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Trump Aides Watch Testimony and Brace for Damage

WASHINGTON — Devastating new testimony from a former White House aide, describing a president desperate for power, indifferent to the danger threatening his No. 2 and potentially tampering with congressional witnesses, sparked concern among current and former officials on Tuesday. advisors to Donald J. Trump on the potential legal and political ramifications.

Reactions were far from unanimous, however, with some close confidants of the former president said they doubted the testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Trump’s White House chief of staff, scored particularly high in the pantheon of controversy surrounding him. involved in his six years as a national political figure.

A Trump aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, downplayed the impact of Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony, acknowledging that it painted a picture of Mr. Trump as unhinged on Jan. 6, but said it shouldn’t surprise anyone at this point.

Still, some current and former associates of Mr. Trump expressed concern that the entirety of Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony would cause him serious political harm as he contemplates a third presidential campaign.

“Things went really bad for the former president today,” Mick Mulvaney, a former White House chief of staff, wrote on Twitter. “My guess is it will get worse from here.”

A trusted current adviser called the testimony “a murderer.”

Ms. Hutchinson told the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack that Mr. Trump had demanded that aides stop security checks with metal detectors at his meeting on the Ellipse before the riots — though some supporters with guns had already turned them down. to ensure that a larger crowd would appear in television images during his speech. She said Mr Trump had done this despite knowing that some in the crowd were armed, explaining that his supporters were not there to attack him.

Ms. Hutchinson testified that a Secret Service agent told her that Mr. Trump had lashed out violently — grabbed the steering wheel and jumped to another officer’s collarbone — when his protective department refused to drive him to the Capitol while protesters were there. flocked to it on foot, urging instead to send him back to the White House.

And when asked about Trump supporters’ chants that Vice President Mike Pence should be hanged, Ms. Hutchinson testified that her boss, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, quoted Mr. Trump as saying, “Mike deserves the.”

Trump’s current and former associates messaged each other as the hearing unfolded, detailing a series of revelations they believed to be potentially quite damaging, mostly political but also possibly legal.

If Mr Trump had indeed been warned that people were armed and still encouraged them to walk to the Capitol, some advisers said privately, that might bolster a charge of sedition against him.

Others said it was exculpatory for Mr Trump to have urged protesters to march “peacefully” to the Capitol in his speech.

Within hours of Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony being finalized, a number of Trump advisers seized on her account of Mr. Trump’s attempt to grab the wheel of the SUV he was driving in as by far the most explosive new impeachment against him — and the one they most hoped to discredit.

But several also expressed concern at the committee’s suggestion, at the end of the day’s hearing, that someone close to Mr Trump may have tried to tamper with or intimidate the committee’s witnesses by telling them. recall that Mr Trump reads the panel’s transcripts. Such interference can be prosecuted criminally.

Mr Mulvaney, calling the hearing a “stunning two hours,” called the warning about witness tampering a “real bomb that has fallen.”

Tuesday’s testimony was just the latest case in which a former Trump associate or administration official raised a right hand and testified under oath about shocking scenes of Mr Trump’s behavior behind closed doors. And Mr. Trump has long displayed a gravity-defying ability to escape the most dire predicaments and even turn them to his advantage.

His first impeachment trial, in early 2020, was a fundraiser for his reelection campaign and sparked a brief surge in public opinion polls. His second impeachment attracted bipartisan support but ultimately failed, and Mr. Trump quickly consolidated — and maintained — his position as the most powerful figure in the Republican Party.

Mr. Trump responded to Tuesday’s hearing by posting a dozen messages on his Truth Social website attacking Ms. Hutchinson and denying her most explosive testimony.

He said he never complained about the size of the crowd at his Jan. 6 meeting, never claimed that Mr. Pence deserved to be hanged, and never tried to grab the wheel when Secret Service agents refused to take him to the airport. Capitol to drive.

“Her fake story that I tried to grab the wheel of the White House limousine to send it to the Capitol is sick and fraudulent, as is the unelected committee itself,” Trump wrote.

Mr Trump’s modus operandi has long been to punch holes in specific elements of a prosecutor’s story as a way to discredit the bigger story and to insist that he isn’t really concerned about the threat. that entails an investigation.

That approach lasted Tuesday, when his aides emphasized how much of the most explosive parts of Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony were based on rumors she told the committee rather than what she had seen herself, and they claimed other elements of her story did not match their understanding of the facts.

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