The Jolt: Trump officials tell Jan. 6 committee they knew 2020 election wasn’t stolen

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The U.S. House Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol held its first public hearing on Thursday, and the star witness of the night was Capitol Police officer Caroline Edwards.

The Atlanta native and University of Georgia alumna, who herself was seriously injured, spoke about the horror of witnessing fellow officers beaten down by the crowd.

“They were bleeding; they were throwing up,” she said. “I saw friends with blood all over their faces. I was slipping in people’s blood. I was catching people as they fell. It was carnage. It was chaos.”

Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson and Vice Chairwoman Liz Cheney said that over the course of the next few weeks they will connect the dots between President Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 general election, which they said he knew he had lost and lied about anyway, and the violence of Jan. 6.

On Thursday night, they presented videos of former Trump officials testifying that they knew in real time that the election had not been stolen.

After then-Attorney General Bill Barr determined that Joe Biden had indeed won the election – he called the idea that it was stolen “bullsh-t” – he quickly found an ally among one of Trump’s inner circle. His daughter Ivanka Trump told the committee: “I respect Attorney General Barr, so I accepted what he was saying.”

Georgia’s U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams was among about 20 lawmakers sitting in the back of the room during the two-hour hearing. Afterward, she said she hoped Georgians were paying attention, especially since some Republicans on the ballot in Georgia later this year continue to spread election falsehoods.

“We have my former colleague in the state Senate, Burt Jones, who is the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor,” Williams said. “I want to know if he watched this; I want to know if he is still going to spread this lie that led to this attack on the Capitol.”

Jones spokesman Stephen Lawson said the Republican “has been crystal clear that January 6 was a terrible tragedy that should never have happened and must never occur again.“

“But instead of trying to score cheap political points, maybe Ms. Williams and her fellow Georgia Democrats should focus on the 40 year high inflation, record gas prices, surging violent crime in Atlanta and a wide open southern border that their party is directly responsible for.”


INSURRECTION INVESTIGATION. Among the other revelations from the January 6th Committee hearing:

  • Donald Trump endorsed a crowd’s chants of “Hang Mike Pence” when speaking to advisers. “Maybe our supporters have the right idea,” Trump said of the calls to murder his vice president, according to Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney. “Mike Pence deserves it,” he said.
  • The committee indicated it had evidence that Trump’s Cabinet considered invoking the 25th amendment after the riot to remove him from office. Then-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was among the officials who discussed taking the step.
  • Trump never ordered law enforcement agencies to protect the Capitol. It was left to Pence to take action.
  • Multiple Republican U.S. House members sought presidential pardons for their roles in attempting to overturn the 2020 election, hoping for Trump to clear them before he left office. Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry was the only one named during the hearing.

Georgia is certain to be in the spotlight as the hearings continue, with investigators planning to discuss Trump’s efforts to persuade state legislators and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to reverse the election defeat and encourage local prosecutors to declare the results corrupted.


GUN CONTROL. The U.S. House on Thursday passed a bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath of Marietta that would create a national “red flag” law to allow judges to temporarily remove firearms from people deemed a threat to themselves or others.

Five Republicans joined Democrats in voting 224-202 to pass the bill, HR 2377, with one Democrat voting “no.” Georgia’s delegation split along party lines, with all eight Republicans opposed and all six Democrats in favor.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of senators led by Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy and Texas Republican John Cornyn is still working on a separate proposal that is likely to be much narrower in scope. Similar “red flag” language appears to be on the table in the Senate, although discussions are ongoing.


Today in Washington:

  • The House and Senate are both out, returning on Monday.
  • President Joe Biden is still in California attending the Summit of the Americas. On Saturday, he travels to New Mexico for a briefing on the wildfires there.


MORE GUN TALK. U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams and Atlanta Board of Education Member Jason Esteves will host a youth town hall on gun safety this weekend in Atlanta.

The town hall is open to students and parents and will be held Saturday afternoon at the King Center in Old Fourth Ward.

After the event, Williams will participate in the March for Our Lives Rally starting at nearby Ebenezer Baptist Church.

On the other side of the aisle, U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson penned an op-ed for the Washington Examiner proposing a program to share guidelines for schools to identify and intervene with students who may become a harm to themselves or others.


SAFE SCHOOLS. Along with Democrats’ push for gun restrictions, we’ve heard the term “hardening schools” from Republicans arguing that school building defenses and even armed volunteer guards, not new gun laws, will make schools safer.

On the ground in school districts, the conversation is more nuanced.

At the Cobb County School board this week, the Marietta Daily Journal reports Superintendent Chris Ragsdale detailed a new security system set for August in which employees will wear badges with a button to issue an alert of an attack.

Ragsdale also pointed to a plan for Cobb Schools to have an unannounced “code red” active shooter drill, a police force with 70 police officers, and other measures to keep kids safe.

