It was an attempted insurrection. Donald Trump committed an act of sedition against America.
Or as US Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell, who needed several surgeries after he was pummeled by Trump’s mob on Jan. 6, said: “Our own president set us up.”
After jolting testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Mark Meadows who served as Trump’s last chief of staff, to the House Select Committee investigating Jan. 6, let there be no doubt — if any still remained. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election outcome didn’t end with dozens of failed court challenges or his pressure campaign on state election officials to “find” enough votes to give him a win.
Determined to stop congressional certification of the Electoral College vote, Trump incited thousands, many of them with weapons ranging from flagpoles outfitted with spears to pistols and rifles, to “fight like hell” and go the Capitol.
Trump knew they were armed and still wanted security protocols dropped at his rally. “They’re not here to hurt me. Take the f-ing [magnetometers] away. Let my people in.” That’s what Hutchinson testified. She said she was told by Tony Ornato, a Secret Service official, that Trump was so determined to lead the armed throngs to the Capitol that he physically fought with Secret Service agents in his presidential SUV. (The Secret Service is disputing Hutchinson’s account and has offered its agents to testify under oath about Trump’s behavior on Jan. 6.)
Trump called them “patriots.” They were insurrectionists. And like a crime boss who refuses to sit on the sidelines as his underlings do the dirty work, Trump wanted to lead his mob and witness firsthand his planned hit on democracy.
Even from the White House, Trump cheered them on. When the marauders chanted “Hang Mike Pence,” Trump said his vice president “deserves” to hang for refusing Trump’s order to overturn the election. At least seven deaths were connected to the insurrection. More than 140 police officers were injured.
In a CNN interview after Hutchinson’s testimony, Harry Dunn, a Capitol Police officer, said, “People expect me to do my job and protect them no matter what. And that’s what I expected from the president.” Dunn, a Black man, was subjected to a barrage of racist comments from the white supremacist mob on Jan. 6. “Whether I agree with his policies or not, he failed at his job — and not only did he fail at his job, but he sent those people armed towards us.”
That’s what Hutchinson confirmed. And Meadows knew. Rudy Giuliani knew. Pat Cipollone, then White House counsel, knew. He’s now been subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 committee. This isn’t like the Watergate hearings where Senator Howard Baker, a Republican from Tennessee, famously asked, “What did the president know and when did he know it?” Here the question seems to be: “Who in Trump’s orbit didn’t know what he had planned for Jan. 6?”
For weeks leading up to Jan. 6, Trump’s tweets were like trailers for the chaos he would inflict on this nation’s seat of democracy. Perhaps the most incendiary was sent Dec. 19: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”
It was “wild” in the nation’s capital on Jan. 6 because that’s what Trump wanted. After Hutchinson’s testimony, anyone who spouts claims to the contrary is rewriting history in real time to satisfy the capricious whims of a disgraced former president.
Of course, those who are still loyal to Trump are accustomed to contorting themselves to avoid the inconvenience of truth. And Trump is disparaging Hutchinson with his signature insult — he “hardly” knew her but heard she was “bad news.” For once, he’s right. The news she delivered under oath against Trump is very bad for him.
In a statement two days after the insurrection, Democratic Representative Adam Schiff of California, now a member of the Jan. 6 House committee, said, “The storming of the Capitol was an act of insurrection, intended to disrupt the most fundamental act of our democracy — the peaceful transition of power.”
Hutchison’s testimony verified it. What happened on Jan. 6 was not a spontaneous march to the Capitol turned rowdy. It sure as hell wasn’t a “normal tourist visit.” It was a seditious insurrection plotted by the then-president of the United States.
“I just feel betrayed,” Gonell told the Huffington Post. “The president should be doing everything possible to help us and he didn’t do it. He wanted to lead the mob and wanted to lead the crowd himself. . . . He wanted to be a tyrant.”
Trump imagined himself as the king of the coup. Now this nation’s future depends on holding him and his enablers accountable. Hutchinson did her part; the Justice Department needs to do theirs. Otherwise, nothing will stop another would-be authoritarian — and God help us if it’s Trump again — from summoning their own insurrectionists to set up our democracy’s ruinous fall into sedition and tyranny.