January 6

January 6 Hearings Reveal More Trump Misconduct, but Was It Incitement?

Plus: Facebook censors information on abortion pills, TikTok provokes the ire of the FCC, and more...


As a mob of angry supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building, former President Donald Trump demanded that Secret Service agents take him to the riot. He even tried to grab the wheel of the car in which he was riding. That's according to testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide who worked for Mark Meadows, Trump's final chief of staff. Hutchinson made a surprise appearance at the January 6 committee hearings on Tuesday and described the former's president's allegedly agitated and irresponsible behavior before, during, and after the attack on the Capitol.

Hutchinson told the committee that Trump threw his lunch at a wall when he learned that former Attorney General William Barr had publicly declined to endorse any stolen election claims. "There was ketchup dripping down the wall," she said.

Before giving his speech on January 6, Trump told his aides not to bother checking members of the crowd for weapons, saying "they are not here to hurt me," according to Hutchinson.

Meadows and other senior officials were well aware that mayhem could ensue, according to the Associated Press:

In one gripping scene Hutchinson recalled walking Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani out of the White House when he asked if she was "excited about the 6th."

"We're going to the Capitol, it's going to be great, the president's going to be there, he's going to look powerful," she recalled Giuliani saying.

When she returned inside and told Meadows of that conversation, he told her a lot was going on.

"Things might get real, real bad," Meadows told her, she recalled.

Mick Mulvaney, former acting chief of staff for Trump, described the president's awareness that the protesters were armed as "very, very bad," though it was not a crime for the protesters to carry weapons outside the Capitol; protesting while armed is just the First Amendment plus the Second Amendment.

The Dispatch's David French thinks Hutchinson's testimony raises the possibility that Trump could actually be prosecuted for incitement:

First, Trump summoned the mob to Washington. While Trump is hardly the only organizer of the January 6 rally, he did explicitly call his supporters to Washington, and he did so in a way that implied mayhem. On December 19, 2020, he tweeted, "Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild.

Second, he knew the mob was armed and dangerous. This is Hutchinson's key testimony. If her claims are true, he was so confident that the mob intended him no harm that he wanted to remove the "mags," a key element of presidential security. He didn't just know the mob was armed, he wanted it to be armed.

Third, he not only exhorted the mob to "fight like hell" and march on the Capitol, he reportedly attempted to lead it himself.

As French concedes, however, Trump also exhorted his followers to march "peacefully and patriotically." French describes that comment as "pro forma ass-covering," but the "fight like hell" comment did not actually accompany a command to enter the Capitol—Trump merely instructed his followers to march to the Capitol, which was not a crime, even if Trump knew members of his mob were armed.

Other aspects of Trump's behavior are also under scrutiny. When he learned about the attack on the Capitol, he demanded to be driven to the building. Secret Service refused, prompting Trump to reach for the wheel of the vehicle, according to Hutchinson.

Debates broke out on social media as to whether this detail is actually possible, with some Trumpian figures—including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R–Ga.)—alleging that it isn't. On the other hand, Trump apparently left the January 6 rally in his SUV, rather than the presidential limo, and was plausibly seated within striking distance of the wheel.

According to NBC News, the Secret Service is prepared to rebut the charge:

The January 6 hearings do not constitute a trial, of course: Trump will not be made available to argue his side of the story, or to contradict claims made about him. It is easy for witness testimony to seem damning in the absence of cross-examination. In lieu of that, the public must make do with Trump's response on his social media platform Truth Social, where he blasted Hutchinson as "very negative" and also "bad news," while simultaneously asserting that he hardly knew her.

CNN analyst Chris Cillizza described the revelations as "utterly devastating" for Trump. It has, of course, already been well-established that Trump's false statements about the validity of the 2020 election stoked the mob, and his failure to swiftly condemn the violence was inexcusable. It was so bad that many of his most prominent supporters tried desperately to contact him about it while it was happening. His own family members were aghast.

But the reality of the matter is that there's no middle ground when it comes to Trump. His detractors have overwhelming evidence to support the view that he is one of the most irresponsible public figures in the country's history. His supporters, on the other hand, are pleased with his record—social conservatives just scored their biggest victory in half a century, thanks to Trump's Supreme Court appointments—and won't change their minds just because January 6 is being re-litigated yet again.


A spokesperson for Facebook said some posts detailing how to obtain abortion pills were incorrectly taken down. An earlier report by Vice had discovered that Facebook would remove posts containing the phrase "abortion pills can be mailed." When the word abortion was swapped for guns or marijuana, the posts survived, according to the Associated Press.

While that may sound suspicious, Facebook has a broad policy against using the platform to sell or send pharmaceuticals.


Federal Communications Commission head Brendan Carr called on Apple and Google to ban TikTok from their app stores due to concerns that the Chinese-owned company could be sharing users' information with its authoritarian government. "It is clear that TikTok poses an unacceptable national security risk due to its extensive data harvesting being combined with Beijing's apparently unchecked access to that sensitive data," wrote Carr in an open letter to Google and Apple.

Carr is right that TikTok's massive popularity—it is now the world's most visited website—raises some legitimate national security concerns, given the Chinese government's control over it. As Matthew Yglesias wrote for Slow Boring, China's ability to control the political narrative on TikTok is significant: Government censors can prohibit discussions of certain topics and besiege users with pro-Chinese propaganda. There's already evidence that when it came to the COVID-19 pandemic, the platform did just that.

Of course, the U.S. government is not without its hypocrisies. The Biden administration, as well as members of Congress from both parties, have frequently urged social media companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google to make specific content moderation decisions. The White House repeatedly pressed Facebook, for instance, to take down so-called "misinformation" relating to COVID-19 even though many of the government's talking points on the efficacy of masks and the origins of the disease have proven to be untrue, or more complicated than previously admitted.

It's appropriate to warn the public about the unique challenges posed by Chinese control of a major social media company. At the same time, the U.S. has handled its social media companies in increasingly illiberal ways.


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