WASHINGTON — It was all a lie, the stories of stuffed ballot boxes, rigged voting machines and constitutional “flexibility” that would have allowed Vice President Mike Pence to nullify the 2020 election results and send them back to Republican state legislators.
The first three House hearings of the Jan. 6 committee have deeply undermined, if not destroyed, post-election myths relentlessly repeated by former President Donald J. Trump and his supporters and embraced and reinforced by the Republicans in Congress.
A parade of Republican witnesses — his Attorney General, William P. Barr, his daughter Ivanka Trump, and his own campaign lawyers — knew he had lost the election and told him so. Mr Trump was informed that the demands he made on Mr Pence to unilaterally block his defeat were illegal. Even the most active coup plotter, conservative attorney John C. Eastman, admitted before Jan. 6 that his plan was illegal and unconstitutional, then asked for a presidential pardon after it sparked mob violence.
But perhaps the most striking revelation yet is how deep Mr Trump’s disdain for truth and the rule of law has penetrated the Republican Party, rooted in the fertile soil of a right-wing electorate boiling in conspiracy theories and getting well. provided by their favorite media. The Republican response to the hearings — a combination of indifference, distraction and duplication — reflects how central the lie of a stolen election has become to the party’s identity.
In Washington, Republicans in Congress have not broken with Mr. Trump, nor have they put much effort into refuting the investigation’s findings. And from the Nevada secretary of state race to the run for Michigan governor, Republican candidates have embraced the fictitious conspiracy in their 2022 campaigns.
“I’ve been fighting for safe, fair and transparent elections since Jan. 6, and that fight continues,” said Michigan State Representative Steve Carra, whose reelection round has been blessed by Mr Trump and who said he watched some but not many of the hearings. “Out of office ballots were sent out unsolicited, signature verification relaxed, drop boxes everywhere, especially in Democratic territory – it all deserves closer scrutiny.”
Like mint in the garden, the seeds the Trump team planted between Election Day 2020 and January 6, 2021 are now growing out of control, aided by the former president’s allies.
Jarome Bell, a leading candidate to challenge Virginia Democrat Elaine Luria, travels through her Republican district to show voters a film of right-wing provocateur Dinesh D’Souza pushing the bogus fraud claims. The hearings, he said on Friday, “didn’t affect me. ‘2000 Mules’ has a bigger impact on what actually happened.” He added, “the 1/6 commission is the cover-up.”
Jon Rocha, a Michigan state representative who has the backing of Mr. Trump, also quoted the film, boasting that he hadn’t seen any of the hearings, “not even a 30-second clip.”
One of the reasons the lies have grown is the failure of Republicans who don’t believe they are pushing back. Before the Jan. 6 hearings began, Republican leaders pledged a strong “quick response” to counter the stories that would emerge.
The themes of the 6 January committee hearings
But the Republican National Committee or any other organization has not had such a backlash over revelations that Mr. Trump continued to pressure Mr. Pence to reverse the election results, even after he was told it was illegal.
No Republican leader offered a response to the testimony of retired federal judge J. Michael Luttig, a respected conservative, who said on Thursday that Mr. the establishment of the Republic.”
No one bothered to refute the panel’s finding, unveiled Monday, that Mr. Trump and his campaign have raised hundreds of millions of dollars from supporters on the false pretense of mass election fraud, using money raised for an election defense fund that did not exist.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate minority leader, has chosen not to address the issue at all. And to the extent that they try to thwart the hearings, House Republicans have pushed voters to look elsewhere — for rising gas prices, inflation and migrants on the southern border.
Only Mr. Trump seems particularly annoyed by the drill, horrified by the testimony of his daughter, who shared details of his abusive phone call with Mr. Pence on the morning of Jan. 6 and said she trusted Mr. Barr’s judgment when he said that the 2020 election is not stolen.
“It’s a one-way street, it’s a rigged deal, it’s a disgrace,” said a thoroughly unrepentant Mr Trump during a speech in Nashville on Friday, calling Jan. 6 “a simple protest that got out of hand.” he continued to spread false claims and grandiose conspiracy theories about electoral fraud.
