Trump reportedly said, “Take the cups away.” “They are not here to hurt me.”
A lawyer filing a lawsuit against Trump and others on behalf of 10 House Democrats, Joseph Sellers, said the testimony could bolster their case because it supports the idea that Trump knew violence was likely when he urged his supporters to march to the Capitol.
“The testimony that came today I think was very strong confirmation that Trump knew and expected that the assembled crowd would engage in violent action directed at the Capitol with the intent of interfering with the ability to certify the results of the election,” Sellers said in an interview.
The new information also appears to align with US District Court Judge Amit Mehta’s explanation of why he rejected Trump’s attempt to dismiss three lawsuits. Mehta said it was reasonable for Trump to endorse the Jan. 6 violence with a set of public warnings to the crowd to march on the Capitol and his subsequent resistance to issuing a statement calling on his supporters to stand down.
Vendors said the reported exchange with Trump about weapons in the crowd was “closely related” to the civil lawsuits and reinforced other indications that Trump intended to use violence and threats to intimidate members of Congress.
“This evidence goes very much towards confirming that this was the purpose of Trump’s actions,” Sellers added.
A Trump spokesperson did not respond to a letter seeking comment for this article.
Trump’s strongest defense against the lawsuits could be his claim that he was acting in an official capacity as president during his Jan. 6 speech and related activities. His lawyers have claimed that he is entitled to absolute immunity in cases as a result.
Mehta rejected this argument, but Trump appealed his decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Arguments on the appeal are expected in the fall, but if either side tries to take the case to the Supreme Court, it could take more than a year before the cases move to the fact-finding stage, if they get that far.
Hutchinson’s testimony, along with witness testimony in previous House hearings on January 6, led to new calls for Attorney General Merrick Garland to file criminal charges against Trump. However, this type of prosecution faces a series of potential obstacles not found in civil cases.
“The Department of Justice has to prove a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a much greater burden than in civil lawsuits,” where only Trump’s responsibility should likely be established.