In a just world, disgrace would now settle in full, immediate, and disqualifying measure on Donald Trump.
That’s not saying it will happen quickly. Certainly not with his longtime supporters, who have an astonishing capacity to ignore or deny the truth about this man. But the revelations at Tuesday’s meeting of the House select committee on Jan. 6 are among the most shocking things we’ve yet heard about Trump.
According to the in-person testimony of 26-year-old Cassidy Hutchinson, assistant to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Trump was briefed on the morning of Jan. 6 by deputy chief of staff Anthony Ornato that people in the assembling crowd were armed with an array of weapons. Some who had gone through the magnetometers to enter the rally area had been armed with brass knuckles, clubs, spears, knives, guns, tasers, flagpoles, and bear spray. Secret Service and police had also reported seeing men carrying AR-15s and Glock pistols. So the White House, from the top down, knew about the potential for violence.
Hutchinson, who was in Trump’s presence before the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally, heard him express anger that the rally space wasn’t full of people. It was explained to him that that was because many of his supporters weren’t willing to go through the magnetometers, since doing so meant surrendering their weapons.
Trump’s response: “I don’t f--ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Taking the f--ing mags way. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.” That is, they could march to the Capitol on his behalf armed with whatever they had.
Later that day, after Trump had returned to the White House, Hutchison was ushered into an office with Ornato and Robert Engel, the head of Trump’s Secret Service detail. Ornato then related to her that Engel had refused to take Trump to the Capitol after the rally because they didn’t “have the assets to do it” and the scene wasn’t secure. An irate Trump then reached for the steering wheel of the presidential vehicle. When Engel grabbed that arm and insisted they had to return to the White House, Trump went for Engel’s clavicle with his other hand. That is, he tried to assault the public servant charged with his protection. Trump reportedly denied that testimony.
We heard her account that Trump, far from being upset over the mob’s crimes of “Hang Mike Pence,” had no interest in saying anything to ensure his safety. In Hutchinson’s telling, after a quick meeting between Trump, Meadows, and White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Cipollone insisted to Meadows they had to say something to protect Pence from a mob calling for his murder. Meadows replied: “You heard him, Pat. He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.”
We also got a clear suggestion that Trump’s closest henchmen were aware of what would transpire on Jan. 6. On the evening of Jan. 2, Rudy Giuliani, who was leading the effort to overturn the election results, told Hutchinson that “we’re going to Capitol” and that “it’s going to be great.” When she asked Meadows about what Giuiliani had said, her boss replied: “There’s a lot going on, Cass. . . . . Things might get real real bad on Jan. 6.”
“That evening was the first moment that I remember feeling scared and nervous for what could happen on Jan. 6,” she told the committee.
Some of what Hutchinson testified to has been previously revealed. Yet there was something about seeing this serious, composed young woman calmly recounting what she had witnessed as a Trump administration insider that lent a chilling clarity to the events of that day.
Trump apologists, including his sycophants and advisers at Fox News, have been on a frantic quest to dismiss the committee proceedings as irrelevant or unimportant or yesterday’s news or things that Americans simply don’t care about. Here, to nick a line from Shakespeare, right-wing lads and ladies “doth protest too much, methinks.”
No, we haven’t yet seen a sudden American epiphany. But that’s not the way public opinion works. People who have been mistaken about something or someone don’t simply come out and declare that they were wrong. That requires acknowledging that one got taken in, duped, played for a fool. That’s not easy for anyone to admit, even to themselves. It’s a slow process.
Still, it’s a reckoning that does seem to be underway. As events move forward, one hopes that the more thoughtful Trump types can muster a fraction of the courage and honesty of 26-year-old Cassidy Hutchinson, who on Tuesday showed us what true American patriotism actually looks like.