'This Is the Smoking Gun,' Legal Analyst Says

Stunning testimony seen as increasing chances of Trump being charged
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 28, 2022 9:18 PM CDT
'Damning Testimony' Could Leave Trump in Legal Trouble
Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, arrives to testify to the House select committee, Tuesday, June 28, 2022.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Tuesday's surprise Jan. 6 hearing wasn't just a bad day for former President Trump, it was one that could have brought criminal charges in connection with the Capitol riot closer, analysts say. "This is the smoking gun," legal analyst Solomon Wisenberg, a former deputy independent counsel in the investigation that led to Bill Clinton's impeachment, tells the New York Times. He says the Justice Department can now make a strong case for "seditious conspiracy charges" against Trump. In stunning testimony Tuesday, Cassidy Hutchinson, former top aide to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, said Trump knew some of his supporters were armed on Jan. 6 but still demanded that they be allowed to move around freely. More:

  • A "roadmap for Trump's culpability." Politico calls Hutchinson's testimony a "roadmap for Trump's culpability"—and potentially "the most damning testimony about a sitting president’s actions in American history," which "stitched together" every element of the Jan. 6 panel's case against Trump. She also described how Meadows was "connective tissue for Trump among a slew of disparate factions within his orbit."

  • A "critical fact" in charging decision. The most "stunning revelation" from Tuesday's testimony was that Trump and Meadows were not only aware of the potential for violence, they knew there were weapons at Trump's Jan. 6 rally, Jennifer Rubin writes at the Washington Post. This is "the closest we have come to confirming that Trump wanted the armed crowd to march on the Capitol," she writes. "His attempt to facilitate an armed mob storming the Capitol will be a critical fact in the decision whether to charge him."
  • Trump could be in "serious jeopardy." Trump pushed back against the testimony Tuesday, calling it "fake," but it's not clear whether his standard strategy will work against Cassidy. "When you have witnesses who are in these conversations, who are in these rooms, who are actively participating in the high-level discussions of Jan. 6, it seems to me that one of two things has to be true: either they're lying, or President Trump and a lot of people close to him are in serious jeopardy," Stephen Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor, tells the AP.

  • "A lot to chew on." It's not clear whether federal prosecutors are looking into charging Trump, but analysts say they believe the move is now more likely—and Trump's defense is now shakier. "The department is clearly looking into all this, and this hearing definitely gave investigators a lot to chew on,” says Bill Barr, Trump's former attorney general, the New York Times reports. Hutchinson testified Tuesday that when Trump found out Barr wasn't supporting his election fraud claims, he hurled his lunch at a wall, breaking a plate and leaving streams of ketchup that she helped clean up.
(More Jan. 6 hearings stories.)

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