Zoe Lofgren

Opening Statement at the Ninth Public Hearing of the January 6th Select Committee – Oct. 13, 2022

Zoe Lofgren
October 13, 2022— Washington, D.C.
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Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

We begin this meeting by returning to election night, November 3, 2020. As the Chairman noted, we have previously presented testimony about how the election results were expected to come in that night. In certain States, ballots cast by mail before election day would be counted only after the polls closed that evening. That meant that election results would not be known for some time.

Although President Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Jared Kushner had advised Donald Trump to encourage mail-in voting by Republicans, President Trump did not do so.

Mr. KUSHNER. Yeah, I just remember generally, you know, you had people arguing that we had a very, very robust get-out-the-vote effort and that, you know, mail-in ballots could be a good thing for us if we looked at it correctly.

Mr. STEPIEN. There was one meeting that was had in particular. I invited Kevin McCarthy to join the meeting, he being of like mind on the issue with me, in which we made our case for why we believed mail-in balloting—mail-in voting—not to be a bad thing for his campaign. But, you know, the President’s mind was made up.

So it was expected before the election that the initial counts in some States—in other words, those votes cast on election day—would be more heavily Republican, and this would create the false perception of a lead for President Trump, a so-called "red mirage," but as the results of the absentee ballots were later counted, there could be trends toward Vice President Biden, as those mail-in ballots were counted.

Now, on election night, Donald Trump’s advisers specifically told him he didn’t have a factual basis to declare victory. He should wait for the remaining ballots to be counted. Here is campaign manager Bill Stepien.

Mr. STEPIEN. It was far too early to be making any calls like that. Ballots were still being counted. Ballots were still going to be counted for days. And it was far too early to be making any proclamation like that. My belief, my recommendation, was to say that votes were still being counted, it is too early to tell, too early to call the race.

But President Trump did declare victory in the late hours of election night. Not only did he declare victory, he also called for the ongoing count of votes to just stop. Stopping the count would have violated both Federal and State laws and also disenfranchised millions of voters who lawfully cast their vote. He called for that action anyway.

Here is what he said.

President TRUMP. This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election. We did win this election . . . . We want all voting to stop.

We now know more about President Trump’s intentions for election night. The evidence shows that his false victory speech was planned well in advance, before any votes had been counted. It was a premeditated plan by the President to declare victory no matter what the actual result was. He made a plan to stay in office before election day.

Now, the Vice President’s staff was concerned with what Donald Trump might do on election night. They took steps to ensure that Mr. Pence would not echo a false victory announcement from President Trump.

Here is what the Vice President’s counsel, Greg Jacob, told us about his preparations with the Vice President’s chief of staff, Marc Short.

Mr. JACOB. Marc had indicated to me that there was a possibility that there would be a declaration of victory within the White House that some might push for—and this is prior to the election results being known—and that he was trying to figure out a way of avoiding the Vice President sort-of being thrust into a position of needing to opine on that when he might not have sufficient information to do so.

Now, following this conversation, Mr. Jacob drafted a memo to Mr. Short which the Select Committee got from the National Archives. The memo was sent on November 3rd, election day, and advised ". . . it is essential that the Vice President not be perceived by the public as having decided questions concerning disputed electoral votes prior to the full development of all relevant facts."

A few days before the election, Mr. Trump also consulted with one of his outside advisers, activist Tom Fitton, about the strategy for election night. The Select Committee got this pre-prepared statement from the National Archives. As you can see, the draft statement, which was sent on October 31st, declares, "We had an election today—and I won."

The Fitton memo specifically indicates a plan that only the votes "counted by the election day deadline"—and there is no election day deadline—would matter. Everyone knew that ballot counting would lawfully continue past election day. Claiming that the counting on election night must stop before millions of votes were counted was, as we now know, a key part of President Trump’s premeditated plan.

On election day, just after 5 p.m., Mr. Fitton indicated he had spoken with the President about the statement. "Sending along again. Just talked to him about the draft below... ". Again, this plan to declare victory was in place before any of the results had been determined.

In the course of our investigation, we also interviewed Brad Parscale, President Trump’s former campaign manager. He told us he understood that President Trump planned as early as July that he would say he won the election even if he lost.

Just a few days before the election, Steve Bannon, a former Trump chief White House strategist and outside adviser to President Trump, spoke to a group of his associates from China and said this.

Mr. BANNON. And what Trump’s gonna do is just declare victory, right? He’s gonna declare victory. But that doesn’t mean he’s the winner. He’s just going to say he’s the winner. The Democrats—more of our people vote early that count. Theirs vote in mail. And so they’re going to have a natural disadvantage, and Trump’s going to take advantage of it. That’s our strategy. He’s gonna declare himself the winner. So when you wake up Wednesday morning, it’s going to be a firestorm. Also—also, if Trump—if Trump is losing by 10 or 11 o’clock at night, it’s going to be even crazier. No, because he’s going to sit right there and say, "They stole it. I’m directing the Attorney General to shut down all ballot places in all 50 States." It’s going to be—no, he’s not going out easy. If Trump—if Biden’s winning, Trump is going to do some crazy shit.

As you know, Mr. Bannon refused to testify in our investigation. He has been convicted of criminal contempt of Congress, and he is awaiting sentencing. But the evidence indicates that Mr. Bannon had advance knowledge of Mr. Trump’s intent to declare victory falsely on election night, but also that Mr. Bannon knew about Mr. Trump’s planning for January 6th.

