WASHINGTON — Donald Trump knew his “big lie” that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen from him was, in fact, a big lie, according to testimony the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol laid out at the public hearing Monday morning.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the California Democrat handling much of Monday’s questioning of witnesses, said the testimony of Trump’s own aides was clear. “On election night, he claimed even before the votes were counted that his loss was because of fraud,” she said. “Mr. Trump’s election fraud claims were false. Mr. Trump’s closest advisers knew it. Mr. Trump knew it.”

Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, who had been scheduled to testify in person Monday, withdrew at the last minute when his wife went into labor and Stepien went to join her.

In a video clip of Stepien’s taped deposition, Stepien said he and other top campaign aides recommended that Trump say that “votes were still being counted, that it was too early to tell, it was too early to call the race.”

But Trump refused to accept that advice, he told investigators. “He thought I was wrong,” Stepien said. “He told me so ― that he was going to go in a different direction.”

Among the witnesses appearing in person was Chris Stirewalt, the Fox News journalist who was pushed out of his job after his team correctly called Arizona for Democrat Joe Biden on election night.

Stirewalt said Trump’s chance of winning the presidency was “none” after election night was over and votes continued to come in favoring Biden. “Remember, he needed three of these states to change. And in order to do that ― you’re better off to play the Powerball,” he said.

The most compelling witness, though, was likely one who did not appear in person, but whose video testimony devastatingly took apart Trump’s claims of fraud and a stolen election.

Trump’s own attorney general, William Barr, called the fraud claims being pushed by his campaign “bogus and silly.” He called the allegations of rigged voting machines “idiotic.” He likened having to knock down one conspiracy theory after another to a game of “whack-a-mole.” He mocked the movie recently pushed by Trump and his allies, “2000 Mules,” as failing to prove any of its fraud claims.

Barr also pointed out that Trump did better in Detroit ― supposedly a hotbed of voter fraud ― in 2020 than he did in 2016, and that Trump did worse on the ballot in Pennsylvania than a pair of statewide Republicans, and worse than the state’s congressional candidates. “Generally he was a weak element on the Republican ticket,” Barr said.

Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) co-chair the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) co-chair the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
The Washington Post via Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blocked committee membership to Republicans who helped spread Trump’s lies and are potentially witnesses in the Jan. 6 investigations, so Monday’s hearing moved somberly and methodically through the evidence.

The bipartisan panel moved through clips from video depositions of officials from Trump administration and the Trump campaign calmly stating that there was no fraud in the 2020 election. The committee showed just one brief scene of violence from the attack on the Capitol, designed to intimidate then-Vice President Mike Pence and lawmakers into declaring Trump the winner notwithstanding the election results, in stark contrast to the committee’s first public hearing on Thursday, when it made heavy use of new footage of that day.

The only moment of levity came during video statements from top Trump aides describing fellow adviser Rudy Giuliani as “drunk” and “intoxicated” on election night as he advised Trump to simply go ahead and declare victory. The testimony drew a few chuckles from the Cannon building audience.

Lofgren also described evidence of how Trump, his campaign, his newly created “Save America” political committee and the Republican National Committee together raised about $250 million spreading Trump’s election lies between Election Day and Jan. 6. from small-dollar donors.

“The big lie was also a big ripoff,” she said.

Trump, despite losing the election by 7 million votes nationally and 306-232 in the Electoral College, became the first president in more than two centuries of elections to refuse to hand over power peacefully. He spurred on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot — a last-ditch attempt to remain in office — which killed five, including one police officer, injured another 140 officers and led to four police suicides.

Nevertheless, Trump remains the dominant figure in the Republican Party and is openly speaking about running for the presidency again in 2024.

In statements on his personal social media platform, Trump has continued to lie about the election and the Jan. 6 committee’s work, calling it a “hoax” similar to previous investigations into his 2016 campaign’s acceptance of Russian assistance and his attempted extortion of Ukraine into helping his 2020 campaign.

HuffPost reporter Arthur Delaney contributed to this story.

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