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Jan. 6 panel: Trump campaign used 'big lie' to raise millions from supporters

·Senior Writer
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The committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot said that former President Donald Trump’s campaign fundraised off of baseless allegations of election fraud but spent very little of the money on legal action.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said Monday morning that the House select committee would show “that the Trump campaign used these false claims of election fraud to raise hundreds of millions of dollars from supporters who were told their donations were for the legal fight in the courts. But the Trump campaign didn’t use the money for that. The ‘big lie’ was also a big rip-off.”

“We’ll present evidence that Mr. Trump’s claims of election fraud were false, that he and his closest advisers knew those claims were false but they continued to peddle them anyway right up until the moments before a mob of Trump supporters attacked the Capitol,” she said.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren at the Monday hearing of the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

During the hearing, a senior investigative counsel for the committee said that Trump supporters received upward of 25 emails a day urging them to donate to an election defense fund that did not exist.

“The Trump campaign knew that these claims of voter fraud were false yet they continued to barrage small-dollar donors with emails encouraging them to donate to something called the ‘Official Election Defense Fund,’” Amanda Wick said. “The select committee discovered no such fund existed.”

In a taped deposition, former Trump campaign staffer Hanna Allred said, “I don’t believe there is actually a fund called the Election Defense Fund,” while the campaign’s digital director agreed that the Election Defense Fund was a “marketing tactic.”

Wick noted that much of the money went to the Save America PAC, which was created on Nov. 9, two days after the election was called for Biden. That PAC then routed $1 million to two separate organizations tied to Trump staffers, $204,857 to the Trump Hotel Collection and $5 million for the company that organized the Jan. 6 rally that preceded the violence at the Capitol, according to Wick.

Reps. Zoe Lofgren, Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney.
From left: Reps. Zoe Lofgren, Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney during a House select committee hearing on Monday. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

After the hearing, Lofgren told CNN's Jake Tapper that the committee has evidence that Kimberly Guilfoyle, the fiancee of Trump's son Donald Trump Jr., was paid $60,000 to introduce Trump for two-and-a-half minutes at the "Stop the Steal" rally that preceded the riot. Tapper had asked Lofgren whether Trump's family personally benefited from donations the campaign received by fundraising on the election lie.

"I'm not saying it's a crime but I think it's a grift," Lofgren told Tapper.

A February 2021 analysis from ABC News found that in the three months that followed the election when Trump and his allies were peddling the conspiracy theory that the race was stolen, the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee raised $280 million. Only $13 million of that was spent on legal expenses, with more than $100 million going toward “various fundraising expenses and advertising efforts aimed at raising even more money.”

Former Fox News political editor Chris Stirewalt, who was involved in the network’s decision desk that called the race for Joe Biden, testified later in the hearing that the Trump campaign’s strategy of overturning multiple races was nearly impossible.

“Ahead of today, I thought about what are the largest margins that could ever be overturned by a recount,” he said. “In modern history, you’re talking about 1,000 votes, 1,500 votes at the way, way outside. Normally, you’re talking about hundreds of votes, maybe 300 votes that are going to change.

“So the idea that through any normal process in any of these states — remember he had to do it thrice. He needed three of these states to change,” Stirewalt said. “In order to do that, you’re better off to play the Powerball than to have that come in.”

Monday’s hearing was the second public panel from the Jan. 6 House committee following last week’s primetime debut in which Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said Trump had “a sophisticated seven-part plan to overturn the presidential election and prevent the transfer of presidential power.”

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The rioters got within two doors of Vice President Mike Pence’s office. See how in this 3D explainer from Yahoo Immersive.

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