Rep. Zoe Lofgren was at work on Capitol Hill each of the four times Congress moved to impeach a president in modern U.S. history, first as a staffer and later as representative — the only member with such experience.
Former President Trump was the subject of two of those inquiries. And on Monday, Lofgren will participate in another landmark proceeding with Trump as its focus as she presents on the second day of hearings conducted by a House select committee this month to reconstruct the days leading up to the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, and prove a conspiracy to subvert the will of voters in the 2020 election.
Lofgren, a San Jose Democrat, and the other eight members of the panel will continue to detail the execution of what has become known as “the Big Lie,” arguing that Trump knew his claims of fraud in the 2020 election were false and propagated them anyway, inciting his supporters to descend on the Capitol and carry out acts of violence in an attempt to keep him in office.
“Even before the election, he indicated that if he lost it, it would have to be stolen. We know that it wasn’t,” Lofgren said in an interview with The Times. “The allegations that were made were investigated and found to be incorrect. The president was told that and continued to make these false statements.”
In what is perhaps an attempt to heighten suspense around the proceedings to maintain the public’s attention — Nielsen data show 20 million people tuned in Thursday night — the select committee has declined to share most details before its scheduled hearings. But the panel’s presentation Monday is expected to again include pre-recorded video testimony along with in-person witnesses.
The first panel of witnesses will include former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien and former Fox News political editor Chris Stirewalt, who was fired by the network following backlash from his decision to call Arizona for Joe Biden. The second panel of witnesses includes conservative election attorney Benjamin Ginsberg, former U.S. Atty. for the Northern District of Georgia BJay Pak and former Republican Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt.
Lofgren will work to build on the case introduced Thursday by Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), with depositions that show those closest to Trump, including his campaign staff and Atty. Gen. William Barr, informed him that there was no credible proof of fraud in the 2020 election.
“He would be told by multiple people in his administration, who had investigated the allegations, that they were false, and he would immediately continue to repeat them,” Lofgren said. “And not only that, raise money off of repeating them. Now it’s pretty clear that the belief that the election had been stolen was a huge motivator for much of the mob on Jan. 6.”
Lofgren said additional footage of Barr‘s testimony to the committee might also be revealed Monday. In a video deposition shown by the panel Thursday night, Barr said that he told Trump he didn’t agree with his assertion of voter fraud, and that after election day he spoke multiple times with the former president and “made it clear I did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen and putting out this stuff, which I told the president was bullshit.”
When Barr interviewed with the committee, Lofgren said, “he made clear that his motivation was not to coordinate a finding of fraud, but simply to make sure that allegations were investigated in a timely way.”
Report after report of alleged voter fraud made to Barr’s office were never substantiated, she said.
“For example, there was a report about a truck driver who had supposedly had a whole truckload of ballots. Well, they went out, they interviewed the truck driver. It wasn’t true,” Lofgren said of the U.S. attorneys tasked by Barr to investigate voter fraud claims. “There were allegations against suitcases of ballots. They investigated that they looked at the videotape, it didn’t happen.”
Lofgren, 74, was first elected to Congress in 1994 and is one of the most senior members of the House. She represents the 19th Congressional District of California, based in San Jose and stretching toward Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy. She was a staffer to former Democratic Rep. Don Edwards on the House Judiciary Committee in 1974, when the committee prepared articles of impeachment against then-President Nixon. And when then-President Clinton was impeached in 1998, she was a member of Congress and a prominent defender of the president.
It was Lofgren’s 14 years of experience serving on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors prior to her time on Capitol Hill that first gave her insight into election administration, knowledge that she said has continued to serve her in helping lead the investigation into the Jan. 6 violence and Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud.
“There’s a lot of things that I think were said [by Trump and his supporters] that were intentionally meant to confuse and to undercut confidence in the electoral system,” she said. “And I know that that’s true.”
In addition to her role on the Jan. 6 select panel, Lofgren is also chairwoman of the House Administration Committee, which oversees the Capitol Police and has held several hearings scrutinizing how department leaders handled the attack and the security failures that allowed more than 1,000 people to storm the building.
Lofgren also echoed criticism of the Pentagon‘s response to the violence on Jan. 6, which Washington city officials, Capitol Police and lawmakers said was too slow in rolling out National Guard reinforcements after rioters breached the Capitol. A probe by the Department of Defense Office of the Inspector General concluded in November that Pentagon officials did not “delay or obstruct” the agency’s response to the insurrection.
“There were very serious mistakes made in the Department of Defense,” Lofgren said. “I’d gone into this wondering whether there had been an actual attempt on the part of the political appointees to prevent the assistance from arriving. I don’t think the evidence supports that suspicion. But certainly there was incompetence and lack of experience that would have allowed for a more effective response.”
The committee will lay out its evidence over the next few weeks with an eye toward comprehensively addressing each of the factors that helped foment the insurrection, Lofgren said.
“There was a plan in place to prevent the peaceful transfer of power that the Constitution provides. And so there are various elements of that plot that we investigated and will report on: There’s a political angle, there’s an extremism angle,” she said.
As she prepares to present her case Monday evening, Lofgren said she hoped that Americans walk away from watching the Jan. 6 hearings with “the truth of what happened here.”
Then-President Trump “didn’t like losing, but he knew he lost, and he lied about it,” Lofgren said. “All in an attempt to keep power, in contravention to the vote of the American people and really, in contradiction to the requirements of the U.S. Constitution.”