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Capitol riot testimony was more smoking gun than smoke and mirrors

Trump wanted people with weapons at his 6 January rally, and knew they could march to the Capitol.

By Emily Tamkin

WASHINGTON DC – Cassidy Hutchinson, the 26-year-old former aide to Mark Meadows, Donald Trump’s final chief of staff during his term as president, was not a household name in the United States before this week. But on Tuesday 28 June she testified before the select committee looking into the events surrounding the storming of the Capitol building on 6 January 2021.

The violence at the Capitol followed weeks of Trump pushing the lie that he, and not Joe Biden, was the rightful winner of the 2020 election, whipping his supporters into a frenzy. But could the committee show that Trump had played a direct role that day? Enough for him to be indicted?

Prior to Tuesday, one might have been able to make the case either way. Yes, Trump lied repeatedly to the American people and the wider world; no, he was not able to prove fraud; yes, there was a rally in Washington DC on the day that the election was meant to be certified. But was that the same thing as actually playing a role in the storming of the building?

On Tuesday, though, Hutchinson testified that Trump, on 6 January before his rally, said: “I don’t f’ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the f’ing mags [magnetometers, or metal detectors] away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here. Let the people in. Take the f’ing mags away.” This is to say that Trump knew that there were weapons at the rally (per Hutchinson, Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, two far-right groups, were both mentioned during rally planning meetings), encouraged them to be allowed in, and knew that people who were there for his rally and who he knew had weapons could then march to the Capitol where the election was meant to be certified.

There are other details that will surely be remembered. Hutchinson testified that Trump threw his lunch at the wall because he was so enraged by Bill Barr, the attorney-general, telling the Associated Press that there was no widespread fraud. The detail of Hutchinson scraping ketchup off the wall is the kind that is bound for the books that will inevitably be written about this. Hutchinson also said that she had been told that Trump wanted to be driven to the Capitol during the storming of the building, and was so mad that his staff in the car would not take him through the violent crowd that he tried to grab the wheel and possibly choke a security aide (after the testimony, anonymous Secret Service officials said that the two men in the car with Trump could testify that that did not happen; whether they will remains to be seen). Hutchinson testified that Trump did not want to say or do anything to stop the assault on Congress once it had begun. Trump’s meltdown on his media platform, Truth Social, following Hutchinson’s testimony, was the most memorable of the days after he was banned from Twitter in January 2021.

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But that Trump was a tantrum-prone bully who should never have been in office in the first place is not new or news. That Trump wanted people with weapons to be allowed through to the 6 January rally, and then to march to the Capitol, however, is not simply Trump being Trump. It is not nothing, though the House Judiciary Republicans’ Twitter account tried to write it off as such. If the United States still has any capacity to function as a democracy, that information about Trump’s role on that day should be harder to wipe away than ketchup off a wall.

[See also: Joe Biden “dislikes Boris Johnson for his racist treatment of Barack Obama”]

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