Observations on Day Two of the Hearings

Basically: Trump is a liar or delusional (perhaps both?).

I watched the bulk of part II of the 1/6 hearing yesterday evening. My basic takeaway is that they were less engaging than the first night, but that they did a good job of detailing that Trump had no excuse for not knowing the truth about the election results. It is therefore not unfair of accusing him of lying to the American people about the outcomes of the election, although the issue may well be his attachment to reality.

Indeed, I came away with an impression of his behavior along the times of William Saletan, that he might not have been lying but instead was flatly delusional: If Trump Wasn’t Lying, That’s Worse.

On Monday, the House January 6th Committee presented evidence that Donald Trump, after losing the 2020 election, promoted allegations of voter fraud that his own advisers had told him were false. According to the committee, this evidence proves he was lying.

But the evidence actually points to a different conclusion: Trump wasn’t lying in the way that other presidents have done. He was simply impervious. He refused to accept unwelcome facts. And that degree of imperviousness, in a president, is much more dangerous than dishonesty.

It is insanely dangerous to have a president unwilling and unable to assess facts when presented. And, of course, this is what we saw during his presidency, whether it was on the topic of trade policy, foreign policy, or public health–all to the detriment of the country.

Really, the testimony presented simply underscored that Trump is more than willing to believe wild claims if he sees them on television or the like.

In terms of the most significant information from the presentation yesterday, I would go with Bill Barr’s testimony, but I will also concur with this headline from TPM: Bill Barr Can’t Flee The Stench Of What He Did For Trump.

Indeed, on the one hand, I appreciate his candor in describing Trump’s delusional behavior, such as the following (from the Saletan link above):

In his testimony, Barr described a meeting with Trump on Dec. 14, 2020. Trump was still ranting about Dominion and other fantastic tales. “I was somewhat demoralized,” Barr told the committee, “because I thought, boy, if he really believes this stuff . . . he’s become detached from reality.” Barr speculated that Trump had “lost contact.” He recalled that each time he told Trump “how crazy some of these allegations were,” Trump brushed aside the information: “There was never an indication of interest in what the actual facts were.”

On the other hand, the smug, self-satisfied incredulity in which Barr delivers this assessment is utterly devoid of any recognition of Trump’s record of detachment from reality prior to the election as well as seeming amnesia of Barr’s own role in propping up Trump’s credibility (not to mention his own downgrading of the Mueller report, among other actions).

And if he really wanted to help the world understand that we had a president who was clearly divorced from reality, you think he would be working a little harder to get the word out not, as the TPM notes:

Barr has still said that he would vote for Trump, the would-be election thief, again in 2024. 

And, perhaps more to the point, even as the attempt to subvert the 2020 election was going on, Barr couldn’t help but offer Trump cloying praise in his resignation letter.

“Your record is all the more historic because you accomplished it in the face of relentless, implacable resistance,” Barr wrote in that missive.

Look, I clearly understand the way in which partisan identity shapes behaviors, but it is utterly astounding to me that Barr can so directly recount what he saw in the Oval Office and not be trying to prevent someone he sees as delusional from occupying the most powerful office in the world again. It is gut-wrenchingly astounding.

FILED UNDER: US Politics, , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Jc says:

    Barr is like a battered spouse….it is truly sad to clearly recognize the abuse and still stay with the man.

  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    Courage and integrity are much, much more rare than I used to imagine. Most men are born to serve another, stronger will than their own. Trump would have sensed that weakness and servility in Barr. Psychopaths are good at that.

  3. Kathy says:

    I’ve read that some inmates in the gulag would die full of love for Stalin, to the end believing their misfortune was the fault of lower-level apparatchiks, enemies of the state, etc.

    Barr had Benito kick him in the testicles personally. I wonder, then, whence his self-delusion comes from.

  4. gVOR08 says:

    @Jc: Battered spouse? More like coconspirator. Barr had his own, insane, agendas, the unitary executive, his own career, and owning the libs. He rode TFG as long as it suited his purposes, then started his rehab tour a little early.

  5. Tony W says:

    Barr is in pure self-preservation mode. He sees incredible personal liability in this whole affair which is why he is singing like a canary. He even quit the job with only a few weeks to go because of the shenanigans in the Trump White House.

    Barr is evil, but he’s evil-smart, not evil-stupid.

