'He betrayed his oath': Capitol Police sergeant unloads on Donald Trump in powerful editorial
United States Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell nearly lost his life defending the besieged seat of American democracy during the January 6th, 2021 insurrection that was fomented by former President Donald Trump and executed by his militant loyalist hordes.
On Sunday, Gonell published an editorial in The New York Times demanding that Trump be held accountable for having "betrayed" him and his uniformed brethren and that Trump should never again be permitted to hold elected office.
Ex-White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson's blockbuster testimony before the House Select Committee investigating the attack, Gonell began, ushered in a painful reliving of that day's events.
"I felt it was important for me to be in the committee room on June 28 to hear the former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony. Along with three colleagues, I went, even though I knew it would be difficult to relive the horrors I witnessed. Although I experienced firsthand the brutal onslaught of the insurrectionists, I was shocked to hear Ms. Hutchinson explain the extent to which former President Donald Trump incited the people who almost killed me," Gonell wrote.
"I am an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, a U.S. Army veteran and a sergeant who has worked on the force for 16 years, but I’ve never witnessed anything like the Jan. 6 attack — even in combat in Iraq. I was sure I was going to die that day, trampled by the hordes of President Trump’s supporters trying to stop the official transfer of power on his behalf," he recalled.
Hutchinson shared that while Trump knew that his supporters were armed and cocked, he did nothing to stop them for several hours. To Gonell, that detail was almost incomprehensible.
"I never would have imagined that an American president would not only not come to the aid of law enforcement officers defending the Capitol but encourage that crowd to march on it. Instead of being notified about the danger, my colleagues and I were kept in the dark, and thus walked into an ambush unprepared," he said.
"I don’t know what part of Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony enraged me most: that Mr. Trump wanted to be driven to the Capitol to lead the vicious riot, that he’d spurred his supporters on knowing they were armed, or that he ignored some of his advisers and even his daughter who told him to call it off, allegedly fighting with his own Secret Service agent after he refused to let the president be driven there," Gonell continued. "Or maybe it was the fact that Mr. Trump eventually told the rioters who’d criminally assaulted my colleagues and me while trying to bring down the U.S. government: 'Go home. We love you. You are very special.'"
One particular item that Hutchinson noted was that Trump growled that “I don’t effing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me" as he tried to convince the Secret Service to drive him down the street to join the mayhem.
Hutchinson also recounted that Trump, having been informed that the Capitol complex had been breached, was told by her then-boss White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows that Trump “doesn’t want to do anything."
According to Hutchinson, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone fired back at Meadows with, "something needs to be done or people are going to die and the blood’s going to be on your effing hands.”
From where Gonell was stationed at the front lines, Trump's inaction was a death warrant.
The nine people who died as a result of that horrific day — including the four officers who died by suicide after the attack — weren’t so lucky. Neither was I. At the West Front of the Capitol, I was attempting to hold a tactical police line along with about 60 members of my team, as we were taught at the academy, to keep the invaders at bay. We were savagely beaten and easily overpowered. I would later learn that the mob was estimated to be 10,000 strong," he explained.
The scene at the Capitol "was like a medieval battleground," Gonell continued. "With our lives in peril, I would have been justified in using lethal force. But I didn’t want to spark a massacre. Over the course of the five-hour struggle, my hands were bloodied from being smashed by a stolen police baton. My right foot and left shoulder were so damaged that I needed multiple surgeries to repair them. My head was hit with such force with a pipe that I no doubt would have sustained brain damage if not for my helmet."
The personal and professional fallout that has begotten Gonell and his family is profound.
"I have spent a year and a half in physical therapy for chronic pain that I have been told will never go away. My young son almost lost his father and my wife had to quit medical school, owing to the stress and demands of my ongoing recovery," he shared with the Times.
"After the riot, I received a Congressional Gold Medal and was recently named a Great Immigrant by the Carnegie Corporation. After recently passing the lieutenant’s test, I hoped to be promoted. Instead, on the day of Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony, I was heartbroken to hear my doctors tell me that at 43, I should no longer work with the police force," Gonell revealed. "The physical and emotional damage I sustained on Jan. 6 not only cut short my career, it has upended my life. Five of my colleagues in law enforcement died and more than 850 rioters were arrested. So many families have been ruined because of one man’s lust for power."
Gonell also admonished "the Republicans who still refuse to provide testimony under oath and instead dangerously downplay how close we came to losing our democracy" and praised "the courage of the witnesses who’ve come forward to tell the truth."
Gonell said that he knows "how distressing it can be" and that "I just wish we all had been able to testify sooner, right after Jan. 6, when we might have had more impact."
His conclusion was unambiguous.
"The enabling of Mr. Trump needs to stop now. He should not only be banned from running for any other government office, he should never be allowed near the White House again," Gonell closed his piece. "I believe he betrayed his oath to defend the Constitution, and it was to the detriment of me, my colleagues and all Americans, whom he was supposed to protect."
Gonell's full column is available here (subscription required).
- 'Who were they?' Jan. 6 panel to name Republicans who sought ... ›
- Attorney George Conway: Trump's best Jan. 6 defense may be ... ›
- GOP congressman dumps Trump after watching Jan. 6 hearings ... ›