Abrams: No smoking gun to indict Trump from hearing

Dan Abrams Live

(NewsNation) — Tuesday was supposed to be a blockbuster day in the Jan. 6 committee hearing, and if you’re interested in the political or moral side of what was presented … I’d suggest going to one of the other networks. 

I’m interested in looking at Tuesday’s hearing from a legal perspective and whether the committee provided enough evidence for the Department of Justice to bring criminal charges against former President Donald Trump.

I’ve long believed the DOJ will not charge the former president unless they can show a direct tie between Trump, and the extremists who plotted the violence of Jan. 6, 2021.

Going into to the proceedings, I thought this hearing was potentially the biggest so far, because the committee was going to produce their evidence potentially linking Trump to the violent extremists. But I don’t think they got there.

The first half of Tuesday’s hearing mostly dealt with a Dec. 18 meeting at the White House between Trump and a group of his advisers, including Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell. And while there were a number of juicy tidbits about the absurd plot to overturn the election for the political types to chew on, there wasn’t really anything specifically tying Trump to a criminal conspiracy.

The closest the committee may have gotten to showing that Trump may have been involved in plotting violence was in connection with his former top aide, Steve Bannon.

Committee member Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., cited White House phone records showing that Trump talked to Bannon just minutes before Bannon went on air with an eerily accurate prediction about what would happen at the Capitol the next day.

The president spoke with Bannon, his closest adviser, at least twice Jan. 5.; the first conversation they had lasted for 11 minutes.

FILE – Rioters are seen outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

“All hell is going to break loose tomorrow,” Bannon said on a podcast before the riot. “It’s all converging and now we’re on the point of attack. I’ll tell you this it’s not going to happen as you think it’s going to happen, all I can say is strap in.”

So Trump and Bannon talk on the phone for 11 minutes, and then, right after the conversation, Bannon goes on his podcast, and stirs up his audience to descend on the Capitol. It’s interesting and troubling but as a legal matter, I would hardly call it a smoking gun. 

You still need to show exactly what was said and that Trump was involved in plotting the violence. While Bannon has agreed to testify, I would not expect him to offer anything to incriminate the former president.

Then, committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., laid out ties between Trump allies Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, and two major extremist groups, who were involved in plotting the violence, The Proud Boys and The Oath Keepers.

That is not a good look, but it still doesn’t establish the direct link between Trump himself and the extremists that the DOJ appears to be seeking.

The committee linked Trump allies and the extremists, but they didn’t show these allies were specifically acting on Trump’s behalf when they were in contact with the extremists. We have long known about Stone and Flynn’s relationships to the groups.

And then there were several texts that extremists sent ahead of the former president’s Jan. 6 speech at the Ellipse, revealing that they knew he was going to “spontaneously” call for his supporters to march to the Capitol.

Trump had planned to announce a march to the Capitol on Jan. 6 And while some of his rhetoric that morning was clearly inflammatory, he also clearly used the word “peacefully” when he spoke during the rally. As a legal matter, that’s very important

Bottom line: While Tuesday’s developments about the plot to overturn the election were not good for Donald Trump, I still don’t think this will change any minds at the DOJ about indicting him.

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