Former US president Donald Trump has been left in a tricky position this week amid the latest testimony to the House Select Committee investigating 6 January – but one expert believes the Republican politician may have a get-out if he’s charged over his involvement on that dark day.
And to be clear, that would come from the US Department of Justice (DoJ), as the committee does not have the authority to charge individuals with a criminal offence.
Earlier this month, Democrat committee chair Bennie Thompson told reporters: “Our job is to look at the facts and circumstances around January 6 – what caused it – and make recommendations after that.”
What the committee can do, however, is make criminal referrals to the DoJ for the department to act upon. Republican vice chair of the committee, Liz Cheney, said on 14 June that it has “not issued a conclusion” on that just yet.
However, there is already talk of Mr Trump potentially being charged for his response to the 2020 election, as a recorded phone call between him and Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger heard the ex-president telling the election official to “find” the 11,780 votes needed to swing the state in his favour.
“If I had to put my money on one prosecution that’s going to go forward here that will send Donald Trump to jail – it’s Georgia,” said former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman, as it’s illegal to tamper with “any electors list, voter’s certificate, numbered list of voters, ballot box, voting machine, direct recording electronic (DRE) equipment, or tabulating machine”.
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And if Mr Trump was to be charged over his role on 6 January, attorney George Conway believes the politician could deploy a tactic used by former NFL player O. J. Simpson – who was known for being tried and acquitted for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson (his wife) and Ron Goldman (her friend).
Mr Conway told CNN: “You remember the O. J. Simpson case? Not the first one – not the murder case – but the one he actually went to jail for nine years in Nevada state prison for which was an armed robbery case.
“He lured a memorabilia dealer into a hotel because he thought the guy had stolen his stuff … so he wanted to take it back and he took it at gunpoint.”
Trump is going to use an 'OJ Simpson' defense -- and it will fail: George Conwaywww.youtube.com
Comparing this to Trump, Mr Conway continued: “But it doesn’t matter that O. J. Simpson thought that the stuff belonged to him, no more than it matters that Donald Trump might have thought that the election was won by him.
“He still used illegal means and intended to use illegal means to steal the stuff back, and that’s the thing that’s happening with Trump.
“What happened with Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony is that it showed that Donald Trump intended to use illegal means – force – to take back the presidency by marching with these people he knew couldn’t cross through magnetometers because they were armed, and he didn’t care.”
Ms Hutchinson, by the way, is an ex-White House aide, who on Tuesday made a series of allegations about Mr Trump which cast doubt on the idea the businessman was completely unaware of the threat posed by his supporters on the day the 2020 election was being certified.
When security would not allow some supporters at the January rally into The Ellipse because they were armed, Ms Hutchinson claimed Mr Trump said he didn’t “f***ing care that they have weapons”.
He is alleged to have said: “They are not here to hurt me. Take the f***ing mags [magnetometers] away. Let my people in.
“They can march to the Capitol from here, let the people in and take the mags away.”
In another damning allegation, Ms Hutchinson testified that Mr Trump said “something to the effect of ‘I’m the f-ing president, take me up to the Capitol now’” when a secret service agent driving The Beast refused to take the former Potus to the state building.
“Mr Trump then used his free hand to lunge toward Bobby Engel [the agent] and when [former White House chief of operations] Mr Ornato recounted the story to me, he motioned towards his clavicles,” she added.
Perhaps rather predictably for a former president who quickly branded any high-profile criticism as “fake news”, Mr Trump took to his Truth Social app after the testimony to say he “hardly knows” who Ms Hutchinson is.
“Other than I heard very negative things about her,” he said.
Addressing several claims made by the former White House aide, Mr Trump wrote: “[I] never complained about the crowd, it was massive. I didn’t want or request that we make room for people with guns to watch my speech.
“Who would ever want that? Not me!"
He also claimed the accusation he grabbed the steering wheel of the White House limousine to steer it to the Capitol was "fake".
“[It] wouldn’t even have been possible to do such a ridiculous thing," he said.
In a tweet shared after Ms Hutchinson’s evidence, the January 6 Committee wrote: “Today’s testimony makes clear that Trump wanted to go to the Capitol with the armed mob, despite warnings not to do so from his advisers.
“When the Secret Service ruled out the possibility, the former president erupted in anger in the Suburban he was riding in.”
Their investigation continues…
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