Watch: Is this the moment that will sink Trump?
WASHINGTON — “I am President Effing. Take me to the Capitol now,” Donald Trump told the Secret Service agent assigned to protect him on January 6, 2021, before rushing to grab the steering wheel of the presidential limo, then rushing to the throat of the President. ‘agent.
Mind-blowing stuff that will come right out of the pages of the history books. A portrait of a mania-stricken President of the United States determined to physically lead a crowd he knew to be armed as they stormed the Capitol to prevent the peaceful transfer of power. Painted in Cassidy Hutchinson’s sworn testimony Tuesday afternoon before the Jan. 6 congressional committee, which was in the rooms where it all happened, as then-assistant to Trump’s chief of staff.
Information about how and why the insurgent riot on Capitol Hill happened — and what Trump knew about it, and how he participated and how he reacted — has been coming through official and unofficial channels for more than a year.
Drop. Drop. Drop.
Then came the tidal wave, in the form of Hutchinson’s surprise testimony, scheduled at the last minute and kept secret until the eleventh hour.
The image she painted of an enraged president – throwing away his lunch, letting ketchup drip down the White House wall after his attorney general publicly refused to back up his lies about the election, then irritably ignoring the legal and political advice while standing dismissively by his side as his vice-president’s life was threatened — was compelling. The portrait of his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, staring apathetically at his phone like a despondent teenager and ignoring the president’s desire to leave a mob to rage even as he oversteps the legislature was alive. The look behind the curtains on that day was far more lopsided — and unflattering to Trump — than even many of his fiercest critics had previously imagined.
There are very few moments in the archives of US congressional hearings that stand out as altering the course or our understanding of history. One was Alex Butterfield telling Watergate investigators that the Oval Office was bugged. Another was Joseph Welch crushing the Communist witch hunt under the weight of the question, « Have you no decency? »
Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony on Tuesday may prove to be one of those moments.
Beyond the frankly lopsided details of the scenes of a defiantly angry president, there was a larger picture of the build-up to Jan. 6 and how the day unfolded that undoubtedly connected the dots showing that Trump and his staff knew that the protest was likely to be violent, knew that the President’s speech was encouraging violence, knew then that the riot was beginning to unfold that the crowd was armed and that the President stubbornly refused to intervene to end the violence because he thought it was justified.
The young Hutchinson – just 25 – has devastated months of Republican spins in Trump’s orbit.
She testified that a few days before Jan. 6, she was « scared » after a meeting with attorney Rudy Giuliani at the White House, after which Meadows told her that on Jan. 6, « things could get really, really bad. « . She testified that she had heard of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers at the White House before that day. She testified that White House lawyers warned that Trump’s planned speech made him complicit in anticipated violence, and that his plan to accompany protesters to the Capitol could mean « we’re going to be hit with every charge imaginable. »
She testified that on the day, moments before his speech, Trump was angry that protesters armed with guns and spears were kept by the Secret Service from the gated assembly area – they remained on the National Mall — and that Trump said, ‘I don’t care about guns, they’re not here to hurt me,’ and that he wanted the metal detectors taken out so they could get in and then they could walk to the Capitol. And she testified that he wanted to accompany those protesters he knew were armed to the Capitol even as the violent clashes with police began — to the point of trying to get behind the wheel of his own car and allegedly assaulting his service. of security.
It was shocking, even in the opinion of another former Trump chief of staff.
« This is explosive stuff. If Cassidy is making this up, (other witnesses directly involved) will have to say so. If she isn’t, they will have to corroborate, » Mick Mulvaney tweeted during the hearing. know her. I don’t think she’s lying.
At the end of the hearing, Representative Liz Cheney, who had led the questioning throughout, concluded by sharing anonymous statements from other witnesses saying people around Trump tried to intimidate them before testifying.
« He wants me to let you know he’s thinking of you, » a witness told a Trump associate. « He knows you’re loyal and will do the right thing when you show up for your deposition. »
But immediately after that, commission chairman Bennie Thompson publicly urged witnesses who had refused to cooperate, or had practical memory lapses during their testimony, to contact the commission if they wanted to revise their statements.
The message from the Trump world was like a demand for loyalty in a mob movie. Thompson’s response was that it’s all coming out, and there may well be consequences, legally and otherwise, for those who continue to let loyalty to Trump take precedence over their obligation to tell the truth. After all the drips that came before, the tsunami of Hutchinson’s testimony made those consequences even more likely.
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