In a Washington Post analysis, reporter Phil Bump followed one of the ongoing questions about what Donald Trump actually believes and what he's simply saying to make people like him. Trump has spent the past several decades switching key positions on issues from Democratic to Republican to far-right.
The most famous example was his pro-choice stance, which then evolved into putting women in prison for having an abortion. He then had to walk that back. Trump, who has been married three times and had multiple affairs, embraced Christianity once he became a Republican candidate for president. He then spent the campaign and his first year in office fumbling many questions about the Bible or religion.
Bump asked if Trump truly believed "the tens of thousands of things that would be fact-checked by the time he left office? Or did he simply pretend to believe them? Was the truth in the middle, that he sort of believed them or convinced himself of them because it was useful to do so?"
The question has been part of an ongoing psychological exploration among academics trying to understand and predict the erratic behavior of the former president. After Jan. 6, 2021, however, "the exercise became more concrete," wrote Bump.
On Thursday, the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack and the conspiracy that led up to the violence will explore crimes committed after losing the 2020 election. The crimes they'll cite are the obstruction of an official proceeding, something many of the other insurrectionists are being charged with. Another will be a conspiracy to defraud the United States, which could be applied to the fake electors the Trump campaign used to replace the Democratic electors as well as his attempt to obstruct "lawful governmental functions."
"In each case, though, there’s a legal box to check. Trump must be shown to have tried to disrupt the transition of power to Joe Biden corruptly; that is, that he did so knowing that he had no right to do so," explained Bump. "There’s a difference between breaking the window of a jewelry store to steal diamonds and breaking the window to help put out a fire."
Trump is claiming that he saw a fire so that's why he broke the window. So, bringing together those closest to him after the election will expose whether Trump actually knew that there wasn't a fire, or whether he set the fire himself to justify breaking the window, to continue with the metaphor.
The new report Wednesday came from son-in-law and former top aide Jared Kushner, who was flying back from the Middle East on Jan. 6. Kushner didn't land until after the attack was over on Jan. 6 and he didn't go back to the White House. In fact, he simply drove home. The following day, friends reported that Kushner and Ivanka had a dinner party where they didn't even address the attack.
The report says that Kushner decided not to stand with the former president about the false claims of the election loss.
“No matter how vociferously Mr. Trump claimed otherwise, neither Mr. Kushner nor Ivanka Trump believed then or later that the election had been stolen, according to people close to them,” New York Times reporter Peter Baker writes. “While the president spent the hours and days after the polls closed complaining about imagined fraud in battleground states and plotting a strategy to hold on to power, his daughter and son-in-law were already washing their hands of the Trump presidency.”
The comments generated a question as to whether Kushner hung his father-in-law out to dry before the House committee. Baker reported that Kushner told Trump he wouldn't help with any efforts that Rudy Giuliani was involved in. It's unclear, however, if Kushner or Ivanka told their father that the election wasn't stolen.
There have been a list of people who did make that clear to Trump. His former attorney general, Bill Barr, the White House counsel, Kellyanne Conway, and longtime aide Hope Hicks are among those.
“I may have been the first person Donald Trump trusted in his inner circle who told him that he had come up short this time,” claims Conway in her new book. "For a president who many thought surrounded himself with yes-men, that was never the case until 2020. And it proved costly from November to January.”
So, while people like Sidney Powell, John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani had the former president's ear, he had longtime trusted allies telling him that he lost the election.
It's difficult to defend Eastman, Powell and Giuliani as they claim that there was no corrupt intent, Bump argued. Over and over again, judges looked at the claims of election fraud only to find that they were either made up or not actually a fraud.
There's also the matter of Trump's call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Trump made it clear in that call that he had lost the election, and "just want[ed] to find 11,780 votes." He then claimed that he won the election. So, it's unclear if Trump believed he won another state he couldn't control and wanted the vote to be "found" in Georgia to counter that. Trump told Raffensperger that he didn't care how the votes were found or what the facts were, he just needed more votes than they actually had to win the state that he knew had been lost.