Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony was even more terrifying than they’re telling you

More than two days later, our top political reporters – with the notable exception of MSNBC’s Chris Hayes — are still failing to grasp the real significance of what former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson told the House Jan. 6 committee on Tuesday.

They correctly seized on her jaw-dropping testimony that Donald Trump knew the mob he had summoned on Jan. 6 was armed, aimed them at the Capitol, and wanted to go there himself.

But what they’re still missing is that he didn’t just plan to make an appearance and a speech. What Hutchinson clearly indicated is that Trump intended to storm into the House chamber at the head of the mob and demand that Congress declare him the winner.

That is dictatorship. That is fascism.

And that’s the image we should all have in our minds when we think about Trump’s intent. We should all be thinking about how that’s what he wanted, and that’s what he was pouting about when he was told he couldn’t go. We should be thinking about how things would have worked out if he’d been allowed to.

Frankly, I didn’t really get it either until I heard Chris Hayes on his MSNBC show on Wednesday night.

Here’s video of his set-up.

And here’s where he drops the boom:

This is what Hayes said:

Trump wanted to lead the armed mob into the Capitol as, essentially, the fascist point of the spear, with his security detail and the armed mob around him, and the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, to part the seas and breeze past the Metropolitan Police, who are getting their brains bashed in by the crowd, one imagines, and the Capitol Police, being concussed — and breeze in to sack the Capitol, to occupy the Capitol, to take it over, personally. “I am the leader now.” This is what we are left to understand the president of the United States wanted to do — not some lawsuit, not some lies through some cut out, not getting some lawyer to run an errand. This is Trump himself.

If Trump’s Secret Service detail had been just a bit more amenable, it might have worked out for him. Trump might have gotten his way, through a combination of enabling and terror. He almost certainly would have been able to create enough chaos to prevent Biden’s certification.

Let’s review the evidence.

Hutchinson’s testimony indicated that as early as Jan 2, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and his chief of staff Mark Meadows, were discussing the possibility of Trump going directly into the House chamber, that Meadows was resigned to it, and that Giuliani was counting on it.

From the transcript:

As Mr. Giuliani and I were walking to his vehicles that evening, he looked at me and said something to the effect of, “Cass, are you excited for the 6th? It’s going to be a great day.” I remember looking at him saying, “Rudy, could you explain what’s happening on the 6th?” He had responded something to the effect of, “We’re going to the Capitol. It’s going to be great. The President’s going to be there. He’s going to look powerful. He’s — he’s going to be with the members. He’s going to be with the Senators. Talk to the chief about it, talk to the chief about it. He knows about it.”

“He’s going to look powerful.” Those words haunt me.

Hutchinson testified that Meadows essentially acknowledged there was such a plan, telling her “Things might get real, real bad on January 6th.” And Hutchinson testified that she also knew of another conversation “about him going into the House Chamber.”

Trump made no secret that he wanted to. He told everyone listening to him at the Ellipse:.

We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women, and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them. Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated, lawfully slated….

We’re going to the Capitol, and we’re going to try and give… our Republicans — the weak ones because the strong ones don’t need any of our help — we’re going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country. So let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue.

When Trump’s Secret Service detail wouldn’t take him there, he exploded with fury. Then he went home and pouted.

“He wants to be alone right now;” Meadows told Hutchinson. “He doesn’t want to do anything,” Meadows told White House counsel Pat Cippolone. After the two man talked to Trump, Hutchinson heard Meadows tell Cippolone: “He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.”

Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Wil Bunch wrote a wonderful column Thursday afternoon, asking the key question:

What if the Secret Service and other aides had indeed kowtowed to “the (expletive deleted) president” and driven him to the Capitol? How might that have changed the course of the attempted and ultimately failed coup that was underway?

Bunch speculated that Trump “could have intensified the violence, prolonged it,” and made it “unsafe for Vice President Mike Pence and Congress to resume Biden’s certification.”

But he stopped short of imaging Trump taking over the Capitol himself, which I think was a mistake. He did, however, point me to this tweet from Ruth Ben-Ghiat, the New York University historian who specializes in strongmen:

Of the major-media writeups I read, the Washington Post’s came closes to capturing the full threat Trump had posed – at least with its print-edition headline:

But the story itself, by Mike DeBonis and Jacqueline Alemany, didn’t actually get to the key fact — that “some discussed having Trump enter the House chamber itself, where Congress was set to gather to count the electoral votes”  — until the 16th paragraph. Then they let it drop. And there’s been little to no mention in the follow-ups.

So the most important, incendiary, terrifying, far-reaching part of what Cassidy Hutchinson told us appears unlikely to get the attention it deserves — until or unless Trump gets charged with sedition.


  1. This is the weird part about everything that Trump touches. His aspirations are usually norm-destroying and in many instances criminal. But the execution is woefully incompetent, characteristic of a narcissistic preener. On Jan 6, a chauffeur derailed his big moment. That means the press is left to report what COULD HAVE happened, which then lets Trump’s defenders argue, But it didn’t; stop exaggerating.

