The second day of the January 6 Committee hearings clearly established, from Trump campaign officials to Republican campaign lawyers to DOJ attorneys – Republicans all – that there there was no fraud in the 2020 election and that they all told Donald Trump this. He knew that he lost. He knew that his claims of fraud were an intentional Big Lie.

It is what a lifelong grifter who spent his entire adult life as pathological liar resorts to – shaking down the rubes in his MAGA/QAnon cult to enrich himself from his loss with a Big Lie, and to hell with the consequences to the country and American democracy. A grifter has got to grift.

Today’s testimony destroyed Trump’s attempted use of the delusion defense aka the “Costanza defense.”

Steve Benen reports, Why it matters that Trump’s ‘Election Defense Fund’ didn’t exist:

Among Donald Trump’s worst qualities is the frequency with which the former president has tried to rip off those who’ve put their trust in him. Indeed, the Republican developed some expertise in this area, running both a fraudulent charitable foundation and a fraudulent “university” that was designed to rip off its “students.”

All of this came to mind this morning, as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack held its second hearing, which covered a lot of ground, including a review of how Trump and his team used their election lies to separate the then-president’s followers from their money. NBC News reported:

Committee investigators also traced the money Trump and his allies raised from small donors by stoking election fraud fears, which they said totaled more than $250 million. And while the money was billed as going to “The Official Election Defense Fund,” two Trump campaign staffers testified that the fund did not actually exist and was just a “marketing” tactic.

As one former Trump campaign staffer told the bipartisan congressional committee, “I don’t believe there is actually a fund called the ‘Election Defense Fund.'”

And where, pray tell, did this quarter of a billion dollars go? Some of the money helped pay for Trump’s pre-riot rally just south of the White House on Jan. 6, but the bulk of the money went to the former president’s new super PAC.

Part of what makes this jarring is the degree to which it’s a fraudulent scam wrapped in a fraudulent scam: Trump started with a lie — the election results were illegitimate — and then added another lie on top of it, by telling those who believed the first lie to go grab their wallets and contribute to Election Defense Fund that had nothing to do with defending elections.

It also created a perverse set of incentives: The moment the Republican stopped lying was the moment donors stopped sending him money, which not surprisingly encouraged Trump to keep the con going.

But there’s also a legal dimension to this: Aren’t there laws against unscrupulous conmen launching fraudulent scams?

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democratic member of the Jan. 6 committee, was asked about this after this morning’s proceedings. “It’s clear that he intentionally misled his donors, asked them to donate to a fund that didn’t exist and used the money raised for something other than what he said,” the congresswoman told reporters.

Lofgren added, “Now it’s for someone else to decide whether that’s criminal or not. That’s not the purview of a legislative committee.”

It was against this backdrop that Attorney General Merrick Garland confirmed this morning that he’s watching the committee hearings. He added this morning, “And I can assure you that the Jan. 6 prosecutors are watching all the hearings.”

Attorney General Garland says he’s watching all Jan. 6 committee hearings:

Attorney General Merrick Garland said Monday he is watching the televised hearings of the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot, as members of the House panel focused on former President Donald Trump’s election fraud claims on the second day of testimony.

“I am watching, and I will be watching all the hearings, although I may not be able to watch all of it live,” he said. “And I can assure you that the Jan. 6 prosecutors are watching all the hearings.”

One would hope that there are no surprises. The DOJ has had a year and one-half to discover everything the January 6 Committee has discovered if it is, in fact, conducting a criminal investigation. If there is a DOJ focus on the Coup Plotters at the top of the coup d’etat, we would have heard about it from the suspects and their attorneys who have been interviewed or called before a grand jury. That has not happened, so I have serious doubts. DOJ is pursuing the low hanging fruit, the MAGA/QAnon rubes who Trump incited to attempt to overthrow the government. There is a clear reticence to go after the Coup Plotters. Time is of the essence General, and time is running out. Do your job, or step down and let someone who will do it take over.

At a news conference announcing criminal charges in a Texas gun trafficking case, Garland repeated his now-familiar response that the Justice Department will follow the law and the facts wherever they lead in its Jan. 6 investigations. But, apparently sensitive to criticism that the government isn’t doing enough, he gave a detailed explanation about why prosecutors don’t comment on ongoing investigations.

“We do that both for the viability of our investigations and because it’s the right thing to do with respect to the civil liberties of people under investigation,” Garland said. “Eventually that information comes out in the form of our search warrant affidavits, in our orders, and our pleadings and, eventually, if there are charges. But for our investigations to proceed in an efficient way, we have learned over many, many years that this is the way our investigations should go.”

Justice Department officials said earlier that they are looking at whether any laws were broken when [Fake] Trump electors met in seven battleground states and cast votes for him, which they then sent to the National Archives, even though Joe Biden won the popular vote in those states. Federal prosecutors have also issued subpoenas to some individuals involved in the “Stop the Steal” movement.

Charges have also been filed against more than 800 people accused of taking part in the riot at the Capitol.

As the Jan. 6 committee hearings proceed, and with more evidence presented, Garland could find himself faced with a decision about whether to prosecute Trump. So far, there is nothing to indicate Trump is the focus of any DOJ criminal probe.

Asked Monday if there is any policy that would limit the Justice Department’s ability to pursue charges against the most senior current or former government officials, Garland said no.

“This investigation is proceeding according to the facts and the law. We are not obstructed from continuing our investigation in any way,” he said. “We are proceeding with full urgency with respect.”




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