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Jan. 6 panel presents proof: Despite the lies, Trump knew he lost

In public, Donald Trump spent the post-election period telling anyone who'd listen that he'd won. In private, he quietly conceded that he'd lost.


After Donald Trump’s 2020 defeat, he perpetrated a dramatic and unprecedented fraud: The outgoing Republican president peddled a ridiculous lie, told the world he’d secretly won, and set out to execute a plot to claim illegitimate power. To this day, too much of the GOP — from officeholders to candidates to rank-and-file voters — continues to embrace Trump’s “Big Lie” as if it were true.

But as the Jan. 6 committee helped prove in its latest hearing, in private, the Republican quietly conceded he knew the truth. NBC News reported:

Alyssa Farah Griffin, then the head of White House strategic communications, told the Jan. 6 committee that she popped into the Oval Office “maybe a week after the election was called” to check on Trump. “He was looking at the TV, and he said, ‘Can you believe I lost to this effing guy?’” Farah Griffin said. Another former White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson, gave a similar account. The president told chief of staff Mark Meadows “something to the effect of ‘I don’t want people to know we lost, Mark. This is embarrassing. Figure it out,’” Hutchinson recalled. “‘I don’t want people to know that we lost.’”

During the same presentation, the public saw Hutchinson recall a post-election conversation she had with Meadows in which the then-White House chief of staff conceded, in reference to Trump, “He knows he lost.” Hutchinson also remembered Meadows saying, “A lot of times he’ll tell me that he lost.”

At face value, this may not have seemed especially notable. Of course Trump knew he lost. His campaign manager told him he lost. His lawyers told him he lost. His campaign data experts told him he lost. The courts told him he lost. His most trusted allies at the Justice Department told him they’d looked for evidence to substantiate his ridiculous claims about fraud, but they couldn’t find anything meaningful.

The sitting American president had more access to more facts than practically any human on the planet. If anyone knew the actual outcome of the 2020 race, it was Trump — and according to people who spoke with him at the time, he was well aware of the truth.

And he peddled a lie anyway.

As Rep. Liz Cheney, the Republican vice chair of the bipartisan panel, explained to the public yesterday, “Claims that President Trump actually thought the election was stolen are not supported by fact and not a defense. There is no defense that Donald Trump was duped or irrational.”

As for why this matters, a Washington Post report summarized the circumstances nicely:

Trump was not, lawmaker after lawmaker argued, an angry king or reckless madman — caught up in the emotion of the day — or a mere hapless bystander, unaware of the destruction he wrought. In fact, it was quite the opposite: Trump was a leader who knew he had lost — who was repeatedly told he had lost and who privately admitted he had lost — yet who plunged ahead with a calculated and deliberate plan that shook the foundations of the very democracy he had sworn to uphold.

The question then becomes how best to hold the former president accountable for deliberately perpetrating a fraud by way of “a calculated and deliberate plan that shook the foundations of the very democracy he had sworn to uphold.”