Evidence accumulated by the Jan. 6 committee against former President Trump, including testimony from White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, bolstered a potential criminal case against him and shattered his most likely defenses. , according to legal experts.
Hutchinson, a former special assistant to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows as well as the president, offered explosive testimony on Tuesday, filling the gaps in officials’ concerns about Trump’s speech and his determination to go to Capitol Hill that day. there and how the former president has moved forward. both fronts.
It’s far from clear that the Justice Department is considering criminal charges against Trump, even as his Jan. 6 investigation creeps ever closer to those in his orbit. One of the biggest hurdles is that most avenues of prosecution against Trump require proving he acted with corrupt intent, something the select committee has focused on proving in its own investigation.
Experts say Hutchinson’s testimony fleshed out the grounds for a possible case against Trump by providing details of the presidents’ state of mind around Jan. 6 and raised important questions for prosecutors to follow up on.
Assuming his testimony is corroborated, I would say it adds significantly to his criminal exposure on almost every level, because it shows a particular state of mind that would be evidence the prosecution could put to a jury for a number of different types of offences, Ryan Goodman, co-director of the Reiss Center on Law and Security at New York University School of Law, told The Hill.
Michael Bromwich, a former Justice Department inspector general who also worked at the Office of Independent Counsel for the Iran-Contra scandal, said the panel provided key evidence on the warnings Trump received on January 6 and in the preceding days.
What emerged during select committee hearings has the makings of a powerful, multi-pronged criminal case against Trump, Bromwich said. This includes evidence that he was aware of the substantial risks posed by his armed supporters and his desire to inflame them further by personally going to the Capitol.
Hutchinson said White House attorney Pat Cipollone told him days before the attack that he feared Trump was marching to the Capitol it might appear he was trying to incite a riot, d obstruct justice or defraud the electoral count.
Please make sure we don’t go to the Capitol, Cassidy, Hutchinson said, delivering Cipollone’s message to him that morning. Were going to be charged with every crime imaginable if we made this move possible.
He and other members of the White House attorney’s office had also raised concerns about the language used in Trump’s prepared speech for the morning of the 6th.
In my conversations with Mr. [Eric] Herschmann, he had relayed that we would be foolish to include language that had been included at the request of the president, she said, who would repeatedly use the word fight and urge to march to the Capitol.
Mr. Herschmann and the White House Counsel’s Office were urging speechwriters not to include that language for legal reasons, as well as for the optics of what it might represent the president wanting to do that day- the.
Hutchinson also revealed that Trump knew many in the crowd that day were armed, but was apparently indifferent and still encouraged them to march to the Capitol.
She said Trump had asked security to remove the magnetometers, or mags for short, because they were interfering with his crowd size, even though White House officials knew as early as 10 a.m. on Jan. 6 that Trump supporters had knives, guns, bear spray, body armor and spears attached to the ends of the masts.
They’re not here to hurt me, Trump said, according to Hutchinson’s testimony.
Remove the effing mags. Let my people in. They can walk to the Capitol from here. Let people in. Take off the effing mags, she said, echoing Trump’s comments.
Catherine Ross, professor of constitutional law at George Washington University School of Law, called the statement stunning.
That implies they’re here to hurt someone else and that’s fine with me, she said.
It also goes to whether he can be charged with incitement, because one of the things the government would have to show to prosecute incitement is an understanding that violence was likely to follow imminently, Ross said.
So when you have a crowd of people carrying guns and wearing body armor, that’s a pretty good indicator.
Many say that all revelation is key.
What Hutchinson’s testimony underscored was not only Trump’s awareness of the threat of physical violence by the mob and the criminal liability attached to it prior to his speech, but also his desire to let the crowd to be armed and to encourage them to march with him to the Capitol, Bradley Moss, a national security law expert, told The Hill.
This filled factual gaps with respect to the overt intent and act necessary for possible conspiracy charges. Our prisons are filled with people convicted of conspiracy crimes for doing less.
Goodman says his evidence is important even though Trump ultimately never made the trip, blocked by Secret Service officials who determined the unplanned move was too dangerous amid law enforcement radio traffic, the security of Capitols had been violated.
Even though he himself doesn’t end up going, he definitely tells the crowd that he’s going. So they are led to believe that he is with them and that is actually what the White House seemed to be concerned about, which is that he would strongly encourage them in such a way that things would be dangerous. And he would strongly encourage them in a way that would appear to be an attempt to obstruct Congress, Goodman said.
I think his speech itself doesn’t help him at all and if anything adds an additional data point of incriminating evidence.
Goodman said the episode also raises other possible charges against Trump, including a law for aiding and abetting any other federal crime.
All we have to think about is one of the rioters who were armed or used weapons in the attack on the capital, the evidence presented at the latest hearing directly implicates Trump in complicity, did he declare.
The public committee hearings also raised new questions that could help guide law enforcement and congressional investigators. The panel subpoenaed Cipollone following testimony from Hutchinson, who revealed he issued serious warnings about the legal dangers of Trump’s involvement on January 6.
Lawmakers hope Cipollone could provide information that could shed light on the White House’s degree of involvement or preknowledge regarding the Capitol attack.
But even if he continues to resist calls for public testimony, the DOJ may be able to gain his cooperation.
Hutchinson also revealed that Trump ordered Meadows to contact Michael Flynn and Roger Stone on Jan. 5 as the two organized the president’s supporters, but it’s unclear exactly what was discussed. Both are believed to have links to the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, right-wing groups whose leaders are separately charged with seditious conspiracy linked to the January 6 attack.
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His accounts of how Meadows and Cipollone responded to the growing threat to the Capitol underscored how important the two White House aides would be to prosecutors who may seek to build a case against Trump.
Daniel Zelenko, a former federal prosecutor, said the committee was strategic in answering some questions that needed to be answered before the DOJ could decide whether or not to take action against the former president. But he says the department can’t make a charging decision without seeing all the evidence from the committees or trying to interview key figures like Cipollone and Meadows.
I think the committee was very good at presenting a case from start to finish on the objects of a potential plot to nullify an election, and then what steps were taken to achieve that goal, Zelenko said. The committee has done a truly impressive job of lining up effective witnesses who appear credible under oath, even though they have not been subject to any cross-examination. I think they’re far from over, and there are more senior White House officials who haven’t agreed to testify.
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