Here is what Bannon said on January 5th.

Mr. BANNON. All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. It’s all converging, and now we’re on, as they say, the point of attack, right, the point of attack tomorrow. I’ll tell you this. It’s not going to happen like you think it’s going to happen, okay? It’s going to be quite extraordinarily different. And all I can say is strap in. You have made this happen, and tomorrow it’s game day. So strap in. Let’s get ready.

Another close associate of Donald Trump apparently knew of Mr. Trump’s intentions as well.

Now, Roger Stone is a political operative with a reputation for dirty tricks. In November 2019, he was convicted of lying to Congress and other crimes and sentenced to more than 3 years in prison.

He is also a longtime adviser to President Trump and was in communication with President Trump throughout 2020. Mr. Trump pardoned Roger Stone on December 23, 2020.

Now, recently, the Select Committee got footage of Mr. Stone before and after the election from Danish filmmaker Christoffer Guldbrandsen, pursuant to a subpoena. Right before the election, here is Roger Stone talking about what President Trump would do after the election.

Mr. STONE. Let’s just hope we’re celebrating. I suspect it’ll be—I really do suspect it will still be up in the air. When that happens the key thing to do is to claim victory. Possession is nine-tenths of the law. No, we won. Fuck you. Sorry. Over. We won. You’re wrong. Fuck you. I said, fuck the voting. Let’s get right to the violence.

VOICE. That’s what I am fucking saying. There is no point.

Mr. STONE. We will have to start smashing pumpkins, if you know what I mean.

VOICE. Oh, yeah.

The Select Committee called Mr. Stone as a witness, but he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Vice Chair CHENEY. Do you believe the violence on January 6th was justified?

Mr. STONE. On the advice of counsel, I respectfully decline to answer your question on the basis of the Fifth Amendment.

Vice Chair CHENEY. And, Mr. Stone, did you have any role in planning for the violence on January 6th?

Mr. STONE. Once again, I will assert my Fifth Amendment right to decline to answer your question.

Although we don’t yet have all the relevant records of Roger Stone’s communications, even Stone’s own social media posts acknowledge that he spoke with Donald Trump on December 27th as preparations for January 6th were underway.

In this post, you can see how Roger Stone talked about his conversations with President Trump. He wrote, "I also told the President exactly how he can appoint a Special Counsel with full subpoena power to ensure those who are attempting to steal the 2020 election through voter fraud are charged and convicted and to ensure Donald Trump continues as our President."

As we know by now, the idea for a Special Counsel was not just an idle suggestion. It was something President Trump had actually tried to do earlier that month.

We know that Roger Stone was at the Willard Hotel on January 5th and 6th, and we know from other witness testimony that President Trump asked his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, to speak with Roger Stone and General Michael Flynn that night.

In addition to his connection to President Trump, Roger Stone maintained extensive direct connections to two groups responsible for violently attacking the Capitol, the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys. Individuals from both of these organizations have been charged with the crime of seditious conspiracy.

Now, what is seditious conspiracy? It is a conspiracy to use violent force against the United States, to oppose the lawful authority of the United States.

Multiple associates of Roger Stone, from both the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, have been charged with this crime. Close associates of Roger Stone, including Joshua James, have pled guilty to this crime.

We know that at least seven Oath Keepers—who have been criminally charged—provided personal security for Roger Stone or were seen with him on January 6th or in the weeks leading up to January 6th.

For example, Joshua James, the leader of the Alabama Oath Keepers, provided security for Roger Stone and was with him on January 5th. This is a picture of the two together on January 5th.

James entered the Capitol on January 6th. He assaulted a police officer. Earlier this year, he pled guilty to seditious conspiracy and obstruction of Congress.

Another example is the married couple Kelly and Connie Meggs. Now, Kelly Meggs was the leader of the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers. Both he and his wife provided security for Roger Stone, and both are charged with leading a military-style stack attack of Oath Keepers attacking the Capitol on January 6th.

Perhaps even more disturbing is Roger Stone’s close association with Enrique Tarrio, the national chairman of the Proud Boys. Roger Stone’s connection with Enrique Tarrio and the Proud Boys is well-documented by video evidence, with phone records the Select Committee has obtained. Tarrio, along with other Proud Boys, has been charged with multiple crimes concerning the attack on January 6th, including seditious conspiracy.

During the attack, Tarrio sent a message to other Proud Boys claiming, "We did that!" He also visited the White House on December 12th.

Later that day, he posted a disturbing video claiming credit for the attack. This video, posted on January 6th, was apparently created prior to the attack.

This Big Lie, President Trump’s effort to convince Americans that he had won the 2020 election, began before the election results even came in. It was intentional. It was premeditated. It was not based on election results or any evidence of actual fraud affecting the results or any actual problems with voting machines.

It was a plan concocted in advance to convince his supporters that he won. The people who seemingly knew about that plan in advance would ultimately play a significant role in the events of January 6th.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back.

House of Representatives, One Hundred Seventeenth Congress, Second Session. (Oct. 13, 2022). Meeting of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol. U.S. Government Printing Office. https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CHRG-117hhrg50118/pdf/CHRG-117hhrg50118.pdf.