WASHINGTON (AP) — When President Donald Trump learned that his attorney general had his allegations of electoral fraud have been publicly rejectedhe lifted his lunch from the wall with such force that the china plate shattered and the ketchup poured down.
On the morning of January 6, 2021, consumed with concerns about the size of the crowd, he ordered staff to remove metal detectors he feared would hinder supporters gathered in Washington. It doesn’t matter that some of them were armed — they weren’t there to hurt him, he said.
And later that day, enraged at being driven back to the White House instead of the Capitol, Trump tried to take control of the steering wheel of the presidential vehicle, uttering words along the lines of, “I’m the f’ing.” president. Take me to the Capitol now.”
Trump’s volcanic temper has been lore throughout his career in business, but it has never been described in such evocative detail during his presidency as in the testimony Tuesday from Cassidy Hutchinsona junior White House staffer, whose proximity to the then-president and top aides gave her a remarkably close view that day.
Hutchinson previously unknown details offered about the extent of Trump’s anger in his final weeks in office, his realization that supporters were carrying weapons, and his ambivalence when rioters later besieged the Capitol.
The testimony came as the Justice Department expanded its investigation into the insurgency, deepening, but not resolving, questions about whether Trump himself could face criminal charges for his conduct. While Attorney General Merrick Garland has not hinted at whether his department will file a criminal case against Trump, some legal experts said Hutchinson’s testimony could give prosecutors additional facts to pursue.
Possibly problematic for Trump, his response on the morning of Jan. 6 to news that rifles, knives and other weapons were seized during security investigations as crowds of supporters gathered for a demonstration outside the White House. Angry that not everyone could see him, Trump, according to Hutchinson, said words along the lines of: “I don’t care if they have guns. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the f’ing mags away and they can march.” to the Capitol.” “Mags” is a reference to magnetometers.
“A congressional hearing is not a court of law, but if this isn’t strong evidence that he was not only aware of the possibility of violence on the 6th, but wanted to actively encourage it, I’m not sure what,” he said. Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas.
Whatever the outcome of criminal proceedings, the revelations come as Trump is lay the groundwork for a new presidential run in 2024.
Assistants have debated the merits of when he should announce his intentions, with some arguing he should do so as soon as this summer to maximize leverage and stave off a crowd of likely challengers and others argue he’s breaking the tradition. must follow and must wait until after the midterm elections of November.
To tone down the negative publicity surrounding her testimony, Trump issued a statement on his social media platform denying that he had ever complained about the size of the crowd or tried to “make room for people with guns to deliver my speech.” see”.
Trump is well adept at marginalizing his critics and accusers, but Hutchinson’s well-calibrated testimony will test that power again.
Tuesday’s hearing, the sixth by the House committee investigates the uprising, was accompanied by tension even before it started. It was hastily announced Monday, but the commission did not disclose the witness’s identity until Hutchinson entered the room.
Where previous hearings have involved clusters of witnesses who have talked about pressure campaigns on the Justice Department, or on local election officials, to undo the election results, Tuesday’s hearing involved a unique narrator with an easy-to-follow story sprinkled with ‘should’. be there color. Some anecdotes she witnessed herself. Others she heard from colleagues.
For example, she recalled being at the White House on the afternoon of December 1, 2020, when she suddenly heard a noise. As it turned out, Trump had just heard of an interview Attorney General William Barr gave to The Associated Press, in which Barr said the Justice Department had found no widespread fraud that could alter the outcome of the election.
In the dining room, a shattered china plate lay on the floor, apparently stunned by the president. Ketchup flowed down the wall. Hutchinson grabbed a towel to wipe it off.
She later learned about a separate episode on the afternoon of January 6, when Trump tried to get hold of the wheel of the presidential vehicle so it would take him to the Capitol and not the White House. He was, he said, “the f’ing president.” Trump was ordered to remove his hand from the steering wheel.
In that case and in other instances, the president’s will did not always prevail and Hutchinson detailed his aides’ efforts to curb Trump’s worst impulses. For example, on the morning of Jan. 6, White House counsel Pat Cipollone warned Hutchinson that if Trump went to the Capitol to intervene in the certification of the election, “we will be charged with every crime imaginable.”
Whether the Justice Department thinks it has a case against the president, especially one that could further divide an already polarized nation, remains an open question. But there’s also no doubt that the investigation is expanding far beyond the rioters themselves, with law enforcement officers sending out a wave of subpoenas across the country to state election officials last week.
“If you have witnesses who are in these conversations, who are in these rooms, who are actively participating in the January 6 high-level discussions, it seems to me that one of two things must be true: either they are lying or President Trump and many people close to him are in serious danger,” Vladeck said.
Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.