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A Striking Contrast: Trump Officials Then and Now

The letter was lavish.

When William P. Barr stepped down as attorney general in December 2020, he lavished on President Donald J. Trump for his “unprecedented achievements” and vowed that the Justice Department would continue to pursue the president’s allegations of voter fraud “to prevent the to ensure the integrity of elections.”

A year and a half later, Mr. Barr sounds different. In testimony on video played during the first two public hearings of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, Americans have now learned what Barr avoided saying openly about Trump at the time.

“I was somewhat demoralized,” Mr. Barr said in a testimony played Monday, describing his response to a December 2020 monologue from Mr. Trump that the voting machines had been tampered with. Mr. Barr thought, he said, that if he really believed this, the president would have become “detached from reality. On the other hand, when I went in and told him how crazy some of these allegations were, there was never any indication of interest in what the actual facts were.”

Mr Barr’s testimony and that of several aides played at the hearing were a candid, more brazen version of what they said publicly shortly after the election.

Bill Stepien, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, and Jason Miller, a top adviser, testified before the committee that they had failed to keep Mr. Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani away from him on election night. Mr Giuliani, who described Mr Miller as “absolutely intoxicated,” told Mr Trump to declare victory. “It was way too early to make calls like that,” Mr Stepien testified.

Mr. Stepien also testified that after the election, it became clear that Mr. Trump had no realistic ability to undo the election.

But in the days immediately following the vote, he did not publicly challenge Mr Trump or Mr Giuliani. And two days after Election Day, Mr. Miller brought up the idea during a phone call with reporters that mysterious bags of ballots were showing up in states where Mr. Trump was still fighting.

Both seemed to believe there was an opportunity for challenges that were over by mid-November. Both continued to work on the campaign but withdrew when Mr. Trump put Mr. Giuliani in charge of efforts to nullify the results.

The change for some of the aides reflects the legal ramifications of lying to a congressional committee, and how much Mr Trump’s hold on his former aides has been relaxed in the 17 months he’s been out of office.

The testimony so far only reflects what has been publicly released, and it’s unclear what else the commission has. In books written about the election over the past year, Mr. Trump’s aides are portrayed as believing the data showed a likely victory until the afternoon of Nov. 5, when it changed.

Mr. Barr, who voluntarily testified before the committee, officially spoke to ABC News’ Jonathan Karl in 2021 about his annoyance at Mr Trump’s claims of fraud. Mr. Barr also talked about tense private conversations with Mr. Trump in his memoir this year.

In other cases, people like Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and daughter Ivanka have begun to look at life after the White House in Florida, while remaining in government. They tried to cement the policy issues they had been working on and, according to their colleagues, said little to dissuade Mr Trump from his bid to remain in power.

And yet they kept quiet in public as the president, his advisers and political allies penetrated the claims against Americans and used them to fundraise for Mr. Trump.

“After the election, he was advised by his own people not to go out and declare victory because they needed time for the votes to come in,” said California Democrat Zoe Lofgren, who said he was a Democrat. the questioning led into the commission’s second hearing on Monday.

She added: “They have told the president directly over and over again that they were false. These were his people. This is Trump World telling the president that what he said was false. And he kept saying the same thing.”

Mr Barr’s testimony came down to a beleaguered former top cabinet official grappling with Mr Trump’s string of baseless fraud allegations that he wanted his government to fall.

“It was like playing a mole because one day something would come out and the next it would be another problem,” Mr Barr said. He also told in his testimony how he told an Associated Press reporter on Dec. 1 that the department had found no evidence of widespread fraud that would have altered the election results.

Still, his letter of resignation underscored the extent to which officials seemed to believe they should tiptoe around Mr. Trump.

But the testimony of Mr. Stepien and Mr. Miller made it clear that they had at least tried to warn Mr Trump about how election night was likely to go, with an early return in his favor but a possible wave of Democratic votes that would come later. come when the post-in votes were counted.

“I mentioned back to that conversation with him where I said – just like I said in 2016 – that it was going to be a long night,” Stepien recalls of a conversation with the president. “I told him in 2020 that, you know, there were – it was going to be another process. As you know, the early returns are going to be positive. Then we’re going to, you know, watch the ballots, like, you know you, they came in after that.”

Mr. Miller said that when the campaign heard on election night that Fox News had called Arizona for Joseph R. Biden Jr., he and other campaign staff were angry and disappointed, but also concerned “that our data or our numbers may not be accurate. “

But speaking to reporters two days after Election Day, Mr. Stepien sounded adamant. “The media and the insiders in this city have been trying to shut out Donald Trump for years,” he said. “Donald Trump is alive and kicking.”

At another point, he said, “Exactly what the president said would happen, is happening.”

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