A “definitely intoxicated” Rudy Giuliani urged then-President Donald Trump to declare victory on election night over the near-universal objections of Trump’s campaign advisers, they testified on Monday morning.
A number of Trump campaign leaders told the House Jan. 6 Select Committee that they strongly advised Trump to wait as votes continued to be counted on election night. But Trump ignored them and listened to the visibly drunk former New York City mayor, they said.
“The mayor was definitely intoxicated, but I do not know his level of intoxication when he spoke with the president,” Jason Miller, a senior adviser on Trump’s reelection campaign, said during his videotaped deposition played by the committee.
Trump 2020 campaign manager Bill Stepien said that Giuliani kept pushing to talk to the president. Giuliani was instead diverted to a conversation with Stepien, Miller, White House Mark Meadows and deputy campaign manager Justin Clark.
“Mayor Giuliani was saying we won it, they're stealing it from us, where’d all the votes come from, we need to go say that we won. And essentially, that anyone who didn't agree with that position was being weak,” Miller said.
Stepien said he strongly urged Trump not to declare victory. But Giuliani eventually got to the president. And Trump overruled his advisers.
“My recommendation was to say that votes were still being counted, it’s too early to tell,” he said. “The president disagreed with that. He thought I was wrong. He told me so.”
Trump famously declared victory around 2:30 a.m. the morning after the election, while demanding that states stop counting the votes that had yet to be tallied—the beginning of a monthslong, increasingly desperate campaign to try to overturn his obvious election loss.
"We'll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop. We don't want them to find any ballots at four o’clock in the morning and add them to the list. We will win this—and as far as I’m concerned we already have," Trump said at the time.
Select Committee vice chair and Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney said the testimony showed that Trump ignored “advice of his campaign experts on election night, and instead followed the course recommended by an apparently inebriated Rudy Giuliani to just claim that he won.”
Giuliani attorney Robert Costello claimed to CNN that Giuliani wasn’t drunk—and attacked Cheney, though the allegation had been made not by her but by Miller, Trump’s adviser.
Things got increasingly bizarre from there.
Trump got sick of hearing bad news from actually competent campaign advisers in the weeks after the election—and gravitated more and more to Giuliani, newly installed campaign attorney Sidney Powell, and their bonkers conspiracy theories over actual evidence from Trump’s advisers that he had likely lost.
“He was growing increasingly unhappy with his team—me, less so because I was less involved at this point, but still growing really increasingly unhappy with Justin Clark,” Stepien said. “That kind of paved the way for Justin to be moved out and Mayor Giuliani to be moved in as the person put in charge of the legal side of the campaign.”
That’s when Trump’s team began floating its craziest conspiracy theories, including the wild claim that Dominion Voting Machines had been manipulated by the Venezuelan communist government to rig the election against Biden.
“What they were proposing I thought was nuts,” Trump White House Attorney Eric Herschmann said about Giulaini and Powell’s claims.
Attorney General Bill Barr agreed in his own testimony.
“I thought, boy, if he really believes this stuff, he has lost contact with—he's become detached from reality,” he said.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, said at one point he told Trump to stop taking advice from Giuliani.
Trump’s response, according to Kushner: “I have confidence in Rudy.”