The testimony this afternoon of Cassidy Hutchinson, the aide to Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, cannot be dismissed. If what she has testified to, sworn under oath, is not countered or contradicted by Meadows or Trump’s White House counsel Pat Cippolone—either under oath themselves or eventually before a grand jury—then there is a credible criminal case that Trump violated the law in ways not dealt with by the second impeachment, and from which he would not be shielded by executive privilege. It’s possible her memory is faulty, or that she is a fantasist and that none of this happened. But she has reported directly on things that went on inside the White House and around the Oval Office on January 5 and January 6 that go beyond the merely circumstantial.
The case the January 6 committee is building in a far more painstaking manner than anyone could have expected is that Trump knowingly encouraged the formation of and participated in the forward deployment of a crowd he knew was armed. He was told so on January 6. We also know now that Trump had told Meadows to make contact on January 5 with Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, both of whom were communicating with the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers—some of whose leaders have been charged with seditious conspiracy. We also know that Meadows told Hutchinson he was going to go to the suite personally but she either changed his mind or he did and he called instead. What was said on the call we do not yet know.
Hutchinson testified that Trump was told by the Secret Service they were making the crowd at the rally on January 6 go through magnetometers because they were armed. Trump was angered by this, something she knew because she was “in the vicinity of a conversation where I overheard the president say something to the effect of, ‘You know, I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. 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. Let the people in. Take the f-ing mags away.’”
He also wanted to drive to the Capitol in the lead and physically tussled with the Secret Service in his SUV when they weren’t going to do so because they could not guarantee his safety. She testified that Cippolone told her if Trump marched to the Capitol, “We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable.” And she reported Meadows saying of the chant to hang Vice President Mike Pence that Trump “doesn’t want to do anything,” and that “he thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.”
You’re going to hear people call this “hearsay.” It is not hearsay. It is direct testimony of contemporaneous things said in Hutchinson’s earshot about events that were taking place while she was listening.
And here’s the rub for Trump. He has so far been protected by Meadows and Cippolone because they have refused to testify to the committee under claims of executive privilege—that Congress does not have the power to force them to speak about their direct conversations with the president or the actions they may have taken under his direct authority because the executive branch is not subordinate to the legislative branch. But they can testify if they choose. If they do not, they will, in essence, be allowing Hutchinson’s testimony to stand. If they do, and they do not say everything she said was a lie, her testimony will stand and be bolstered by them. And if they testify and say their recollections of the days were different, they will have to report in what way they were different—and will not be able to refuse to answer questions they find uncomfortable.
But if they do remain silent and Hutchinson’s testimony is not somehow rebutted, they can be made to testify if Attorney General Merrick Garland convenes a grand jury on the basis of the revelations of the January 6 committee and subpoenas them. Failure to testify under those conditions will lead to prison time.
I did not think this day would come. I have said as much on our podcast many times. But as a result of the bombshells today, there’s no question now that Donald Trump is staring down the barrel of an indictment for seditious conspiracy against the government of the United States.
And I haven’t even gotten to the possible witness tampering!