Stepien ducks testimony before panel investigating Trump’s coup attempt

Bill Stepien, former President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, was scheduled to testify this morning in front of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol but he bailed out at the last minute, citing a family emergency.

The panel was expected to ask Stepien to explain why the Trump campaign reportedly urged state and party officials to affect the outcome of the November 2020 election by asking states to delay or deny certification of electoral votes and by sending multiple slates of electoral votes to the United States Congress.

Stepien disagreed with Trump’s decision to declare victory on election night, according to clips of his video deposition played at today’s hearing.

The committee played video of a deposition in which Stepien said he advised Trump on election night that it was too early to call the race and that they needed to wait until early and mail-in ballots were counted.

Trump objected to that advice, Stepien said, and claimed that night that he had won, baselessly calling the race a “fraud” and an “embarrassment.”

Chris Stirewalt, a former political editor for Fox News, also testified, saying that he was proud of his team’s decision to call Arizona for Joe Biden before other networks did on election night.

Stirewalt said his team had gone to “pains” to inform viewers that a so-called “red mirage” — a Republican appearing to lead on election night — was likely to change after early votes were counted.

“The Trump campaign and the president had made it clear that they were going to try to exploit this anomaly,” Stirewalt said. “When you put together a jigsaw puzzle, it doesn’t matter which piece you put in first. It ends up with the same image.”

Stepien was the White House Director of Political Affairs in the Trump administration from 2017 to 2018.

Months before the election, Donald Trump began telling the country that mail balloting would invite widespread fraud, a publicity campaign that immediately prompted his advisers to worry that encouraging Trump voters to vote only on Election Day was politically risky.

In recorded testimony played at Monday’s hearing, former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said he invited House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who he described as “like-minded” on that risk, to persuade the president that mail balloting was safe — and necessary to win in 2020.

Stepien said he and McCarthy offered two arguments to the president: It left too much to chance to instruct voters to vote only on Election Day. And second, it left untapped the organizational advantage they believed Republicans enjoyed, which could have been used to press voters in the weeks ahead of the election to vote by mail.

“The president’s mind was made up,” Stepien said.

Stepien managed both of Chris Christie’s gubernatorial campaigns and served as his Deputy Chief of Staff before being fired in 2014, for his role in the Bridgegate scandal, in which he approved of a plot to close access to the George Washington Bridge.

In August 2016, Stepien was hired to work for the Donald Trump presidential campaign and he was named the White House political director on January 20, 2017.

In December 2018, Stepien was named senior political advisor to Trump’s re-election campaign focusing on delegate and party organization before being appointed as the presidential campaign manager in July, 2020, replacing Brad Parscale.

Stepien graduated from West Morris Central High School and Rutgers University in New Jersey. Stepien worked on the presidential campaigns for Senator John S. McCain, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and George W. Bush, and as Director of the Republican National Committee’s 72-Hour Campaign in 2005 and 2006.

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