Editor’s Note: Mitchell Zimmerman’s June 22, 2022 column explored a similar theme. This newer column contains significant new information.
Trump White House insider and January 6 Committee witness Cassidy Hutchinson provided startling and compelling evidence that Donald Trump deliberately set out to incite an insurrection at the Capitol.
Before giving his inflammatory speech, Hutchinson testified, Trump was told his supporters were armed with guns, knives, spears, and flagpoles and were wearing body armor.
“I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me,” she heard Trump say, urging the Secret Service to turn off metal detectors. “Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.”
Hutchinson, like the many other Republican witnesses who testified, has no motive to lie. She was a loyal member of the Trump White House who had been proud to work for him — she just didn’t want to overthrow democracy.
When his speech concluded, Trump was informed that his supporters were already attacking the Capitol police. He wanted to join them, Hutchinson said. Trump even grabbed the wheel of his limousine and physically attacked a Secret Service agent who refused to take him to the Capitol.
At the White House, Trump watched the unfolding violence on television. According to Hutchinson, Trump’s own chief of staff said Trump didn’t want to do anything to restrain it — and even approved of the rioters’ death threats against Vice President Pence.
“We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable,” White House lawyer Pat Cipollone warned.
They should be. But they haven’t been — yet.
Attorney General Merrick Garland still hesitates to indict Trump, perhaps fearing it would inflame MAGA Republicans. It will. But letting that stop you is as good as saying that presidents are above the law.
Not indicting would be far more dangerous, because the threat to democracy is not yet over.
Any belief that handing Donald Trump a “Get Out of Jail Free” card could reconcile a divided nation is out of touch with reality.
There is a deep fissure between those who know that Biden won the election and those in the thrall of the big lie; between those who were shocked by the lethal violence on January 6 and those who say it was “legitimate political discourse,” as the Republican National Committee now claims; and between those who believe in peaceful elections and those who think violence is warranted when they lose.
The peril is extreme because GOP politicians are working on many fronts to thwart majority rule. Many Republicans running for governor and secretary of state say they would not have certified Biden’s victory. If Trump or another Republican loses again in 2024, they will likely try to overturn the outcome based on fake fraud claims.
Notwithstanding the absence of evidence of voting fraud, 19 states controlled by Republicans have passed laws making it harder to vote and raising the specter of criminal prosecution for voter registration mistakes.
In some Republican-controlled states, legislatures seek the power to appoint electors regardless of what voters say. In Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, Republicans want to allocate electoral votes by gerrymandered districts so the loser might get most of the state’s votes, among other schemes to thwart majority rule.
Election officials face threats of violence. Nonpartisan election workers may be criminally prosecuted for things like sending mail ballot applications.
Over all this looms the menace of political violence. Armed Trump supporters may haunt voter lines in Democrat-tilting districts to intimidate would-be voters. How many will remain on line as AR-15-wielding vigilantes instigate fights?
Those who believe in democracy must push back against all of these dangers. But since the big lie is the excuse for the attacks, the place to start is with the lie’s author. Trump must be indicted for sedition for attempting to overthrow the government of the United States.
Mitchell Zimmerman is an attorney, longtime social activist, and author of the anti-racism thriller Mississippi Reckoning. This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.