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New information on Trump’s state of mind on January 6 dispels doubts

WASHINGTON — He wasn’t speaking metaphorically. It wasn’t a flippant comment. President Donald Trump had every intention of joining a crowd of supporters he knew were armed and dangerous as they marched to the Capitol. And there had even been talk of marching into the House chamber himself to prevent Congress from ratifying his electoral defeat.

For a year and a half, Trump has been shielded by obfuscations and characterization errors, benefiting from the uncertainty of what he was thinking on January 6, 2021. If he truly believed the election was stolen, s really expected the Capitol rally would be a peaceful protest, the argument goes, so could he be held responsible, let alone charged, for the ensuing chaos?

But for a man who notoriously avoids leaving emails or other trails of evidence of his unspoken motives, any doubt about what was really going through Trump’s mind that day of violence seemed to have been eviscerated. by the testimony presented in recent weeks by the House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol – in particular the dramatic appearance last week of a 26-year-old former White House aide who offered a chilling portrait of a president willing to do almost anything to cling to power.

More than perhaps any insider account that has emerged, the memories of the aide, Cassidy Hutchinson, demolished the fiction of a president who had nothing to do with what happened. Each revelation was stunning in itself: Trump knew guns were in the crowd as he urged his supporters to “fight like hell,” and even tried to stop anyone from disarming them. He was so determined to join the mob at the Capitol that he lashed out at his Secret Service detachment for refusing to take him. And he was so nonchalant about the heckling he started that he suggested Vice President Mike Pence might deserve execution for refusing to overturn the election.

But when added together, the various revelations produced the clearest picture yet of an unprecedented attempt to subvert the traditional American democratic process, with a sitting president who had lost at the polls planning to march with an armed mob. to the Capitol to block the transfer of power, dismissing many concerns about the potential for violence along the way.

“Innocent explanations for Trump’s conduct seem virtually unbelievable based on the testimony we’ve seen,” said Joshua Matz, who served as counsel for House Democrats in Trump’s two Senate impeachment trials. “At the very least, they powerfully shift the onus to Trump and his defenders to prove that he did not act with a corrupt and criminal mindset.”

So nearly 2½ centuries after America’s 13 colonies declared independence from an unelected king, the nation finds itself weighing a bleak new view of the fragility of its democracy – and the question to know what could and should be done, if anything. on this subject.

To the extent that there could be a turning point in this debate, Hutchinson’s testimony proved pivotal for some who had been willing to give Trump the benefit of the doubt or were unsure that the committee had gathered enough evidence on the state of mind of the former president. .

Solomon L. Wisenberg, a former assistant independent attorney under Ken Starr, called his account a “smoking gun” as he pleaded “for his criminal guilt on charges of seditious conspiracy”. Mick Mulvaney, who served as Trump’s third White House chief of staff, said he defended him, but learning that Trump knew some in the crowd were armed and still encouraged him to come to the Capitol. “Certainly change your mind,” he said. FoxNews.

David French, a conservative critic of Trump, had been skeptical that the committee would produce enough evidence. “But Hutchinson’s sworn testimony fills a gap in the criminal case against Trump,” he wrote on The Dispatch, a conservative website. Two law professors, Alan Z. Rozenshtein of the University of Minnesota and Jed Handelsman Shugerman of Fordham University, also opposed the lawsuits until they saw Hutchinson, writing on the Lawfare blog that she has changed her mind because she provided “evidence of intent”.

The hearings, which will continue after Congress returns on July 11 from recess, presented only the prosecution’s side of the story. With Trump’s acquiescence, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the House Republican leader, opted not to appoint anyone to the select committee after Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected some of his initial selections, leaving the panel composed. entirely from Democrats and two Republicans deeply critical of the former president.

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