But he doesn’t support arming teachers.

“If our top priority is staff and students safety, wouldn’t that mean that armed teachers would now have teaching as a second priority, and more importantly, a second job? We’re asking teachers to do too much already,” he said.


STUDENT DEBT. Earlier this week, we told you how Stacey Abrams and other top Georgia Democrats are embracing the push to forgive student debt.

The Democratic gubernatorial nominee discussed that plan further with WRBL’s Chuck Williams in a must-listen podcast.

“If we can start to take some of the pressure off, we open up innovation, we open up opportunity and we all benefit. Our responsibility isn’t to only go for what we can get. We’ve got to go for what’s best for as many people as possible.”

She added: “I’ve paid off all my student loans, and I owed a lot. I do not begrudge a single person the opportunity to make better choices because they aren’t worried about a student loan.”


LISTEN UP. We look back at Stacey Abrams’ student debt pitch, the gun control debate in Washington, and developments in the January 6 investigation in this week’s Friday edition of the Politically Georgia podcast.

Listen at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher.


GETTING UGLY. The attacks are getting increasingly personal and ugly in 10th Congressional District GOP runoff contest battle between trucking executive Mike Collins and Donald Trump-endorsed, Democrat-turned-Republican Vernon Jones.

The two battled on the debate stage on Monday, when Collins called Jones a liar and Jones repeatedly invoked Collins’ late father, U.S. Rep. Mac Collins. “He lied to you about his own daddy,” Jones told the audience at one point.

On Wednesday, 10th District residents opened their mailboxes to see a mailer from the Collins for Congress campaign with a picture of Jones and the banner: “RADICALLY ANTI-WHITE RACIST.”

The opposite side of the mailer details the 2010 reverse discrimination lawsuit against Jones, when a federal court found Jones liable for creating a “hostile work environment” as CEO of DeKalb County. The court also awarded damages to two white DeKalb County parks employees who worked for Jones.

Reached for comment, the Collins campaign stood by the mailer and referred back to the AJC’s extensive coverage of the findings against Jones.

A spokesman for Jones responded, “What we’ve seen from Day One of this campaign continues to be true today. If there’s a lie to tell, Mike Collins will tell it.”

Jones also released a new ad Friday called, “Little Mike,” with Jones talking to a small boy who says, “My daddy was in Congress.”


GONE HOLLYWOOD. Stacey Abrams was in Los Angeles last night for a fundraiser hosted by entertainment heavyweights JJ Abrams, Darnell Strom and Kerry Washington at the home of John Legend and Chrissy Teigen.

Puck reporter Dylan Byers reported that co-hosts include Atlanta native Ed Helms, Leonardo DiCaprio and Will Ferrell. Tickets to the soiree ranged from $5,000 to $50,000.

Will hobnobbing with celebrities still pack the same punch as a political attack as it once did, now that Georgia has positioned itself as a top player in the entertainment industry? Given the number of GOP operatives who flagged this for us, someone thinks so.


HALEY IN THE HUNT. Politico has a feature on former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, with a focus on the former South Carolina governor as she “crisscrosses the country ahead of an anticipated 2024 presidential bid.”

Count Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District as one of the places her pre-2024 tour is taking the Republican presidential hopeful.

Haley was in Southwest Georgia earlier this week stumping for Jeremy Hunt, the West Point graduate running against Chris West in the GOP runoff there. The winner of that race will face U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop in November.

“I’ve been on a runoff. I know what it takes,” Haley said of Hunt. “This guy can do it but we need your help.”

Early voting for the runoff starts next Monday, June 13.


NOT-SO-GOOD TROUBLE. A campaign ad for a candidate in an incumbent vs. incumbent Democratic primary in Michigan angered members of the Congressional Black Caucus because it featured the late Congressman John Lewis.

Punchbowl News was the first to report on the campaign ad by Rep. Andy Levin and the resulting outrage. An excerpt:

We talked with multiple senior CBC members who said they strongly disapproved of Lewis being featured in the ad. They're especially upset that Levin is using it in his campaign against a fellow Democrat.

CBC Chair Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio.) said in an interview that she was “shocked," and that she found it especially inappropriate considering it was a campaign ad. “You know, If he was out there invoking it that we were standing up for civil rights and we were fighting, but to put it in a political campaign, I don't support that," Beatty said.

“Many of us had relationships with John. I'm not saying he didn't have a relationship with [Levin.] But I don't know how somebody dead could approve something," Beatty added.

- Punchbowl News

Levin’s campaign told Punchbowl News that the congressman’s estate, the John R. Lewis Trust, authorized the use of his likeness. A reporter with the Detroit News tried to reach a representative from the Trust, but there was no immediate response.

Lewis’ place in American history and importance to Democratic politics means these issues will continue, which may bring more pressure on those in charge of his estate.


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