WASHINGTON ― Bill Stepien, who told the Jan. 6 committee that he quit Donald Trump’s campaign after the 2020 election because he could not go along with his election lies, nevertheless continues to coordinate Trump’s political operation, which is built almost entirely on spreading those exact election lies.
Stepien’s National Public Affairs firm is currently paid $10,000 a month from Trump’s Save America committee, receiving a total of $130,000 since last May, and taking in another $90,562 from Trump’s reconfigured presidential campaign, according to a HuffPost analysis of Federal Election Commission filings.
He has also collected an additional $1.2 million from an all-star cast of pro-Trump election liars, including $190,488 from Harriet Hageman, who is trying to unseat Wyoming congresswoman and Jan. 6 committee vice chair Liz Cheney in the August Republican primary.
Stepien did not respond to queries from HuffPost about his work for Trump.
On Monday, the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol by Trump’s mob played clips from Stepien’s February deposition with committee investigators. In one, Stepien said he has always tried to be “honest and professional” in his work, and that he disagreed with other Trump aides who pushed false conspiracy theories that the election had been stolen from him through massive voter fraud.
“I didn’t think what was happening was necessarily honest or professional at that point in time. So, again, that led to me stepping away,” Stepien said.
Yet Stepien never really left Trump, with his firm receiving $20,000 in both February and March of 2021, and as much as $30,000 and no less than $10,000 in every month since. His work for Trump to this day, according to an adviser to the former president, is to coordinate Trump’s political strategy, including Trump’s efforts to defeat candidates who challenge his false claim that the election was stolen from him or, worse, voted to impeach him for inciting the Jan. 6 attack.
Each week, Stepien is on an hourlong call with other top Trump aides, including Dan Scavino, Jason Miller, and Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. The last such call was June 6; Monday’s call was canceled because it conflicted with the Jan. 6 committee hearing.
“He’s trying to tell the world he quit,” the Trump adviser, who is familiar with Trump’s political operation, said on condition of anonymity. “He has been on every call since Jan. 6. He gets paid every month to do that. … I mean, come on, man.”
Trump’s political operation since his departure from office 17 months ago has centered on his “big lie” about the 2020 election. It is the central theme of his campaign rallies, and a candidate who refuses to repeat it and spread it cannot get his endorsement.
“The election was rigged and stolen,” Trump said at a recent rally in Pennsylvania.
“The 2020 Presidential Election was Rigged and Stolen,” he wrote in a post to his Twitter-like social media platform, “Truth Social,” on Friday, the morning after the first Jan. 6 committee hearing. “The so-called ‘Rush on the Capitol’ was not caused by me, it was caused by a Rigged and Stolen Election!”
Twelve of Stepien’s other 15 clients running for the House or Senate are also proponents of Trump’s stolen-election lie.
Hagemen, one of Stepien’s most lucrative clients, repeatedly refused to acknowledge that Joe Biden won the 2020 election in a September interview with CNN.
“I think that there are legitimate questions about what happened during the 2020 election,” she said, offering no details. “The legitimate questions are: ‘What happened?’”
A Cheney spokesman declined to comment on Stepien taking $190,488 from Hagemen’s campaign while casting himself in Monday’s hearing as a member of “Team Normal” who firmly rejected Trump’s lies.
Another Stepien client, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, previously and accurately called the state for Biden in 2020. But now that he’s a Senate candidate, he’s been spreading misinformation about the integrity of the state’s election processes.
There are “serious concerns” with Arizona’s election results, Brnovich said in April on a podcast with Trump adviser Steve Bannon. “It’s frustrating for all of us, because I think we all know what happened in 2020,” he said, without explanation.
Stepien has taken $66,346 from Brnovich’s campaign.
Other Stepien clients include Alaska Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka, who has repeatedly promoted Trump’s lie about a stolen election; Oregon congressional candidate Lori Chavez-DeRemer, who in April refused to give a clear answer on whether Biden won the election; Washington congressional candidate Matt Larkin, who last year declined to say if he thought Biden was the legitimate president; and Ohio Senate candidate Mike Gibbons, who repeatedly spread a lie that millions more people voted in 2020 than were registered to vote.
Stepien also counts current members of Congress as his clients, including six who voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election based on Trump’s lie ― just hours after that same lie fueled an attempted coup at the Capitol: Reps. Warren Davidson (Ohio), Jason Smith (Mo.), Mary Miller (Ill.), Markwayne Mullin (Okla.), Jeff Van Drew (N.J.) and Ronny Jackson (Texas), who once served as the White House physician.
These lawmakers have paid Stepien $487,985 this year, out of the $1.2 million he’s received from congressional candidates. Some of them continue to spread lies about the 2020 election, too.
“If you don’t think there was MASSIVE voter fraud in the 2020 election after seeing 2000 Mules, then NOTHING can convince you,” Jackson tweeted last month, using his former patient’s peculiar style of punctuation and capitalization. “The amount of criminal fraud all caught ON CAMERA will SHOCK you! 2020 was NOT ‘free & fair’ at ALL. GO SEE 2000 MULES!!”
Jackson was referring to a widely debunked conspiracy theory movie ― which Trump’s own attorney general Bill Barr mocked in his videotaped testimony to the committee ― that claims to show massive voter fraud with ballot drop boxes in the 2020 presidential election.
The money Stepien and others receive from Save America has been collected almost entirely from small-dollar donors ― with nearly two-thirds of the $129.6 million raised to date coming in the weeks immediately after the November 2020 election and before Jan. 6, 2021.
During that time period, Trump sent out hundreds of solicitations to the millions on his email list, claiming the money would go to his “election defense fund” and to help the two GOP Senate candidates running to keep their offices in a Jan. 5 Georgia runoff.
In fact, there was no election defense fund, and none of the money raised went to help the Senate candidates, who both lost to Democratic challengers, giving control of that chamber to New York Democrat Chuck Schumer.
“Leadership” political action committees such as Save America operate with few regulations on their spending, and Trump could use the money for virtually anything he wants, including covering his legal expenses or paying himself a salary.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the California Democrat and Jan. 6 committee member who handled much of the questioning Monday, said a part of the investigation was to look into that fundraising.
“Small-dollar donors use scarce disposable income to support candidates and causes of their choosing to make their voices heard. And those donors deserve the truth about what those funds will be used for,” she said during the hearing. “We found evidence that the Trump campaign and its surrogates misled donors as to where their funds would go and what they would be used for. So not only was there the big lie, there was the big rip-off.”
The committee is in the midst of holding a series of hearings intended to lay out Trump’s role in stoking anger among his millions of followers following his election loss and then inviting them to Washington, D.C., for the express purpose of intimidating then-Vice President Mike Pence and GOP lawmakers into awarding him a second term anyway.
Trump, despite losing the election by 7 million votes nationally and 306-232 in the Electoral College, became the first president in more than two centuries of elections to refuse to hand over power peacefully. His incitement of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol ― his last-ditch attempt to remain in office ― killed five, including one police officer, injured another 140 officers and led to four police suicides.
Nevertheless, Trump remains the dominant figure in the Republican Party and is openly speaking about running for the presidency again in 2024.