Other View: ‘Let my people in’: Donald Trump’s incriminating words close the case for prosecuting him
The weightiest immediate question raised by the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the U.S. Capitol and the continuing House hearings is whether the deadly insurrection requires an unprecedented criminal prosecution of a former president.
It’s not a question anymore.
The disturbing firsthand account of Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows who testified before the Jan. 6 committee in a hastily added hearing Tuesday, left Donald Trump inextricably bound to the deadly violence of that day. Hutchinson ensured as much by displaying the courage and candor many of the former president’s senior lieutenants have sorely lacked.
True to the disinformation that Trump and company literally weaponized on that day, Americans have been forced to endure an endless effort to downplay the events of Jan. 6 to the extent of questioning whether a violent attempted coup even took place. Hutchinson’s testimony showed not only that it was an armed insurrection but also that it was known, embraced and encouraged by the then-president. She repeatedly pierced whatever shreds of plausible deniability the former president retained after weeks of testimony and a year and a half of revelations about his and his allies’ plot to overturn his loss to Joe Biden.
Informed that the crowd he summoned to Washington was armed and dangerous, Hutchinson testified that Trump demanded that weapon-detecting magnetometers be taken down and cheered for a blitzkrieg on the Capitol. There, his mob would maim police officers and come within yards of members of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence.
“I don’t f—ing care that they have weapons,” Hutchinson recalled Trump saying. “They’re not here to hurt me. Take the f—ing mags away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.”
Her testimony also bolstered reports that Trump was aware of and at peace with the prospect of mortal harm to Pence, whose loyalty had flagged only at the point of breaking the law.
“He (Trump) doesn’t want to do anything,” Meadows told White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Hutchinson recounted, as the crowd called for Pence’s hanging. “He thinks Mike deserves it.”
Trump’s hours of inaction as a deluded and murderous crowd overtook the Capitol have been thoroughly documented. Hutchinson’s testimony further showed that he was not only rooting for the rioters but was also violently eager to join them in person. She said a top security official told her Trump had lunged at a member of his detail and tried to seize control of the presidential limousine when he was informed he would not be taken to the Capitol.
Hutchinson’s testimony adds to a lengthy record of evidence that Trump and his allies conspired to overturn an election they knew they lost, and incited the violence in which their plot culminated on Jan. 6. A California-based federal judge considering disclosures to the House committee has concluded that Trump and Southern California lawyer John Eastman likely committed federal crimes by interfering with congressional certification of the election.
The risk of criminalizing our politics has ensured that a prosecution of a former president has been rarely considered and never undertaken. Jan. 6 and its aftermath show that the risk of failing to prosecute Trump for a violent attack on our democracy would be greater.
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