But if his Republican leadership allies fail to refute the message that the attack was fueled by lies, they also fail to acknowledge that the election was not stolen.
And 50 years to the day after Richard M. Nixon’s accomplices broke into Democratic headquarters at the Watergate Hotel, the hearings sparked by the two scandals highlight how dramatically the Republican Party has changed. Subsequently, major Republican leaders responded to the increasingly scathing revelations about their president by siding with the Democrats and forcing Mr. Nixon from power. Today, Republican leaders are either silent or scornful of the commission that uncovers a steady stream of Mr Trump’s wrongdoing.
Representatives Bennie Thompson, Liz Cheney and Adam B. Schiff “won’t stop lying about their political opponents,” California Republican Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican Leader, wrote on Twitterreferring to the Democratic president from Mississippi, the Republican vice president from Wyoming and the Democratic member from California.
Michigan Representative Peter Meijer, one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for inciting Jan. 6, said the hearings so far are “a reminder of how deeply divided we are, even from an information consumption standpoint. ”
Many of his voters haven’t even seen the videotaped testimony setting out the case against Mr. Trump — just footage of police removing barricades to let rioters into the Capitol on Jan. 6. Some blame nonexistent FBI provocateurs for the violence, in line with a debunked conspiracy theory espoused by Fox News host Tucker Carlson and others on the right.
Mr Meijer said he has heard far more from voters on the right who complain about the “Jan. 6 political prisoners” than those in the center who are claiming responsibility for the attack.
Most voters aren’t paying attention, though, said California Representative David Valadao, another Republican who voted for impeachment.
“I’m talking to voters at home now — I mean, fuel prices, food prices, baby food, you name it,” Mr. Valadao said. “There’s just so many things that people are focused on right now that they just don’t pay as much attention to the January 6 stuff as I know a lot of people would like.”
When asked whether the hearings could do Republicans a favor by making it easier to find an alternate presidential candidate than Mr Trump by 2024, he replied: “I don’t know if enough people are paying attention where it has such a big influence. “
But in a Republican primary fueled by pro-Trump fervor, many candidates have emerged as their party’s nominees for top positions, largely because they campaigned on the lie that the 2020 election had been stolen by President Biden.
The Republican nominees for Governor in Pennsylvania, Secretary of State in Nevada, Senate in Nevada, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, and Attorney General in Texas all tried to undo the 2020 election or embraced false claims of voter fraud.
Mayra Flores, a Texas Republican who won a House seat in a special election on Tuesday, has declined to say whether Mr. Biden won in 2020, telling The San Antonio Express-News: “I’m just speaking in general terms. . There is voter fraud.”
And there’s more to come. State Representative Ron Hanks, who was vying to challenge Senator Michael Bennet, a Democrat, in the Colorado Republican primaries on June 28, marched to the Capitol on January 6 and launched his campaign with an ad in which he shot down a fake Dominion voting machine. , a device at the center of a widespread conspiracy theory about votes allegedly stolen from Mr. Trump.
On Monday, the committee showed a videotaped statement in which Mr Barr at one point could barely suppress his laughter at the absurdity of such stories and testified that Mr Trump should have been “detached from reality” if he believed them.
In Michigan, a wild contest to elect the Republican to challenge Democratic administration Gretchen Whitmer is narrowly led by Ryan Kelley, a real estate agent arrested this month and charged with participating in the January 6 riot. Mr. Rocha, the West Michigan state house nominee, said voters were far more concerned about gas prices and empty store shelves than the Jan. 6 hearings, then offered that voters are in fact still very angry about the ‘integrity of the elections’.
“They did it in 2020. Now they are finding new ways to remove Republicans from the vote this year,” he said.
In Arizona, Kari Lake, the leading Republican nominee for governor, has put her “stolen election” claims at the center of her campaign. Mark Finchem, a candidate for Secretary of State, stood on the steps of the Capitol on January 6. And Blake Masters, who hopes to challenge Senator Mark Kelly, the incumbent Democrat, unfoundedly suggested that “one-third of the people outside of the Capitol complex on Jan. 6 were actual FBI agents.”
Annie Karnic reporting contributed.