Washington — The House committee investigating the takeover of the Capitol on January 6, 2021 heard dramatic testimony about Donald Trump’s efforts to disregard the election results and encourage a mob that ended up attacking the Capitol. But did Trump commit any crime?
Cassidy Hutchinson, a White House staffer, added new elements with explosive testimony about what Trump did before and during the January 6 uprising. She said Trump was told there were armed protesters at a rally he presided over earlier in the morning, in which he urged his supporters to “fight like hell” on Capitol Hill. Later, she added, he argued with her security personnel and tried to join the mob.
Trump aides knew that everything that was happening could be illegal. Hutchinson said that White House counsel Pat Cipollone had told him that “we would have been charged with every conceivable crime” if Trump went to Congress, that he had to certify Joe Biden’s victory in the election. Cipollone argued that Trump could expose himself to charges of obstructing justice or tampering with the vote count, according to Hutchinson.RELATED
The day after Hutchinson’s testimony, the commission summoned Cipollone to testify, saying in a letter that although he had submitted to “informal questioning” on April 13, his refusal to offer official testimony forced it to subpoena him for the force.
The Justice Department has expanded its investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection, but prosecutors have not said whether or not they will prosecute the former president.
A look at possible crimes and what Congress and the Justice Department can do:
What evidence is there?
Witnesses have said Trump was told multiple times by aides that he had lost the election and that his claim that there had been widespread fraud was untrue.
But Trump insisted, launching false accusations that led to the seizure of Congress.
He tried to get the Justice Department to support his cause. He lobbied the states, asking George’s secretary of state to “find” enough votes for him to win that state, and Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the session of Congress where Biden’s victory would be confirmed.
Hutchinson said Trump wanted the metal detectors deactivated in the area where he gave a speech and that he didn’t care if his supporters, who would later march on Capitol Hill, were armed because they hadn’t come there to hurt him.
Trump took to social media Tuesday to deny everything said by Hutchinson, whose testimony was based on his personal dealings with Trump and information from others who spoke with Trump that day.
Did Trump comm it a crime?
For now, Trump has not been charged with anything, but legal experts say that if Hutchinson’s testimony can be corroborated, it could give prosecutors plenty of material to consider indictment.
It is a crime to incite, organize, encourage, or promote a riot such as the one that occurred in Congress.
That, however, is a touchy subject. It could be argued that the harangue to “fight like hell” was ambiguous. The Senate acquitted Trump when he was subjected to a second impeachment trial after the insurrection.
In January, however, a federal judge rejected a request by Trump to dismiss lawsuits against him, saying it was “plausible” that Trump’s words sparked the unrest.
And Hutchinson’s first-person account of hearing Trump complain about the metal detectors would indicate that the president knew his supporters might engage in violence and did nothing.
The most likely, said Jimmy Gurule, a former federal prosecutor who teaches law at the University of Notre Dame, would be to accuse Trump of trying to mislead the country with his efforts to ignore the results of the elections and obstruct the certification of Biden’s victory. .
The legislative commission already said once in March that Trump had participated in “a criminal conspiracy.”
“I was perpetuating the big lie. For what purpose? To stay in power and prevent Biden from taking control of the presidency,” Gurule said. “He Misled the American People.”
Some legal experts say it doesn’t matter whether Trump really believed the election had been stolen from him or not. Others say it will all depend on the president’s intentions, his state of mind, and whether he supported activities he knew were illegal. While several witnesses have claimed that they told Trump that he had lost the election, it will be difficult to prove that he really believed it.
“He can say he didn’t think he was breaking any law and the prosecutor will have to prove that’s not true,” said Samuel Buell, a Duke University criminal law professor.
Will you initiate a trial of the Department of Justice?
Nobody knows. Legislative hearings produced shocking testimony, but the other side has neither defended itself nor questioned witnesses.
Prosecutors, in any case, are no longer focusing exclusively on the members of the mob but are subpoenaing relevant figures of the Republican Party in relation to a plan to present false voters to alter the outcome of the elections.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has said his department will make anyone who has done anything wrong pay and has already filed charges against more than 800 people, but has not said whether he considers prosecuting Trump.
A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.