Tuesday’s Jan. 6 hearing may have established the closest thing to a so-called “smoking gun” in a bipartisan Congressional effort to prove that Donald Trump not only incited violence at the U.S. Capitol last year but also did so knowing his angry supporters were armed.
But that wasn’t necessarily the most surprising part of the hearing for anybody who knows anything about the former president and his reputation for being unhinged.
Star witness Cassidy Hutchinson, who worked as an aide to Mark Meadows, Trump’s White House chief of staff, offered riveting testimony on Tuesday that may as well have been describing Tony Soprano, the sociopathic mafia boss portrayed by the late James Gandolfini on the iconic HBO crime series, “The Sopranos.”
Hutchinson, 26, swore under oath while telling tales about Trump that placed a spotlight on the single-term Republican president’s penchant for entitled tantrums and initiating violence. That is not to mention credible allegations of witness tampering and intimidation that may have been inspired by Trump, if not directly ordered by him.
And now, of course, Trump has reportedly moved to discredit Hutchinson and distance himself from her, albeit in a woefully unconvincing attempt.
Those portions of Hutchinson’s testimony could have been written into a scene from classic movies that document the mafia’s criminal prowess, including “Goodfellas” and “Casino.”
While most if not all of us are very familiar with Trump’s rage — that’s the name of legendary reporter Bob Woodward’s literary profile of the former president — Hutchinson painted a vivid picture of a president who acted out physically when he didn’t get his way.
She testified to seeing that rage firsthand when she described Trump’s reaction to learning that his Attorney General Bill Barr told the Associated Press in an interview following the 2020 election that there was no evidence of voter fraud. Barr’s comments in the interview undermined Trump’s “big lie” that he lost the 2020 election because of fraudulent absentee ballots that were determined to have never existed.
Hutchinson said she heard a noise near the White House dining room and went to find out what happened. That’s when, she testified, that she found a “valet” cleaning up a mess on the dining room wall that came from food. Notably, Hutchinson referred to “ketchup” that she said was smeared on the wall. On the floor was a broken porcelain plate, Hutchinson said.
“The valet had articulated that the president was extremely angry at the attorney general’s AP interview, and had thrown his lunch against the wall,” Hutchinson testified. She said she was advised to “steer clear” of Trump.
Similarly, Hutchinson recounted a different instance of Trump’s alleged rage that involved food.
“There were several times through my tenure with the chief of staff that I was aware of him either throwing dishes or flipping the tablecloth to let all the contents of the table go onto the floor and likely break or go everywhere,” Hutchinson testified.
Witness intimidation and tampering
Toward the end of Hutchinson’s testimony, Jan. 6 Committee Co-chair Rep. Lynn Cheney said that she had “received evidence of one particular practice that raises significant concern.” Cheney said people they subpoenaed had been contacted by others in an attempt to influence or impact their testimony.
One unidentified person who testified said they were contacted and encouraged to “be a team player” in order to “stay in good graces in Trump World.”
The most damning part came next: “And they have reminded me a couple of times that trump does read transcripts and just to keep that in mind” amid testimony.
For any fan of the aforementioned mob flicks, you know exactly what the above quotes mean.
The spirit of such attempted witness intimidation and tampering is personified in the below legendary scene of “The Sopranos” when mob boss Tony (Gandolfini) uses an enforcer named Furio to physically intimidate a debtor into paying what is owed.
While that scene isn’t as nuanced as the situation presented by Cheney, the employment of fear for retribution — whether political or physical — is the common denominator.
As such, Norm Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institue and a legal analyst for CNN, insisted that Trump is all but guaranteed to go to prison for the alleged thuggery.
It’s no secret that Trump is okay with violence. He’s the same man who once boasted he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York City and not lose any voters. He’s flirted with nuclear war in the name of vanity.
And so it followed in that same context that, according to Hutchinson, Trump incited violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, even as he knew that his followers were armed with guns and knives and other weapons.
Trump was dismayed at the size of the crowd on Jan. 6 when he was advised that people on Capitol grounds had guns and were strategically positioning themselves in trees. Video footage played by the Jan. 6 Committee verified those allegations.
Trump responded to the very real threat of violence and death by saying he would be safe and suggesting that’s all that mattered.
“I don’t fucking care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the fucking mags away,” Trump reportedly said in reference to “magnetometers,” which is another term for metal detectors.
“Let my people in,” Trump continued without any apparent worry about what his armed supporters might do.
An anecdote from Hutchinson also described how she was told that Trump physically attacked his own Secret Service agent for preventing the president from going to the Capitol.
Hutchinson said one Secret Service agent told her that Trump employed a combination of the above two qualities of tantrums and intimidation when he was told he would not be driven to the U.S. Capitol as he requested.
“I am the effing president, take me up to the Capitol now,” Trump said, according to the story Hutchinson told.
Hutchinson said she was told Trump became “irate” and tried to grab the steering wheel of the SUV in which he was being driven back to the White House. When the Secret Service agent rebuffed Trump and moved his hand away, Hutchinson said she was told the president used his other hand to “lunge” at the Secret Service agent who was driving and grab his “clavicles,” which are also known as the collarbone.
Another way to look at that alleged episode is that Trump tried to strangle a Secret Service agent whose sole job is to protect the president.
Despite the abundance of circumstantial evidence against Trump, it remained to be seen if 1) the Jan. 6 hearings will make any difference in the long run and 2) Trump will be criminally charged for what seems like a clear-cut case of sedition and conspiracy.
If history is any indication, Trump loyalists will remain unswayed as the former president moves closer to mounting a new White house run in 2024.
This is America.