Donald Trump was told the same thing over and over, by his campaign team, the data crunchers, and a steady stream of lawyers, investigators and inner-circle allies: There was no voting fraud that could have tipped the 2020 presidential election.
But in the eight weeks after losing to Joe Biden, the defeated president publicly, privately and relentlessly pushed his false claims of a rigged 2020 election and intensified an extraordinary scheme to overturn Mr Biden’s victory.
The scale and virulence of that scheme began to take shape under the glare of the House hearing investigating the US Capitol riots on January 6th.
When the panel resumes on Monday, it will outline the stark reality that Mr Trump and his advisers knew early on that he had in fact lost the election, but engaged “in a massive effort to spread false and fraudulent information” to convince the public otherwise.
When all else failed in his effort to stay in power, Mr Trump beckoned his supporters to come to Washington on January 6th, 2021, the day the Congress traditionally certifies the electoral results from the states, and told thousands of people who gathered outside the White House to march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol.
Extremist groups led the way, breaking into the historic seat of democracy, and laying siege.
“Over multiple months, Donald Trump oversaw and coordinated a sophisticated seven-part plan to overturn the presidential election and prevent the transfer of presidential power,” Rep Liz Cheney told the hearing on Thursday night.
“Trump’s intention was to remain president of the United States.”
The House panel investigating the attack on the Capitol is prepared next week to reveal more details and testimony about its assessment that Mr Trump was made well aware of his election loss.
With testimony from some 1,000 interviews and 140,000 documents over the year-long probe, it will lay out how Mr Trump was told repeatedly that there were no hidden ballots, rigged voting machines or support for his other outlandish claims.
Nevertheless, Mr Trump refused to accept defeat and his desperate attempt to cling to the presidency resulted in the most violent domestic attack on the Capitol in history.
By Wednesday, the panel will hear testimony from the highest levels of the Trump-era Department of Justice — Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, his top deputy Richard Donoghue and Steven Engel, the former head of the department’s Office of Legal Counsel — according to a person familiar with the situation and granted anonymity to discuss their appearances.
The testimony from the three former Justice Department officials is expected to centre on a chaotic stretch in the final weeks of the administration when Mr Trump openly weighed the idea of replacing Mr Rosen with a lower-ranking official, Jeffrey Clark, who was seen as more willing to champion in court the president’s false claims of voter fraud.
The situation came to a head in a meeting at the White House on January 3rd, 2021, attended by Mr Rosen, Mr Donoghue, Mr Engel and Mr Clark, when top Justice Department officials and White House lawyers told Mr Trump they would resign if he went ahead with his plan to replace Mr Rosen.
The president ultimately let Mr Rosen finish out the administration as acting attorney general.
Thursday will turn to Mr Trump’s remarkable efforts to press Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to count electoral votes on January 6, a scheme proposed at the White House by an outside lawyer, John Eastman.
During the insurrection, rioters prowled the halls of the Capitol shouting “hang Mike Pence” when the vice president refused Mr Trump’s plan to overturn the 2020 election.
“I’d like to see the truth come out,” said Ken Sicknick, whose brother, Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, died after suffering a stroke defending the Capitol.
“There’s a lot of fog out there,” Ken Sicknick said Friday on CNN, “especially the people that are defending Donald Trump.”
He said while the family received countless condolences after his brother died, including from the vice president, “not one tweet, not one note, not one card, nothing” from Mr Trump.
“Because he knows he’s the cause of the whole thing.”
Mr Trump declared that January 6th “represented the greatest movement in the history of our country.”
The riot left more than 100 police officers injured, many beaten and bloodied, as the crowd of pro-Trump rioters, some armed with pipes, bats and bear spray, charged into the Capitol.
At least nine people who were there died during and after the rioting, including a woman who was shot and killed by police.