  6. becca says:

    It all makes sense with TFG having Norman Vincent Peale as the family faith adviser. The Power of Positive Thinking preacher obviously made a real impression.

    It’s true if you want it to be true bad enough.

  7. CSK says:

    Very good. I hadn’t thought of that, and you’re right. It’s the Peale philosophy taken to an insane degree.

    You don’t bother to tell Trump anything he doesn’t want to hear, because he’ll either ignore you, or scream imprecations at you and then ignore you.

  8. Scott F. says:

    It is insanely dangerous to have a president unwilling and unable to assess facts when presented.

    …made even more insanely dangerous by one of the two major political parties willing to support the delusions.

    As always, Trump is only part of the problem. There is a political base that is just as impervious as TGF is, a political party so hungry for power that they will deny reality for those voters, innumerable donors willing to buy these politicians, and a major media outlet in the bag for the whole shameful set-up.

    “Gut-wrenching” is right. “Terrifying” also applies.

  9. CSK says:

    We could have seen this coming. Trump is now bleating that “word is out that the reason the Unselects are canceling their Wednesday Kangaroo Court is a total lack of interest leading to very poor television ratings.”

    “Word is out.” Is that like “many people are saying?”

  10. dazedandconfused says:


    Barr is one of those Unitary Executive guys. Believes that Congress has too much power and we should really have something resembling a constitutional monarchy. Luckily, Barr also believes it must be an elected monarch who respects elections. He didn’t serve Trump, he served the Presidency.

    True believers are a problem for all con men as they aren’t in on the scam. A problem that compounds exponentially with size. The con man can’t get rid of them, and as they have their own agendas, he can’t trust them either. The counters in the Arizona recount, being true believers, screwed him with an honest count too.

  11. Just nutha says:

    @Jc: He’s not a battered spouse. He just DGAF about who the party nominates.

  12. Just nutha says:

    @CSK: Yes. He’s learned a new catch phrase. I expect to see it often.

  13. charon says:

    The Jan 6 committee put a lot of effort into demonstrating that it was not merely a matter of so many people telling and explaining to Trump that he had lost.

    Trump’s own behavior shows that he himself knew quite clearly that his claims were bogus, he was/is perfectly aware of the reality of losing as the committee kept emphasizing. And also that his bogus claims were in planning as early as April 2020.

    Trump customarily talks as if he is separated from objective reality and believing some false alternate reality but does not mean he actually is. (He is separated from reality to the limited extent that he pays no attention to anything that does not directly affect him – so he pays no attention to things like daily briefings. Political polls do capture his attention though).

    Trump habitually pretends to believe fantastic nonsense, does not mean he really does.

  14. Kathy says:


    If beliefs are best expressed by actions and not words, then Benito should have done what the other marks demanded: seized voting machines, sent out troops, and staged a real coup.

    Of course, that would be an admission of defeat. So he’d have had to spin it as preventing a coup carried out by the deep state by means of a rigged, stolen election. But that works, too.

  15. dazedandconfused says:
  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Really, the testimony presented simply underscored that Trump is more than willing to believe wild claims if he sees them on television or the like.

    And yet he still pulled down almost 47% of the vote. That is what should really scare us.

  17. Kathy says:


    Believes that Congress has too much power and we should really have something resembling a constitutional monarchy. Luckily, Barr also believes it must be an elected monarch who respects elections.

    If he believes Congress has too much power, he’s the one out of touch with reality.

    As to the rest, that’s pretty much what America already has.

  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Courage and integrity are much, much more rare than I used to imagine.

    I don’t know. I danced with death on a number of occasions, but the most scared I’ve ever been was when my eldest asked me if I had anything to do with his mother going to prison. I had asked myself, before I did what I did, if I could face my sons and answer the question honestly. I wrestled with the question for a week or more, deciding in the end that I could.

    Still, when the moment came it was a lot harder than I had imagined. Knowing that saying “Yes.” might be the end of the only thing that really mattered to me, but saying “No.” would be a betrayal of the only thing that really mattered to me.

    Thank Dawg my sons are forgiving of the sins of their father.

  19. dazedandconfused says:


    I believe Barr is still BSing. He’s smart enough to know Trump is gaslighting and not delusional, he just couldn’t bring himself to saying so before the committee.

    It’s a good bet Mr. Barr is getting a heaping helping of death threats, Trump has publicly damned him. May he experience epic cognitive dissonance. This stuff is not harmless, nosireeBill.