  2. And the public, as always, is distracted by the shiny objects – the ketchup on the wall, Trump’s tantrums and the vocalized desire that the mob hang Mike Pence. Infotainment has more shock value than the explanation that every element of an actual coup was there that day – including the armed thugs strategically stationed outside the perimeter and the hotel rooms that became arsenals with semiautomatics and ammunition, “standing by.”

    Because of the contents of the indictment against several insurrectionists and their leaders, we know that information is credible because it’s in the text of the document itself. It was a coup that went wrong thanks to Bobby Engel, who refused to take “General Trump” to the battlefield.

  3. By and by, the story that a POTUS wanted to lead an armed crowd (at the least had excellent reason to presume was led by armed people because Proud Boys and Oath Keepers) to overthrow an election has, within ~72 hours essentially disappeared from the mainstream.
    When I say Job 1 for the mainstream is supporting the GOP no matter what, this.
    Somewhat related is Ezra Klein’s pod today which essentially what mainstream reporting on SCOTUS has been leaving out for well over a decade.

    • I listened to the hearings on NPR. Immediately after the they adjourned it was clear the NPR was going to bury the story about Trump grabbing the Secret Service agent by the clavicles. (Her gesture made it clear by “clavicles” she meant the base of his throat.) That is a shocking allegation, made under oath by a very credible, well-informed witness yet every commenter on NPR omitted that part of the story. All of them mentioned only the story about Trump lunging over the seat to grab the steering wheel. This is just one more example of the mainstream “liberal” media downplaying the extreme behavior of a Republican.

  4. We’re probably past anything as mild as seditious conspiracy, and into treason. Treason is the use of an armed force, a military force, to make war on the US. This military force does not, at all, have to be some foreign army that the traitor is fighting on the side of against the US. Our most significant episode of treason, after which hundreds of thousands of people were given amnesty for their treason, was the Civil War.

    Just the Secret Service detail that would have accompanied Trump to the Capitol and helped him muscle through to the House chamber would have constituted an organized armed force, though, sure, perhaps not rising to the level of the military force, the actual army, that you should have to make it treason. Add in the elements of the Proud Boys and Oathkeepers who were present that day, and maybe we’re closer to the military force you should have to talk seriously about treason. Both groups, and perhaps others that day, had elements equipped with firearms, and we know that they were there to provide security for the insurrection against the expected antifa/BLM/DC police reaction (These people do not differentiate between the antifa of their imagination, BLM, the DC police, the DC NG, or any organization run by “urban voters”?). Because Trump didn’t participate at the Capitol in person that day, the armed elements seemed to have remained outside the Capitol, but presumably the plan was for them to pitch in with the Secret Service to protect the Commander in Chief had he been there that day.

    That said, maybe Secret Service detail, plus the armed and organized elements of Proud Boys and Oathkeepers in hand that day, plus the participation of other members of the mob that day who had just brought their guns and other military gear, maybe all that still doesn’t rise to the level of the armed organized military force you should insist on before going for treason charges. I have no idea if there is much if any case law further defining criteria for what force is needed to constitute making war on the US, but I suspect that it makes more sense to look not so much at numbers or other characteristics of the armed group in question by themselves, but at its ability to face off against forces, such as the US Army, that clearly meet the criteria of a military force.

    The folks who planned to have Trump enter the Capitol at the head of this force must have imagined that it could successfully stand off whatever force that would be sent against it, or this plan would have been suicidal. Of course their force would presumably lose, pretty quickly, a stand-up fight against the active duty and the federalized NG units in the National Capitol Area. But, Trump was the Commander in Chief. Any military force inside the NCA was by law supposed to be under his command and take orders from him. Their plan must have relied on the not at all unreasonable assumption that many, if not most, if not all, of these units would obey their Commander in Chief and follow him in his coup. Maybe there would be no military fighting of one unit against another in the ideal case for them of every unit of the Army declaring for Trump and the coup, but that could hardly be guaranteed. And even had that happened, that would have constituted undoubted treason, the use of the an undoubted military force, a united US Army, to make war on the US.

    The last hurdle left to get to treason is whether this plan was pure pipe dream, or whether it was something that could be operationalized. No doubt you could find all sorts of loudmouths at the the ends of many bars, and all sorts of randos on the internet, who have formulated all sorts of plans that involve clear treason, but who cannot reasonably be prosecuted for anything because it’s all just talk, completely unrealizable, harmless talk. The mere fact that the current president, the Commander in Chief, spouts such talk is already a considerable way to making that talk realizable, but, sure, arguably not in itself sufficient to prosecute him and his for a capital crime.

    Building a solid case for treason, and by all means let us get the most solid case possible, will involve looking into just how much the people around Trump had operationalized the planning. What sort of contacts and feelers, with whom in the military, had they engaged in to sort out what the likely response would be to Trump leading his force into the Capitol. Purely abstract spitballing about using force to enter the Capitol may be insurrection and seditious conspiracy, and all sorts of crimes, but it’s not treason unless the planning had gone at least as far as feeling out military commanders. Maybe that’s why they had that snippet of Flynn at the last hearing. We know he urged at a 1/12/20 WH meeting that Trump send military units into states to seize ballots and voting machines. Perhaps he was in charge of sounding out military commanders, both for that earlier plan, and for this plan of Trump entering the Capitol by force.


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