It was one of the most dramatic moments in a presentation filled with them: Just before President Donald J. Trump went onstage near the White House last year and urged his supporters to “fight like hell” and march on the Capitol, an aide testified on Tuesday, he was told that some of them were armed.
It was also a potentially consequential moment for any prosecution of Mr. Trump, legal experts said. Knowing that his crowd of supporters had the means to be violent when he exhorted them to march to the Capitol — and declared that he wanted to go with them — could nudge Mr. Trump closer to facing criminal charges, legal experts said.
“This really moved the ball significantly, even though there is still a long way to go,” said Renato Mariotti, a legal analyst and former federal prosecutor in Illinois.
The extent to which the Justice Department’s expanding criminal inquiry is focused on Mr. Trump remains unclear. But the revelations in the testimony to the House select committee by Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide, both provided new evidence about Mr. Trump’s activities before the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol and chipped away at any potential defense that he was merely expressing well-founded views about election fraud.
“There’s still a lot of uncertainty about the question of criminal intent when it comes to a president, but what just happened changed my bottom line,” said Alan Rozenshtein, a former Justice Department official who teaches at the University of Minnesota Law School. “I have gone from Trump is less than likely to be charged to he is more than likely to be charged.” [Continue reading…]