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Cracks are forming in the wall of fear among 2024 Republican insiders, and according to NBC News, the belief that ex-President Donald Trump “could be indicted” over the Jan. 6 attack is one reason.

The notion that Trump would soon be cooling his heels in a jail cell was once the province of Resistance Twitter fantasy and punditry wishful thinking, but the latest round of the January 6 committee’s hearings began to elevate that chatter from its very start.

Then came the bombshell testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson, the former top aide to Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows who dropped damaging revelation after damaging revelation at Tuesday’s surprise hearing of the January 6 committee.

And the most colorful of these — the wild fracas in a presidential SUV during which Trump cursed his Secret Service team out and even physically attacked Robert Engel, the head of his detail — at one point grabbing the wheel — when he was informed they would not take him to the Capitol — has lingered in the news cycle thanks to attempts to discredit her that appear to be failing rather badly.

Hutchinson’s testimony has intensified the indictment talk to a fever pitch, and reportedly even has Trump worried.

And according to reporting by NBC News’ Marc Caputo, the prospect of a criminal case is real enough to fuel 2024 Republican consultants and other insiders to action when the once might have been reticent:

Jan. 6 is only one factor in the jockeying to take on the undisputed leader of the GOP, sources say. There’s also the ambition of politicians that’s typical for any end-of-midterm election cycle; a hope Trump won’t run again; a belief by some that he could be indicted as a result of Jan. 6 or his efforts to overturn the election results in Georgia; a sense Trump isn’t so supreme after Republican voters rejected his high-profile endorsed candidates in Georgia and other primary races; and Pence’s decision to defy Trump over Jan. 6 and appear ready to run against him.

“The fear factor is gone for a lot of consultants and some politicians who otherwise were worried about crossing him,” said one top Republican consultant who, nonetheless, didn’t want to publicly cross Trump and spoke on condition of anonymity.

As Maggie Haberman noted on Twitter, it’s ironic that the “Fear factor” quote was made anonymously, but Caputo also found a decent handful of GOP sources who were willing to be named while assessing the viability of a non-Trump candidate. And he’s not the only one; increasingly, Republican insiders are willing to put their names on quotes that encourage a challenge to Trump.

But unless Trump does end up in jail for the 2024 election, the rest of the field has its work cut out for them: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is the closest thing to a credible challenger, and he trails Trump by around 20 points in most polls — although he cracked single-digits in one poll earlier this week.

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Tags: cassidy hutchinson donald trump january 6 hearings maggie haberman marc caputo mark meadows nbc news ron desantis republican insiders could be indicted and according and according consultants the january

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DC insider: Deleted Jan. 6 texts are ‘very clearly a conspiracy’

While President Barack Obama gave the executive order for the operation that resulted in Osama bin Laden’s death in Pakistan on May 11, 2011, it was under President Joe Biden’s watch that another top al-Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was killed in Kabul, Afghanistan on July 31, 2022. Afghanistan is now under the control of the far-right Taliban, but al-Zawahiri’s death sends out a message that even in a Taliban-controlled country, a leader al-Qaeda terrorist can’t hide from U.S. forces.

Leon Panetta, who served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and later, secretary of defense under Obama, discussed al-Zawahiri’s death during an August 3 appearance on MSNBC — whose Andrea Mitchell noted now how “astonishing” it was that “as far as we know, they were no civilian deaths” even though the operation was carried out in the middle of Downtown Kabul. And Mitchell also brought up the January 6 committee’s investigation and the disappearance of Secret Service texts.

Panetta, now 84, said of al-Zawahiri’s death, “I pay tremendous tribute to our intelligence forces, our military forces that were involved, the CIA…. There’s a tremendous amount of planning involved in those kind of attacks. The ability to do constantly reconnaissance, to gather intelligence, to know that you have the right target, to be able to hit that target without any kind of collateral damage, I think, is a tribute to their capabilities. And in the end, I do think it completes a very important mission that we began on 9/11, which was to make sure we would go after those who were involved in the attack on 9/11…. It really does send a message that you don’t attack the United States and get away with it.”

READ MORE: Secret Service scrambling to explain deleted Jan. 6 texts to 'skeptical' House committee members: report

Panetta, who also served as White House Chief of Staff under President Bill Clinton, noted that bin Laden and al-Zawahiri were the “key planners” of the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 — and now, both of them have been killed by U.S. forces.

Mitchell asked Panetta, however, if he was worried that terrorists — after learning that al-Zawahiri was in Kabul at the time of his death — might consider Afghanistan a “safe haven” because the Taliban “have clearly not lived up to their agreement not to harbor terrorists after the U.S. withdrawal.”

Panetta told Mitchell, “The Taliban is now in charge of Afghanistan; there’s no question that they’re providing a safe haven for terrorists…. The fact that al-Zawahiri, one of the top leaders of al-Qaeda, could simply walk into Kabul, get an apartment in the middle of the capitol, not have anybody raise any questions sends a real signal that the Taliban is going to continue to provide a safe haven for terrorism.”

The former CIA director went on to say that terrorism has “metastasized in many ways.”

READ MORE: 'Coverup of treason': Trump-appointed IG, facing investigation, was aware of missing Secret Service and DHS texts far earlier

Panetta told Mitchell, “It’s ISIS, it’s Boko Haram, it’s al-Shabab in North Africa, and it continues to be al-Qaeda. So, we are facing, and continue to face, a real threat of a terrorist attack either on the United States or elsewhere. That’s one of the major flashpoints that we have to control.”

Mitchell brought up another form of violent extremism: White nationalist violence in the United States, asking Panetta to weigh on the disappearance of U.S. Secret Service texts from January 6, 2021. And he responded, “Andrea, this is another major concern: that, obviously, officials out of the Trump Administration were taking steps to make sure that potential evidence involved in January 6 would not be there. I really do think that the Justice Department has to investigate the loss of this kind of critical evidence…. This was a deliberate effort to make sure that very important evidence regarding what the players were doing at the Pentagon, at the Secret Service and elsewhere were saying and doing on January 6 — all of which is very relevant to the investigation into what happened.”

When Mitchell asked Panetta, “You’re saying this is a cover-up?” he responded, “I don’t think there’s any question that when you go from agency to agency and find out that key messages have been deleted, something’s going on here that resembles very clearly a conspiracy.”

Watch the video below or at this link.

Jan. 6-related Texts Wiped 'From Agency To Agency' Looks Like 'Conspiracy': Panetta www.youtube.com

READ MORE: Republicans largely ignore Biden killing of top terrorist — as some even use it to attack the president

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