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National News

Members of Trump's inner circle gave bombshell testimony in 2nd public Jan. 6 hearing

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

We heard bombshell testimony today from several members of former President Trump's inner circle during the second public hearing of the House January 6 committee. That testimony included former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien talking about a dramatic split within the campaign during the 2020 election.

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BILL STEPIEN: I didn't mind being characterized as being part of team normal as reporters, you know, kind of started to do around that point in time.

KELLY: Stepien claimed this, quote, "team normal" tried to steer Trump away from false election claims being peddled by Trump's then-personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and others. But team normal failed again and again. Joining us to discuss this, NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales in the studio. Hey there, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Right. Hey there.

KELLY: So this is, I think, the most extensive look yet that we've gotten at what the committee has found. Tell us a little more what we heard today.

GRISALES: Right. We saw clips of testimony from a long list of members of Trump's inner circle. This includes Stepien and former Attorney General Bill Barr, daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as former top Justice Department officials, to name a few. It was very detailed. For example, Stepien and Barr shared specific recollections of their conversations with Trump and other top White House officials of this split in 2020, when then-personal attorney Rudy Giuliani joined the campaign effort. We should note, Stepien was due to appear in person, but his attorney, Kevin Marino, told me his wife went into labor this morning, and instead, the panel played clips from his testimony. Stepien told the panel the night the election results came in, Giuliani was pushing to claim victory anyways, even though there was no basis to do so. And Trump went with Giuliani's take.

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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.

GRISALES: And to add to that, we also saw testimony from former Trump senior adviser Jason Miller that Giuliani was, quote, "definitely intoxicated that evening," a claim Giuliani's team is already disputing.

KELLY: Well, I will send best wishes for the arrival of baby Stepien and ask about something else, which is the financial picture of the Trump campaign because we also heard about that at this hearing. What did we learn?

GRISALES: Right. This panel is essentially scratching the surface of their findings here and answering the question they've pursued for months. And what they found is when Trump shifted his campaign for president into a, quote, "stop-the-steal operation" after his election loss, he drew an estimated $250 million in donations. California Democrat and committee member Zoe Lofgren played a key role talking about that in today's hearing.

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ZOE LOFGREN: 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.

GRISALES: And we should note, the panel is still in litigation, trying to get even more information about this and find out exactly where all this money went.

KELLY: OK. Claudia, where are we in the arc here? This was day two today of what they're now saying will be seven hearings. What's ahead?

GRISALES: Right - seven hearings. It is fluid. It could shift again. But right now, the panel is working to highlight in these remaining hearings the various pressure campaigns Trump directed to try to overturn the election's results and perhaps pointing to criminal action - this is what the panel was hoping to highlight - that the president may have committed along the way.

The next hearing will be focused on efforts to pressure that Justice Department to play a key role in these false claims of election fraud, to investigate them. And this is of keen interest to the agency. And as we heard today, Attorney General Merrick Garland said he's watching these hearings. Earlier today, we heard Barr talk about a 2020 meeting shortly before his resignation with Trump as he pushed him and the agency to do more with these claims of false election fraud.

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BILL BARR: I said, you know, that has to be the campaign that raises that with the state. The department doesn't take sides in elections. And the department is not an extension of your legal team.

GRISALES: So we'll hear the next panel of witnesses on Wednesday from the Justice Department. Fill in the blanks what happened after that.

KELLY: Claudia Grisales, thank you.

GRISALES: Thank you much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.