Even still — after more than half a dozen years of jaw-dropping behavior — Donald Trump has the capacity to shock.
Accosting a Secret Service agent. Pitching a fit and heaving his lunch plate against the wall. Risking bloodshed in hopes of building a bigger crowd and feeding his insatiable ego.
The facts that surfaced in Tuesday's special edition of the Jan. 6 committee hearings weren't necessarily revelatory. Anyone who's lived through Trump's political rise, from the moment he launched his presidential bid with a racist rant to his final hours clinging to power, is well aware of the reckless self-regard, heedless irresponsibility and habitual mendacity at Trump's core.
But the testimony of former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, a preternaturally composed 25-year-old with an unblinking gaze and titanium spine, plumbed new depths of depravity. It was like seeing a portrait, sketched in black and white, suddenly filled with garish strokes of purple and blood red.
And it should emphatically end Trump's political career once and for all.
"Never in history have we ever heard credible testimony before Congress this shocking against a president of the United States," the historian Michael Beschloss tweeted, and it didn't seem the least bit hyperbolic.
The committee has methodically built a case against Trump and his Constitution-shredding cronies, showing how he summoned and incited the mob that pillaged the Capitol and attempted a coup reversing the result of the November 2020 election.
How the president and his briefcase-toting brigands sought to pressure the Justice Department and election officials around the country to ignore those results and hand the president the second term that voters refused him.
The hearings had apparently recessed until July, and when the committee abruptly scheduled Tuesday's session there was widespread anticipation about the bombshells to follow.
The star witness did not disappoint, effectively impeaching Trump for the third time.
Hutchinson, a former aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, is the very sort of neither-seen-nor-heard insider that abounds in Washington, where anonymity cloaks proximity to power and shrouds the knowledge of what really goes on behind the scenes.
Through methodical, dispassionate testimony, Hutchinson brought the committee and those watching directly inside Trump's Oval Office, which bore frightening resemblance to a day-care center catering to a particularly spoiled and untamable child.
There were ample warnings, the former Republican congressional staffer testified under oath, of the danger to come on Jan. 6, which the president and many around him blithely ignored. On the fateful day the Capitol rioters mustered on the Ellipse near the White House, Hutchinson suggested Trump's greatest concern — in his endless vanity — was the size of his audience.
Although the president knew some in the crowd were armed, Trump wanted the Secret Service to remove the metal detectors used to screen attendees so those packing weapons could join the rally and bulk up the gathering.
“Take the f— mags away,” Trump said, according to Hutchinson, referring to the magnetometers. “They’re not here to hurt me.”
As if no one else mattered. As if his self-centered talk of running again in 2024 is about anything other than salving his tender pride.
Trump had apparently hoped to join his supporters marching to the Capitol, and when the Secret Service refused to ferry him, Hutchinson said, the president grew irate, grabbed the steering wheel and reached for the throat of one of the agents protecting him.
“I’m the f— president,” Trump said, according to Hutchinson. “Take me up to the Capitol now!”
Which is just what the country needs in a chief executive, if you want someone with the judiciousness and self-restraint of a 2-year-old.
But that wasn't Trump's only hissy fit. He was so upset hearing the truth spoken, Hutchinson testified, that he threw his lunch against the wall when he learned his attorney general, William Barr, had called out Trump's stolen-election lie in an interview with the Associated Press. (Flinging food and breaking dishes was apparently not a one-off.)
“There was ketchup dripping down the wall," Hutchinson told the committee, a visual image that paints Trump's madness with the bright color of his favorite condiment.
That was not all.
Michael Flynn, the retired lieutenant general, former national security advisor and enlistee in Trump's crazy corps, pleaded the 5th Amendment when asked whether the Jan. 6 violence was justified.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House leader, was heard begging in real-time audio for the White House to turn the rioters away. The panic in his voice served to underscore the hypocrisy of the Bakersfield Republican's efforts to absolve Trump of guilt.
The committee also previewed future sessions likely to focus on witness tampering, sharing several wink-and-nod emails that Trump allies sent to witnesses ahead of their scheduled testimony.
But, as ever, the main drama revolved around Trump and his remarkable capacities for chaos and destruction.
Imagine what the disgraced ex-president would do if voters ignored everything we’ve seen up to now and rewarded him with another term in 2024. It’s frightening to think.
The committee is doing riveting and important work, dissecting one of the gravest assaults ever committed against our democracy. The findings have been startling.
But there is something else that's perhaps even more shocking: The notion that anyone still believes Trump, a person so clearly dangerous and so obviously unhinged, should come anywhere remotely near the White House ever again.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.