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Scrutiny on Trump’s election fraud claims

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The second hearing of the congressional committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol will focus on former president Donald Trump’s insistence that his 2020 election defeat was the result of widespread fraud.

Mr Trump’s unfounded allegation is known as the “big lie.”

The House of Representatives Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 attack will hear testimony on Monday from five witnesses on two panels.

Among them are Mr Trump’s own campaign manager and officials from Atlanta and Philadelphia who resigned as Mr Trump’s allies questioned election results in their states.

It is the second of an expected six this month in which the panel will discuss initial findings of its year-long investigation into the events of January 6, when thousands of Trump supporters attacked the Capitol as then vice-president Mike Pence and lawmakers met to certify Mr Trump’s defeat in the November 2020 election by Democrat Joe Biden.

Voting fraud claims rejected as false

Monday’s session follows a blockbuster hearing on Thursday night featuring testimony showing that close Trump allies – even his daughter Ivanka – rejected his false claims of voting fraud.

Nearly 20 million Americans watched the unusual hearing aired in the “primetime” peak television viewing hours.

Committee members said on Sunday they would like to see the Department of Justice investigate any credible allegation of criminal activity by Mr Trump or anyone else.

Mr Trump has denied wrongdoing and he and his supporters dismiss the Democratic-led Select Committee as a political witch hunt. Democrats call it a necessary investigation into a terrible and deadly event and note that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wanted a bipartisan independent commission but Republicans refused.

‘Massive assault’ on American democracy

“I suppose our entire investigation is a referral of crimes both to the Department of Justice and the American people, because this is a massive assault on the machinery of American democracy,” Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin said on CNN’s State of the Union.

Monday’s hearing will feature two panels of witnesses, with additional videotaped testimony expected from the more than 1000 depositions and interviews.

The first panel will feature William Stepien, a Trump 2020 campaign manager, as well as Chris Stirewalt, a former political editor at Fox News.

A committee aide declined comment during a conference call on Sunday on whether any of Monday’s witnesses would testify under subpoena.

He also declined to say whether Mr Stepien was expected to be a confrontational witness.

Cheney verbally attacked by former president

Mr Stepien’s company is working with Harriet Hageman, a Trump-endorsed candidate running against Representative Liz Cheney, vice chairperson of the January 6 Select Committee, in the Republican primary for Ms Cheney’s Wyoming House seat.

Ms Cheney and Representative Adam Kinzinger are the only two Republicans on the nine-member select committee.

House Republicans voted to remove Ms Cheney from her caucus leadership position after she criticised Mr Trump. She has also been a target of verbal attacks by the former president.

Monday’s second panel will include conservative Republican election attorney Ben Ginsberg, Byung J. “BJay” Pak, who resigned as a US attorney in Atlanta as Mr Trump’s camp questioned Georgia’s election results, and Al Schmidt, the only Republican on Philadelphia’s elections board, who became a target of attacks by Mr Trump after he defended the integrity of the 2020 vote.

Georgia and Pennsylvania were among states that backed Mr Trump in the 2016 election, but went for Mr Biden in 2020. They have been a focus of the unfounded assertions of election fraud.

A committee aide said Representative Zoe Lofgren would play a leading role during Monday’s hearing.

Four people died the day of the attack, one fatally shot by police and the others of natural causes. Some 140 police officers were injured, and one died the next day. Four officers later died by suicide.

Nearly 850 people have been arrested for crimes related to the riot, including more than 250 charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement. Of those, about 90 have been charged with using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer.

-Reuters