him to embrace mail-in ballots, Trump resisted and immediately used it to cast doubt on the validity of the results.

The select committee played video testimony from Stepien suggesting that he and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy urged Trump in the summer of 2020 to embrace mail-in voting and help drive up its use among Republicans.

“His words echoed mine,” Stepien said of McCarthy’s argument.

To tell its story on Monday, the panel is turning to both videos of interviews and several live witnesses — from Ivanka Trump to White House attorney Eric Herschmann to 2020 Trump campaign aides Miller and Matt Morgan. Stepien was scheduled to join, but his lawyer Kevin Marino testified instead after Stepien had a family emergency.

The committee also heard from Fox News political editor Chris Stirewalt, who was fired in January 2021. Fox drew Trump’s outrage after the network became the first to call the battleground state of Arizona for Biden, a projection that ultimately held true. Stirewalt has attributed his ouster to his decision to defend that Arizona call, while the network has said his departure was part of a digital restructuring.

Stirewalt began his testimony by answering a straightforward question from select panel chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.): Who won the election?

“Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. of the great state of Delaware,” Stirewalt responded.

The select committee intends for Monday to be a document-driven and fact-heavy hearing, packed with evidence that showcased the proliferation of Trump’s lies about the election results. The hearing will feature a second panel that includes prominent GOP elections attorney Ben Ginsberg, former Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt and former U.S. Attorney for North Georgia BJay Pak, who resigned amid Trump’s effort to overturn the election results.

Pak previously testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the pressure Trump and his allies applied on him and other officials to get them to investigate false claims of election fraud.

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