Those who went into yesterday’s Jan. 6 committee hearing assuming that they wouldn’t be surprised quickly learned otherwise. When it came to the fake electors scheme hatched by Donald Trump and his allies, we knew the basics, but we nevertheless learned some amazing new details.
We learned, for example, that the then-president was directly involved in the plot. We learned that Team Trump knew the scheme was illegal because the White House counsel’s office told them so. We learned, by way of Ronna McDaniel’s deposition, that the Republican National Committee helped put the slates of fake electors together. We learned some Trump campaign lawyers distanced themselves from the scheme because it was so obviously dubious.
In an oddly funny moment, we learned that some fake electors in Michigan were so determined to be inside the state Capitol on the designated day that they considered hiding in the building overnight. (Laura Cox, the former chair of the Michigan Republican Party, told investigators that she told the Trump campaign that she considered this “insane and inappropriate.”)
But one of the things that surprised me most was the Republicans who felt like they’d been duped. The Detroit News highlighted an especially memorable quote:
“We were kind of useful idiots or rubes at that point,” said Robert Sinners, a former Trump campaign staffer, adding he now feels he was misled about the effort. “I’m angry because I think, in a sense, no one really cared if people were potentially putting themselves in jeopardy.”
Asked if he would’ve volunteered to be a fake elector, knowing what he knows now, Sinners added, “I absolutely would not have.”
A Detroit News reporter added that one local Republican insisted that she was asked to sign her name to the materials without being shown one of the pages that included multiple false statements.
A committee investigator also noted the concerns one local Republican raised about whether the Trump campaign would pay the fake electors’ legal bills.
Of course, there’s little to suggest Team Trump was particularly concerned with the fake electors’ fate. There was a desperate scramble to concoct a plot that might work, and these local Republicans were cogs in a machine. Had the former president’s operation told them the truth — not only about his defeat, but also about the lawyers’ assessment of the gambit — they probably would’ve been able to make more responsible decisions.
The common thread is how the former president and his team perceive his loyalists as suckers: People who put their trust in Trump were exploited without shame or hesitation.
The House Jan. 6 committee is holding its fifth public hearing on Thursday, June 23 at 3 p.m. ET. Get expert analysis in real-time on our liveblog at msnbc.com/jan6hearings.