Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson.
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- Former WH aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified that Trump sought to lead an armed mob to the Capitol.
- Current and former Trump aides say the testimony could spell legal trouble for the ex-president.
- And a former Ken Starr deputy said Trump may have committed “seditious conspiracy.”
Former and current aides to Donald Trump believe the bombshell testimony in Tuesday’s January 6 committee hearing could land the former president in legal jeopardy.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, said that Trump sought to lead protesters he knew to be armed to the Capitol in his bid to overturn his defeat in the 2020 election.
The committee also provided evidence that Trump, or someone close to him, sought to influence witnesses testifying to the panel.
The New York Times reported that as Hutchinson’s testimony was broadcast, current and former Trump aides exchanged messages discussing the political and potentially legal peril the testimony placed the former president in.
Current and former Trump aides also expressed shock in the wake of the testimony to Insider on Tuesday.
According to the Times report, some aides believe that Hutchinson’s allegation that Trump sought to encourage protesters to march on the Capitol despite knowing they were armed could help sustain an incitement charge.
Incitement is the crime of encouraging other to commit an offense. Prosecutors would have to show that Trump knew his actions would likely result in acts of violence.
Bill Barr, who served as Trump’s attorney general and resigned over his attempt to overturn the election, told The Times of the DOJ: “The department is clearly looking into all this, and this hearing definitely gave investigators a lot to chew on.”
Mick Mulvaney, who served as acting White House Chief of Staff to Trump, suggested that the evidence of witness tampering was most worrying for Trump.
“There is an old maxim: It’s never the crime, it’s always the coverup,” tweeted Mulvaney. “Things went very badly for the former President today. My guess is that it will get worse from here.”
Solomon Wisenberg, who worked as Independent Counsel Ken Starr’s deputy in the 1998 investigation of President Bill Clinton, told The New York Times’ Peter Baker that Hutchinson’s testimony was evidence of the more serious charge of seditious conspiracy by the former president.
“This is the smoking gun,” Wisenberg said, according to Baker. “There isn’t any question this establishes a prima facie case for his criminal culpability on seditious conspiracy charges.”
The charge of seditious conspiracy requires prosecutors to prove that at least two people sought to use force to overthrow the government, oppose its authority, or subvert the execution of a US law.
Rep. Liz Cheney, at the outset of the hearings, said the committee would provide evidence that the Capitol riot was the result of a seditious conspiracy. On Tuesday, she also shared a news article that suggested that the chances of the committee investigation resulting in a Trump prosecution were growing stronger.
In her testimony, Hutchinson recounted how on January 6, 2021, the White House counsel Pat Cipollone had taken her aside and expressed concern that if Trump went to the Capitol, it might constitute an obstruction of Congress or incitement to violence. Obstruction is a criminal attempt to willingly stop or delay the actions of Congress.
In a series of messages on his Truth Social network on Tuesday, Trump sought to undermine Hutchinson’s testimony, seeking to portray her as a “social climber” whom he barely remembered.
Insider has contacted a spokesperson for Trump on the claims that the former president could face legal charges as a result of Tuesday’s testimony.
When it concludes its investigation, the January 6 committee will decide whether to make a criminal referral of Trump to the Justice Department. If the department decides to pursue a prosecution, evidence that the committee has gathered would likely form the core of its case against Trump.