Trump may (literally) have to pay for his election lies

The House Jan. 6 committee has provided all sorts of evidence that Trump knew his election fraud claims were lies. That could open the door to more civil lawsuits.

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The main focus of the House Jan. 6 committee's first two public hearings has been clear: proving then-President Donald Trump was responsible for the Capitol riot by showing he knowingly lied about so-called fraud in the 2020 election. 

The audacity of Trump's "big lie" has become clearer as we've learned more about what his staffers were telling him in private — that he was, justly, an election loser. And those lies could cripple Trump financially.  

The committee has shared testimony from a slew of figures in Trump's world — including former Attorney General William Barr and former campaign aide Jason Miller — who all said they and others told Trump and senior White House officials that he’d lost the election fairly. 

On Monday, the committee played footage of Barr testifying that Trump claimed that there was major fraud underway “before there was any potential of looking at evidence.” It used that footage, along with testimony from former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, to show that members of Trump's inner circle gave him information that undermined a key conspiracy theory he spread after the election: that mysterious “dumps” of fraudulent votes were used to defeat him.

The committee also replayed footage it debuted last week, of Barr telling congressional investigators that he “made it clear" to Trump that he "did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen and putting out this stuff — which I told the president was bullshit.”

In footage released Thursday, Miller testified a Trump campaign data strategist “delivered to the president in pretty blunt terms that he was going to lose” a few days after the 2020 election. That news was based on empirical data, Miller said. 

We’ve seen mountains of evidence — with more likely to come — that Trump simply refused to accept the reality of his election loss and took drastic steps to alter it. That, as the committee has laid out, included weaponizing a violent mob to stop the vice president from certifying the electoral college votes. I firmly believe all of this may be grounds for criminal charges, but the evidence could shore up civil cases against Trump, as well. 

Various groups have already sued Trump over his role in the Jan. 6 attack. Those include lawsuits from several Capitol and D.C. police officers who claim he’s responsible for injuries they suffered fending off the Jan. 6 mob, and multiple members of Congress who say Trump conspired to incite violence at the Capitol that day. 

Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine is investigating the Jan. 6 attack and has filed a civil suit seeking damages from members of extremist groups — such as the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers — accused of participating in the riot. Multiple members of both groups have been charged with seditious conspiracy for their roles in the attack. If the committee continues to provide evidence Trump was responsible for the attack, it seems increasingly likely he’ll be added as a defendant in the D.C. lawsuit. 

On top of that, Trump is also facing a lawsuit filed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which claims his campaign’s effort to discard 2020 votes in cities with large Black populations was illegal. 

And yet-to-be-named civil suits could be on the horizon if people targeted by Trump’s election lies look to sue in light of the committee’s findings. That could include anyone from the Fulton County, Georgia, election workers who faced death threats after Trump spread lies about criminality in their office, to Dominion Voting Systems, the company that’s faced baseless allegations of election fraud from Trump and his campaign officials. 

We’re still early in the Jan. 6 committee hearings, but one thing seems abundantly clear: Trump needn’t only worry about his exposure to criminal charges. Civil cases stemming from his election defeat could devastate him, as well.