Former President Donald Trump has been the subject of a criminal investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, two impeachment inquiries by House Democrats, and a two-year special investigation by a legendary former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. His eponymous real estate company, the Trump Organization, is currently awaiting trial on tax evasion charges, and several of his former close associates have served time in federal prison for acts committed during his employment.
But after each, the former president emerged unscathed, often claiming that the lack of consequences for him meant he was exonerated.
His response to the scrutiny of any government authority has been remarkably consistent. Whatever the subject under investigation, he describes it as a “witch hunt”, tells his followers that the investigators are biased against him and is convinced that the results, no matter what wrongdoings may be revealed, are illegitimate.
But more than 18 months after a crowd of his supporters stormed the US Capitol at his behest, Mr Trump’s luck may have run out, after a House Select Committee hearing on Tuesday on January 6. During that hearing, a 25-year-old former aide to one of Mr Trump’s closest White House aides unloaded bomb after bomb on what he and his closest aides were saying and doing before the violent riot.
The former White House aide’s testimony provided the select committee and the millions watching the televised proceedings with the most detailed account yet of how Mr. Trump and his top aides behaved. before and during the pro-Trump melee.
Ms. Hutchinson’s startling revelations included: Mr. Trump grabbed the wheel of his presidential limo in a bid to drive to the Capitol to join his supporters; Mr Trump’s chief of staff has warned things could get “really, really bad” on January 6; Mr. Trump threw his lunch against the wall when his then-Attorney General Bill Barr dismissed allegations of mass voter fraud in the 2020 election; and members of Mr. Trump’s inner circle asked for forgiveness after the violence.
Although Mr Trump and his Republican Party allies have tried to poke holes in his former aide’s testimony, legal experts say many of the most explosive moments she recounted during her panel appearance could be sufficient to finally open the doors to legal consequences.
Perhaps the most serious allegation made in the former Trump aide’s statements to the panel concerned Mr. Trump’s reaction to the security cordon put in place around the Ellipse, the green space south of the White House where he spoke on the day of the riot.
At the site of any public appearance by a current or former president, the Secret Service typically erects an outer perimeter that no one can cross without being scanned by magnetometers or airport-style metal detectors.
On January 6, the agency had good reason to carefully screen rally attendees. The Select Committee released an audio clip from DC Secret Service and Metropolitan Police Department radio traffic that revealed officers spotted several Trump supporters packing weapons (in violation of DC law), including Glock pistols and AR-15 style rifles.
Under normal circumstances, any unauthorized person carrying a weapon would not approach a president. But Ms Hutchinson told the select committee that Mr Trump angrily demanded they stop searching rally attendees for weapons.
“When we were in the backstage tent…I was near a conversation where I heard the president say something like, ‘I don’t care if they have guns, they’re not here to hurt me, take it [f**king magnetometers] away, let people in, … they’re not here to hurt me. Take the [f**king] mags away. Let my people in. They can walk to the Capitol from here,’ she said, recalling Mr Trump’s outburst as he saw large numbers of people being kept away from the sterile area near the scene of the gathering.
The former Trump aide also said her supervisor, Mr Meadows, was not concerned about reports that the Secret Service had knowledge of people carrying weapons – firearms and melee weapons such as spears made from flagpoles – near the White House.
In the wake of the Capitol attack, Republicans defended Mr. Trump from his second impeachment by arguing that the crowd that stormed the Capitol was unarmed and pointing out that Mr. Trump had not encouraged to revolt. But Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony contradicts both of these well-worn defenses.
Nick Akerman, a former assistant U.S. attorney who spent time working in the Southern District of New York and as a Watergate special prosecutor, said The Independent that Ms Hutchinson’s testimony made Mr Trump’s responsibility for the violence “pretty clear” and said the former Trump aide provided leads that could lead to indictments on multiple federal charges.
“You have everything from sedition to obstruction of Congress to fraud in the United States,” he said.
Mr. Akerman described the revelation of Mr. Trump’s reaction to magnetometers being used to blast armed supporters away from him as a gunshot that puts his speech that day in a very different light.
He said the fact that Mr. Trump knew his supporters were armed negates any First Amendment-based defenses he might mount.
“If he was talking to a bunch of AARP members … standing there on their walkers, that would be one thing. But instead, he knew he was talking to a bunch of people who had AR-15s and Glocks and other weapons…and they were going up to the Capitol, and he knew they weren’t. weren’t shooting that they were shooting for someone else,” he said. “And who is anyone other than the people of Congress?”
“From the prosecutor’s point of view, it opens up the fact that yes, there were several crimes,” he added.
One of the lawyers who defended Mr Trump during the two-year investigation led by former FBI director Robert Mueller, Ty Cobb, said an investigation into the former president’s actions would be quite different from the previous Department of Justice effort.
Mr. Cobb considered the Mueller investigation into Mr. Trump’s alleged ties to Russia unnecessary. But in an interview with CNN, he said an investigation into what the former president did before and during the Capitol attack would be another matter.
“Here there are many damning facts,” Mr. Cobb said, who also pointed to Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony that Mr. Trump knew the mob was armed as particularly detrimental to his former client, as well. as his presumed approval of the rioters’ calls to be hanged. then Vice President Mike Pence.
If such an act “is not an insurrection, I don’t know what is”, he added.
Another former federal prosecutor, Renato Mariotti, a partner of Thompson Coburn, also said Mr. Hutchinson’s testimony makes it all the more likely that Mr. Trump will face criminal charges.
Writing on Twitter, Mr Mariotti described the evidence from Trump’s former White House aide as “actually mov[ing] the buck moves significantly toward a possible DOJ prosecution of “the former president.”
“Which makes [her] different testimony is that it included damning testimony that gives us a window into Trump’s mindset that would be admissible in court against Trump,” he said.
He, too, singled out Mr. Trump’s alleged remark about removing magnetometers as incredibly damaging to any attempt to claim that the former president’s call for supporters to march to the Capitol was speech protected by the First Amendment.
“Testimony that Trump said he doesn’t care that they have guns…they’re not here to hurt me” and that they’ll be going to the Capitol later is precisely the kind of evidence “smoke”. had to prove that the person speaking intended to incite imminent violence,” he said. “Hutchinson’s testimony is a game-changer. So far what I’ve seen were potential narrow criminal charges against rogue lawyers, now it looks like an otherwise unlikely incitement prosecution is possible.”
The Independent Gt