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GOP lawmakers helped promote former President Donald Trump’s lies and conspiracy theories about his electoral defeat following the November vote, lending credibility and support to his debunked claims in the eyes of their voters.
On Thursday, several of those House Republicans who sit on the energy and commerce committee were scheduled to grill the heads of major online platforms on election misinformation, despite themselves pushing known falsities about the vote – including #stopthesteal, a hashtag that purported the false idea that the election had been stolen from the former president.
Tech executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google were headed to Capitol Hill this week for a hearing on how misinformation had managed to run rampant online in 2020 after Congress and the leaders of those platforms acknowledged the issue had become prevalent back in 2016 – when the US Intelligence Community confirmed Russia and other nefarious actors had sought to meddle in the national vote through online disinformation campaigns.
It remained unclear whether some of those Republicans would address their own mistruths about the 2020 vote: as Washington Post reported on Wednesday, at least seven GOP members on the House Energy and Commerce committee had taken part in promoting #stopthesteal claims and other false conspiracies.
Reps. Markwayne Mullin (R–OK), Billy Long (R–MO) and Earl Carter (R–GA) featured posts on their Twitter profiles which included “Stop the Steal” messaging, the outlet reported, while four others continued to promote claims that Mr Trump had actually won the election against President Joe Biden.
Of course, their claims were disputed by Mr Trump’s own federal government, including the Department of Homeland Security, which described the 2020 vote as the most secure election in American history. The Justice Department under Mr Trump also did not find any evidence of widespread voter fraud, while the vast majority of the former president’s legal challenges to the vote were tossed out by judges across the country – including some he appointed himself.
In one tweet, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R–SC), who sits on the committee the tech leaders were set to meet with on Thursday, said he supported Mr Trump as he “battles these elements that try to steal an election”.
In some instances, GOP lawmakers encouraged their followers to file claims of alleged voter fraud on a Trump-supported website, including Rep. Richard Hudson, who was also expected to attend Thursday’s meeting.
The lies and fallacies about the election culminated with Mr Trump’s extremist supporters attacking police and storming the US Capitol as Congress convened to certify the results of the national vote. At least five people died during the Capitol insurrection, which has spurred one of the most complex investigations in US history and led to hundreds of arrests of alleged domestic terrorists.