Trump planned to falsely declare victory months prior to 2020 election: Jan. 6 committee

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The House Jan. 6 committee presented evidence at its hearing Thursday showing that former President Donald Trump planned to falsely declare he had won the 2020 election months before Election Day.

As the votes were still being counted on Nov. 3, 2020, Trump held a rally in New York City, where he asserted without evidence that he had defeated Joe Biden.

“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,” Trump declared on election night, adding, “We want all voting to stop.”

After showing a clip of that statement, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., laid out the committee’s case that Trump knew full well it was too early to make such a declaration and had plotted to deliver it whatever the final results showed.

“We now know more about President Trump’s intention for election night. The evidence shows his false victory speech was planned well in advance, before any votes had been counted,” Lofgren said. “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.”

The committee obtained a prepared statement from the National Archives that was written on Oct. 31, 2020, by Tom Fitton, a conservative legal activist and founder of Judicial Watch.

“We had an election today, and I won,” the memo suggested that Trump say.

The memo, Lofgren said, laid out a plan “that only the votes counted by the Election Day deadline” should be counted. Given the larger number of Democratic-leaning votes cast by mail amid the coronavirus pandemic, that plan appeared designed to hand Trump victory while disenfranchising millions of Americans.

“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,” Lofgren said.

Donald Trump stands in front of a large sign reading: Trump Pence - Make America Great Again.
Donald Trump arrives to speak in the East Room of the White House late on election night, Nov. 3, 2020. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

The committee also showed video of former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon boasting a few days prior to the election to a group of associates from China.

“What Trump is going to do is just declare victory, right? He’s going to declare victory. That doesn’t mean he’s the winner. He’s just going to say he’s the winner,” said Bannon, whom Trump would later pardon.

The committee later showed documentary film footage of Roger Stone, an informal Trump adviser whom the president pardoned in December 2020, discussing his view that Trump should prematurely declare victory.

“I suspect it will be, I really do suspect it will be up in the air,” Stone said of where the race would stand on election night. “When that happens the key thing to do is to claim victory. Possession is nine-tenths of the law. No, we won, f*** you.”

Both Bannon and Stone declined to answer questions from the committee.

Trump’s apparent plan to prematurely declare victory worried staff members of then-Vice President Mike Pence, Lofgren said. The vice president's counsel Greg Jacob testified to the Jan. 6 committee about a conversation he had with Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, to make sure Pence would not echo any false victory claims made by Trump.

“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 being thrust into a position of needing to opine on that when he might not have sufficient information to do so,” Jacob said.

Jacob drafted a Nov. 3 memo to Short stating it was “essential” that Pence not weigh in on the election results prior to the conclusion of those results being tallied.