The mob did what Donald Trump wanted | Opinion

The mob did what Donald Trump wanted | Opinion
Jan. 6 riot. (Image via Creative Commons).

Thursday’s prime-time hearing of the J6 committee focused on one question: What was Donald Trump doing for the 187 minutes from when he set the mob on the Capitol until he told them to go home?

The committee deftly wove together live testimony, audio and video depositions, texts and chats, and riot footage to illustrate what was going on inside and outside the White House during that time.

Instead of coordinating the defense of the US government, as you’d expect, Trump was calling senators and lawyer Rudy Giuliani. He was still trying to put a coup together. And, uncharacteristically for Trump, he sent the White House photographer away while he did it.

READ MORE: Josh Hawley voted to cover up his involvement in a congressional coup

This is a guy who would invite a photographer to shoot him shooting someone on Fifth Avenue, but he didn’t want his machinations recorded for posterity. How’s that for consciousness of guilt?

The hearing corroborated witness Cassidy Hutchinson’s explosive testimony. The former White House staffer recalled how Trump knew the mob was armed and how he clashed with his Secret Service detail when they refused to take him to the siege of the US Capitol.

Hutchinson testified that the head of Trump’s Secret Service detail, Tony Ornato, recounted to her how Trump had become enraged. Retired Secret Service agent Mark Robinson testified in his video deposition that he too heard Ornato say that Trump became irate. Robinson said he was told that “the president was upset and was adamant about going to the Capitol.” He recalled radio traffic about insurgents with AR-15s in the trees along Constitution Avenue.

Anonymous sources within the Secret Service disputed Hutchinson’s account and hinted that they were willing to tell their side of the story under oath. So far none have followed through.

READ MORE: Watch: Jared Kushner reveals what Donald Trump tried to omit from his post-insurrection address

However, Ornato and Trump’s driver Bobby Engel have taken the unusual step of hiring private lawyers. Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security has launched an investigation into the destruction of Secret Service text messages from J6, which the agency claims were lost in some Rube Goldberg-style IT mishap. Ironically, the outgoing director of the Secret Service is leaving to join Snapchat, an app famous for its rapidly disappearing texts.

Thursday’s hearing offered new glimpses of how dire the situation in the Capitol had become as the mob streamed into the building. We heard audio from Mike Pence’s security detail and heard testimony from an unnamed national security official who described how the agents guarding Pence were calling their families to say goodbye because they were afraid they were about to be killed by the mob.

We learned that White House national security staffers were monitoring these desperate communications in real-time. No one said so explicitly, but the J6 committee was inviting the inference that Trump must also have known the danger Pence was in.

Trump ignored entreaties from his advisors to calm his supporters. Instead, he fired off an even more inflammatory tweet, accusing Mike Pence of lacking the courage to overturn the election. "The situation was already bad, and so it felt like he was pouring gasoline on the fire by tweeting that," former White House staffer Sarah Matthews said.

The serious proceedings were lightened by moments of dark but revealing comedy, including the mad dash of US Senator Josh Hawley from the mob he helped incite, and the news that son-in-law Jared Kushner was stress-showering during the siege. The committee also played outtakes from the filming of Trump’s address the following day, in which he refused to say that the election was over.

“But this election is now over — Congress has certified the results — ” Trump read from the teleprompter, and then stopped adding, “I don’t want to say the election is over. I just want to say Congress has certified the results without saying the election is over, OK?”

The committee’s many streams of evidence gelled into a clear closing argument for this phase of the investigation: Trump refused to quell the mob because the mob was doing exactly what he wanted them to do. The mob was his instrument to overturn the election.

READ MORE: Eighth January 6th hearing made Donald Trump 'look horrific': Fox News host

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