Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump White House Chief of...

Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, testifies at a House hearing Tuesday. Credit: AP/Andrew Harnik

The Jan. 6 congressional committee is coming closer to a clear, hideous picture of the disloyalty and recklessness President Donald Trump displayed as he tried to cling to power last year.

The panel’s mission took a big step forward Tuesday as Cassidy Hutchinson, who was executive assistant to Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, shared hours of credible eyewitness descriptions and documentation under questioning. She gave the distinct impression that the crucial details of Trump’s self-absorbed conduct surprised even those who worked for him.

The testimony made it clear that the Justice Department faces a critical job in deciding what further crimes will be charged — and against whom — in connection with the insurrection.

Professionally and properly, Hutchinson, in her mid-20s, took on a responsibility that the men she worked for in the White House refuse to accept. Convincingly, she told what she heard and saw, some of it directly and some of it secondhand. She put the country first as she did on the day of the riot. Appropriately, she was thanked by committee leaders Reps. Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney for coming forward with Capitol security heightened and her still-powerful ex-boss predictably denying her words.

Hutchinson reported that Trump wanted the magnetometers out of the way at his pre-riot rally in The Ellipse so his audience would look larger, always his obsession. After all, those found with all kinds of weapons outside the rally weren’t out to hurt him, he reportedly said. Amazing. Frightening. And, possibly, a key to his intent that day.

Not one minute of her testimony left any doubt that the president and his inner circle knew what this was all about.

Perhaps the most salient sign of his determination to reverse the election results came in the SUV in which Trump departed his rally, urging fans to go fight for him. He insisted that the Secret Service take him to the Capitol to join his supporters, Hutchinson said she was told. They refused, with the chaos there already underway. Trump allegedly lunged for the steering wheel and then for the throat of his chief of security, Bobby Engel.

Also from Hutchinson: Distressed White House counsel Pat Cipollone warned that Trump’s actions would form the basis for charges of obstruction and incitement. Insiders including Meadows, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Flynn asked for pardons. Flynn pleaded the Fifth when asked if he believed the violence was legally or morally justified. And yes, Hutchinson reinforced evidence that Trump really did defend the threat to Vice President Mike Pence’s life.

For the nation’s sake, the committee and the Justice Department need to keep digging — aggressively. The road to justice and reconciliation from the final days of the Trump term remains a long one. Some people only now are becoming stunned and disgusted at this disturbing look back.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.