Donald Trump and his two closest advisers could face widening criminal exposure over the Capitol attack after ex-White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified about their potentially unlawful conduct to the House January 6 select committee at a special hearing on Thursday.
The testimony revolved around the disclosure – one of several major revelations from Hutchinson – that the former president directed supporters to descend on the Capitol even though he knew they were armed and probably intended to cause harm.
Hutchinson testified under oath that Trump was deeply angered by the fact that some of his supporters who had gathered on the National Mall were not entering the secure perimeter for the Save America rally at the Ellipse where he was due to make remarks.
The supporters did not want to enter the secure perimeter, Hutchinson testified, because many were armed with knives, blades, pepper spray and, as it later turned out, guns, and did not want to surrender their weapons to the Secret Service to attend the rally.
“I don’t fucking care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me,” Trump exclaimed in an extraordinary outburst of fury, according to Hutchinson. “Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here. Let the people in. Take the fucking mags [magnetometers] away.”
The response from the former president is significant for two main reasons: it makes clear that he had been informed that his supporters were carrying weapons, and that he knew those armed people intended to make a non-permitted march to the Capitol.
Trump then took the stage at the Save America rally and told his supporters both there at the Ellipse and around the Washington monument that he would march to the Capitol with them – giving them the strongest incentive to descend on the joint session of Congress.
The former president additionally made the comments, Hutchinson said, despite the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, desperately trying to stop Trump and Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, going to the Capitol for fear of potential legal exposure.
“We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable,” if Trump went to the Capitol, Hutchinson said Cipollone told her the morning of January 6, alluding to obstruction of an official proceeding and defrauding the United States.
The legal analysis from Cipollone was prescient: the select committee, even before hearing from Hutchinson for the first time earlier this year in closed-door depositions, has argued Trump and his top advisers violated multiple federal laws over January 6.
At the special hearing, Hutchinson also revealed that Trump’s then attorney Rudy Giuliani and Meadows expressed an interest in receiving pre-emptive presidential pardons in the immediate aftermath of the Capitol attack.
The disclosure from Hutchinson marked a new degree of apparent consciousness of guilt among Trump’s closest advisers – in addition to that of at least half a dozen Republican congressmen and the Trump lawyer John Eastman – or fear that they might have committed a crime.
In raising Giuliani’s interest in a pardon, Hutchinson also testified that Trump’s former attorney may have also been central to a crime with respect to his seeming knowledge of what the far-right Oath Keepers and Proud Boys groups were planning for January 6.
“Oath Keepers” and “Proud Boys” were words heard at the White House when Giuliani was around the complex in the days before the Capitol attack, Hutchinson testified at the hearing.
The new connection between Giuliani and the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys raised the spectre that the former president’s then attorney was broadly aware of the intentions of two far-right groups – whose senior members have since been indicted for seditious conspiracy.
그 동안에, on the eve of the Capitol attack, Trump asked Meadows to speak to the far-right political operative Roger Stone and Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, which Meadows did, according to Hutchinson’s testimony.
The former president’s chief of staff then repeatedly raised the prospect of travelling to the Trump war room at the Willard hotel in Washington DC, though Meadows ultimately demurred and ended up calling the Trump war room instead, Hutchinson testified.
The Guardian first reported last year that from the White House, Trump then called Giuliani and a cadre of lawyers working at the Trump war room at the Willard and discussed ways to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election win.
Meadows’s connection to the Trump war room appears to be as significant as Giuliani discussing the far-right groups, not least because the Willard was also the base for both Stone, who has ties to the Proud Boys, and Flynn, who previously worked with the Oath Keepers.
The select committee’s vice-chair, Liz Cheney, ended the special hearing with evidence of potential attempted witness tampering by people apparently close to the former president. In one mafia-style call, one witness was warned that Trump knew they would remain “loyal”.