l resigned from the Trump administration on January 6, 2021. I did so because I thought President Donald Trump was not the leader the nation needed at one of its most critical moments. But I have since defended him against claims that he did something illegal or punishable.
To the accusations that he instigated the US Capitol riots, I pointed out that he had made similar speeches in the past (and often accused of inciting violence) and that the results were generally peaceful. I also pointed out that the right-wing extremists who appeared to be most central to the attack were already at the Capitol before the president gave his speech†
I was not alone in defending the president against such claims: Bill Barrthe two-time US Attorney General, and now not a fan of trumphe said did not believe that the actions of the president that day reached the level of a crime†
I don’t know if Barr has a harder time holding that attitude after that? Tuesday 6 January committee hearing† But I am sure. Because after some of the bombshells that fell during that hearing, I think it could get really dark for the former president.
A whole series of accusations worth the headline
The press will most likely focus on the most sensational allegations: that Trump some of the… protesters had guns and he still encouraged them to go to the Capitol; that he physically attacked a member of his security team when the officer refused to drive Trump to the Capitol; that there might be a direct line of the extremists to the White House, via Roger Stone, Michael Flynn and Mark Meadows† and that several Trump advisers, including Meadows, his chief of staff, forgiveness asked related to their role in the events of that January 6.
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And all those things are remarkable. Some of the allegations — encouraging the protests despite knowledge of the weapons, and attacking the federal agent — could be felonies. The alleged link to the extremist groups would bring the White House perilously close to people who have been before charged with seditious conspiracy† And the simple fact that those around you apparently feared they’d committed crimes, while certainly not determinative, isn’t the best option.
But all of these allegations undermine the credibility of the “surprise hearing” key witness: Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Mark Meadows and a special assistant to the president. It was her testimony that brought all these new revelations to light, and it was her testimony that has received much attention.
Columnist Ingrid Jacques: January 6 was terrible. But conservatives have good reason to question these hearings.
Trump broke up with Hutchinson’s testimony a statement suggesting she was a disgruntled employee who asked for and was denied a position on the post-White House Trump team. If true, that can certainly cast doubt on her credibility. And it will be interesting to see if Meadows or others come forward to refute her allegations. (As an aside, Hutchinson worked for me briefly in the White House. I don’t claim to know her well, but I found her testimony eminently credible.)
The caption that caught my attention
But there is another revelation from the hearing that does not affect the credibility of the witness. It’s the one that came to mind. And it’s the one that should worry the former president the most.
Those are the few slides that Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., showed at the end of the hearing. While details about them are still unknown, we were told they were statements from other witnesses about messages they had received before testifying.
One slide said, “What they said to me is that as long as I remain a team player, they know I’m on the team, I’m doing the right thing, I’m protecting who I’m supposed to protect… I’m staying in good graces in Trump World And they reminded me a few times that Trump reads transcripts and to keep that in mind as I went through my testimonials and interviews with the committee†
The implication was crystal clear: The Jan. 6 committee members believe they have evidence that people within the Trump operation tried to intimidate witnesses. And that, however you slice it, is obstruction of justice.
Trump may have committed crimes on January 6, 2021. He may not have done so. I suspect we’ll never know for sure—the congressional hearing isn’t a criminal court, after all—and for many people how they feel about his actions will continue to depend in large part on how they voted.
But it may also be that none of this matters. Even if Donald Trump was as innocent as the virgin snow on Jan. 6, even if he knew nothing about the guns, or didn’t attack his agent, or had absolutely no idea what the Proud Boys were up to, if he obstructed justice in In connection with the January 6 hearings, he could well become the next politician to learn the hard lesson that usually it’s not the crime. It’s the cover.
Mick Mulvaney served as acting White House chief of staff from December 2018 to March 2020, when President Donald Trump named him special envoy to Northern Ireland and installed Mark Meadows as chief of staff. Mulvaney previously served as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and a Republican in the United States House of Representatives. He is now co-chair of Actum LLC†
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mick Mulvaney: Cassidy Hutchinson really questioned Trump’s innocence