Until Tuesday, we had both publicly stated that the Department of Justice had insufficient evidence to indict former President Trump for his conduct on Jan. 6. Our conclusion, which we each came to independently, was largely grounded in First Amendment concerns about criminalizing purely political speech.
But Tuesday’s explosive testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, changed our minds. In particular, Hutchinson testified to hearing Trump order that the magnetometers (metal detectors) used to keep armed people away from the president be removed: “I don’t fucking care that they have weapons, they’re not here to hurt me. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the fucking mags [magnetometers] away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here; let the people in and take the mags away.”
Admittedly, Hutchinson is only one witness, and it is true that some of her testimony would, in the context of a criminal trial, constitute hearsay. But Hutchinson—unlike many of her detractors who have contested certain details of her testimony—testified under oath and, contrary to the sneering commentary of the House Judiciary Committee GOP Twitter account, not all of Hutchinson’s second-hand remarks were introduced to establish the truth of the matter asserted. Even much of that portion of her testimony that did constitute hearsay might still be admissible under the relevant evidentiary rules.
These utterances by Trump (as alleged by Hutchinson) were not political speech. They serve as additional proof of intent and context, and—crucially—a material act to increase the likelihood of violence. This easily distinguishes Trump’s speech at the rally from other kinds of core political speech that should never be criminalized. [Continue reading…]