Amid January 6 Revelations, Election Lies Continue to Dominate the GOP

WASHINGTON — It was all a lie, the stories of stuffed ballot boxes, rigged voting machines and constitutional “flex” that would have allowed Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the 2020 election results and send them back to Republican state legislatures.

The first three House committee hearings on January 6 deeply undermined, if not demolished, the post-election myths incessantly repeated by former President Donald J. Trump and his supporters and embraced and amplified by 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 was making of 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 scheme was illegal and unconstitutional, then sought a presidential pardon after it led to mob violence.

The most startling revelation yet, however, may be how deeply Trump’s disregard for truth and the rule of law has penetrated the GOP, taking root in the fertile soil of a right-wing electorate strewn with conspiracy theories and well watch out for your favorite media. The Republican response to the hearings, a combination of indifference, diversion and duplication, reflects how central the lie of a stolen election has become to the party’s identity.

In Washington, Republicans in Congress did not break with Trump or spend much energy trying to refute the investigation’s findings. And from the Nevada secretary of state race to the Michigan gubernatorial race, Republican candidates have embraced the fictional conspiracy in their 2022 campaigns.

“I have been fighting for safe, honest and transparent elections since before January 6, and that fight continues,” said Michigan state Rep. Steve Carra, whose re-election has been blessed by Trump and who said Friday he has seen some but Not much of the audience. “Unsolicited absentee ballots sent out, relaxed signature verification, drop boxes everywhere, especially in the Democratic area, all deserve greater scrutiny.”

Like the mint in the garden, the seeds that the Trump team planted between Election Day 2020 and January 6, 2021 are now growing out of control, with the help of allies of the former president.

Jarome Bell, a leading candidate to challenge Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Virginia, has been touring her Republican-leaning district showing voters a film by right-wing provocateur Dinesh D’Souza promoting false claims of fraud. The hearings, she told her on Friday, “have had no impact on me. ‘2000 Mulas’ has a greater impact on what really happened”. She added, “the 1/6 commission is the cover-up.”

Jon Rocha, a Trump-backed candidate for state representative in Michigan, also cited the film, boasting that he hadn’t seen any of the hearings, “not even a 30-second clip.”

One of the reasons falsehoods have flourished is the failure of Republicans who don’t believe in them to push back. Before the Jan. 6 hearings began, Republican leaders promised a robust “rapid response” effort to counter the narratives that would emerge.

But there has been no such rejection by the Republican National Committee or any other organization of revelations that Trump continued to pressure Pence to overturn election results, even after being told doing so was illegal.

No Republican leader offered a response to the testimony of retired federal appeals court judge J. Michael Luttig, a revered conservative, who said Thursday that Trump gave Pence an order whose execution would have caused “the first constitutional crisis since the founding of the Republicans.” of the Republic.”

None bothered to refute the panel’s finding, unsealed Monday, that Trump and his campaign raised hundreds of millions of dollars from supporters under the false pretense of massive voter fraud, using the money raised for an election defense fund that did not exist.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate Minority Leader, has chosen not to participate at all on the issue. And to the extent that they are trying to counter-schedule the hearings, House Republicans have been pushing voters to look elsewhere: rising gas prices, inflation and immigrants at the border. south.

Only Trump seems particularly irritated by the exercise, horrified by the testimony of his daughter, who shared details of her abusive phone call with Pence on the morning of January 6 and said she trusted Barr’s judgment when he said the 2020 election they were not stolen.

“It’s a one-way street, it’s a rigged deal, it’s a shame,” said one Trump said on Friday in a Nashville speech in which he called Jan. 6 “just a protest that got out of control” while continuing to make false claims and grand conspiracy theories about voter fraud.

But if his allies in the Republican leadership aren’t countering the message that the attack was fueled by lies, they also aren’t acknowledging that the election wasn’t stolen.

And 50 years after Richard M. Nixon’s henchmen stormed the Democratic headquarters at the Watergate Hotel, the hearings sparked by the two scandals highlight how dramatically the GOP has changed. Then key Republican leaders reacted to increasingly damning revelations about their president by siding with the Democrats and forcing Nixon out of office. Today, Republican leaders are silent or dismissive of the committee that uncovers a steady stream of wrongdoing by Trump.

Reps. Bennie Thompson, Liz Cheney and Adam B. Schiff “will not stop lying about their political opponents,” said Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader, wrote on Twitterreferring to the Democratic president from Mississippi, the Republican vice president from Wyoming and the Democratic member from California.

Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan, one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for inciting on Jan. 6, said the hearings so far have been “a reminder of how deeply divided we are, even from a consumer standpoint.” of information”.

Many of his constituents haven’t even seen the videotaped testimony making the case against Trump, just footage of police removing barricades to allow protesters to enter the Capitol on Jan. 6. Some blame nonexistent FBI provocateurs for the violence, according to a debunked conspiracy theory espoused by Fox News host Tucker Carlson and others on the right.

Mr. Meijer said he has heard much more from right-wing voters lamenting “Jan. 6 political prisoners” than those from the center demanding responsibility for the attack.

Yet most voters aren’t paying attention, said Rep. David Valadao of California, another Republican who voted for impeachment.

“Speaking to voters at home right now, I mean, gas prices, food prices, baby formula, you name it,” Valadao said. “There are so many things that people are focused on right now that they just aren’t paying attention to the January 6 stuff as much as I know a lot of people would want them to.”

Asked if the hearings could do Republicans a favor by making it easier to find an alternate presidential candidate in 2024 than Trump, he replied, “I don’t know if enough people are paying attention to where it will have such an impact.” impact.”

But in a Republican primary season fueled by pro-Trump fervor, many candidates have emerged as their party’s nominees for top offices largely because they campaigned on the falsehood that President Biden stole the 2020 election. .

Republican candidates for Governor in Pennsylvania, Secretary of State in Nevada, Senate in Nevada, Pennsylvaniaand North Carolina, and the Texas Attorney General tried to nullify the 2020 election or accepted false claims of voter fraud.

Mayra Flores, a Texas Republican who won a House seat in a special election on Tuesday, declined to say whether Biden won in 2020, saying The San Antonio Express-News: “I am speaking only in general. There is electoral fraud.”

And there is more to come. State Representative Ron Hanks, running to challenge Sen. Michael Bennett, a Democrat, in the Colorado Republican primary on June 28, marched on Capitol Hill on January 6 and launched his campaign with an ad showing him shooting a fake Dominion voting machinea central device to a sprawling conspiracy theory about votes allegedly stolen by foreign powers from 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 “split from reality” if would believe them.

In Michigan, a wild contest to elect the Republican to challenge Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is closely run by Ryan Kelley, a real estate broker who was arrested this month and charged with involvement in the Jan. 6 riots. Mr. Rocha, the state House candidate in western Michigan, said voters were far more concerned about gas prices and empty store shelves than they were in the Jan. 6 hearings, later saying that voters are, in fact, still very angry about “electoral integrity.”

“They did it in 2020. Now they are finding new avenues to remove Republicans from the ballot this year,” he said.

In Arizona, the leading Republican candidate for governor, Kari Lake, has made her “Stolen election” claims central to your campaign. Mark Finchem, candidate for Secretary of State, I was on the front steps of the Capitol January 6th. And Blake Masters, who hopes to challenge Sen. Mark Kelly, the incumbent Democrat, unsubstantiatedly suggested that “a third of the people outside the Capitol complex on January 6 were real FBI agents.”

annie karni contributed report.

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