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With the second day of Jan. 6 committee hearings complete, we get two perspectives on the day's events. Ben Ginsberg, one of Monday's witnesses and a longtime Republican elections attorney who has worked with the RNC and multiple presidential campaigns, and Cynthia Miller-Idriss, who runs American University's Polarization and Extremism Research Innovation Lab, join Judy Woodruff to discuss.
Joining me now to discuss today's events is Ben Ginsberg, who was one of this morning's witnesses. He's a longtime Republican elections attorney who has worked with the Republican National Committee, or RNC, and multiple presidential campaigns, and Cynthia Miller-Idriss, who runs the Polarization and Extremism Research & Innovation Lab at American University.
Welcome to the "NewsHour" to both of you. I should say, welcome back.
I want to ask you both, what stood out for you at these two hours of testimony and presentation by the committee?
Cynthia Miller-Idriss, American University:
Well, I think it was really clear again, as it was on Thursday, that the election fraud claims were baseless, that this was massive disinformation, and that we are going to move forward with a very common narrative from many, many witnesses that that is the case.
So, I think what's — what really stands out is that that is absolutely the case, and that the American public should feel confident in that bipartisan set of witnesses deciding that.
And, Ben Ginsberg, you were there. You testified from your own experience.
Why did you want to be there today?
Because this is so important.
What today's testimony brought out was that people in Donald Trump's campaign, his most trusted campaign workers, told him the charges of fraud and rigged election was not correct, that they couldn't prove that, that there wasn't evidence.
And so a president of the United States sort of ripping the fabric of what holds our country and the election system together is tremendously important to get out that story.
And you — and at one point in your — in the question-and-answer period, you were asked about the fact that you have worked with campaigns that have challenged aspects of election results, but that this one was taken to a different level.
It was taken to a different level.
When folks like me get called in to do elections, it's because the elections really are close. This election was not really close; 2000 in Florida, it was 537 votes. That's close. Donald Trump's most narrow margin in all of the key states was over 10,000 votes. You don't make up that many votes in any recount.
And so now the country continues to go through the trauma of basically the fake allegations of our elections being rigged. That comes at a cost to the country.
Cynthia Miller-Idriss, you talked about what the committee was trying to do, this methodical presentation of witness after witness, many of them right in the White House, the president, former president's attorney general.
How good a job are they doing of getting that story, the narrative out there?
I think they're doing a very good job of getting the story out.
The question is, is anybody listening who wasn't already convinced of that story? And I think, with midterm elections coming up, with another presidential election right around the corner after that, I think we really have to be thinking — as much as we are about the story that we're telling, we need to be thinking just that much about, how do we prevent people from being persuaded by that kind of disinformation again in future elections?
And how do we restore the trust in the election system that has been so irrevocably, if possibly irrevocably damaged at this point by people who no longer trust the system?
And we know that's what the committee would like to have happen as a result. We will see how much — what their work that they are doing leads to that.
Ben Ginsberg, as someone who's, again, worked with the Republican Party for many years, you obviously know a lot of Republicans .Are they likely to be persuaded by this case the committee is making?
I believe that the committee's case may eventually persuade Republicans that it is in their own self-interest to put faith back in elections.
What I think some Republicans are losing sight of is that, once the voters, the people don't have faith in elections, that's going to hurt them when they win elections as well. For example, the mind — the imaginary game to play is, suppose Donald Trump runs for reelection and wins?
Do we really think the Democrats are not going to behave in a similar fashion, now that the playbook has been written, to protest that election? And so you have now got a situation where 30 percent of the country doesn't have faith in our elections, but that really does rub both ways and impacts and poisons the well for both parties.
And is that something, Cynthia Miller-Idriss, that this committee's work can address ahead of time to head it off?
I think it's one part of a bigger — a bigger set of things that need to happen.
And we have to remember the people who are watching this are not just voters whose minds are made up, but kids in history classes and civics classes, kids who are going to be voting in the 2022, 2024 elections, who want to understand what this older generation has done and want to believe, I think, in very optimistic ways that they can make a difference.
And so I think it's really important to document it. Even if this doesn't persuade people, it has to be done for the record, for the museums that will document it in the future, and for teenagers who are watching in college students watching today who are going to be tomorrow's voters and hopefully make some different decisions.
It matters for history.
And I — but I hear you, Ben Ginsberg, saying it also matters right now, in the immediate future of our elections in this country. We hold them every few years. We owe them every year in some parts of the country, but the major elections, or the presidential elections every four years, congressional elections every two years.
Yes, it really is important.
Look, Donald Trump sort of broke the fabric, violated a really important norm in our country in this election. Any candidate has the right to bring contests and recounts and litigation, as allowed by the different states' laws.
But what's important to remember is that Donald Trump availed himself of that, filed more than 60 cases with more than 180 separate counts. When that was adjudicated, any candidate has an obligation to accept the decisions of the courts that they went to in the first place.
And so the committee's work can help point out that particular situation, and people of both parties should realize it can't be repeated.
And remind everyone that this has never happened before.
Never happened before.
This is a first.
I keep coming back, Cynthia Miller-Idriss, to how is it that so many people can accept what is demonstrably false?
That is the million-dollar question. And I say million-dollar because we also have invested since January 6 billions of dollars already in just added security for the Capitol alone. So what we're investing in the securitization of this country, in the militarization of our bridges every time we have an inauguration now, we need to be investing that scale at the level of civic education, media literacy, digital literacy to help the public understand at every level how to understand source integrity and how to recognize this disinformation and not be persuaded by it.
Finally, Ben Ginsberg, what do you think it is that the committee needs to do in coming days to complete this case?
The part of the picture that they have to draw that I think they're trying to draw is the exact role of Donald J. Trump and how involved he was in the insurrection.
Congresswoman Cheney laid out the seven-point plan that they believe Donald Trump was carrying out. They need to fill in the dots.
And we will see in coming days, four more hearings to go.
Ben Ginsberg, Cynthia Miller-Idriss, we thank you both.
And a reminder that day three of the January 6 hearing is this Wednesday. That begins at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
We will have live coverage here on PBS. That's on air and online.
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