The absolutely banging serialized narrative that is the Jan. 6 hearings took a turn Sopranos-ward with the sensational testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson on Tuesday. In her closing statement, co-chair Liz Cheney read the statements of anonymous witnesses called by the panel reporting ominous messages they’d received from Trump World emissaries, telling those witnesses that an unnamed man knows how “loyal” they are and urging them to keep in mind all the fine opportunities potentially awaiting them after they spoke to the committee. In other words: “Nice career you’ve got there. Would be a shame if something bad were to happen to it.”
It’s a good reminder that Donald Trump thinks of himself, and tries to behave, as a Mafia don, but he can’t quite pull it off. For starters, unlike the real deal, Trump doesn’t actually provide for his loyalists in exchange for their obedience—none of the people who asked for pardons for their complicity in the events of Jan. 6 actually got them.
Framed and lit like a Medieval painting of a martyred saint, Hutchinson testified to one damning outburst after another. The president petulantly flinging his dinner at the wall upon learning that Attorney General William Barr had finally found enough integrity to disagree with him on whether the 2020 election had been stolen is the most cinematic image. But Trump trying to physically wrest the steering wheel of “the Beast” from a Secret Service agent so that he could join his followers at the Capitol was pretty vivid, too. Possibly the most legally weighty dime that Hutchinson dropped, however, was her eye-witness testimony that Trump ordered armed rioters who had been barred from his rally to be admitted so that the crowd would look bigger, then said, “They can march to the Capitol from here.”
[Read: The Genuinely Shocking Bombshells From Cassidy Hutchison’s Jan. 6 Testimony]
The son of successful New York real estate developer, an incompetent New York real estate developer himself, and the owner of an eventually bankrupt casino in Atlantic City, Trump has surely rubbed shoulders with more than his fair share of mobsters. And, like the rest of us, he’s seen plenty of them on screen. But is it really fair to compare Trump to a mob boss? Sure, he’s unprincipled, immoral, and completely indifferent to the rule of law. Sure, he demands complete loyalty from his underlings no matter how badly he treats them. But while actual mob bosses have to be good at their jobs to keep them—it’s a fierce, competitive environment!—this has never been the case with Trump. First, he had his father’s money to squander, and then he used his bizarre appeal to the most witless segment of the Republican Party to hold the rest of the GOP hostage to his mad-king whims. As dangerous as Trump is, especially when backed by his Republican enablers, he’s also ignorant, capricious, unfocused, reckless—in the words of his own former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a moron.
In other words, Trump is no Vito Corleone. He’s not even Tony Soprano, really. And while he does sometimes carry on like a mafia capo, and almost certainly enjoys styling himself as one, calling him a mob boss is an insult to mob bosses. That Trump was fully comfortable with seeing his riled-up troglodyte followers lynch his second-in-command for not showing a sufficient amount of that loyalty became crystal clear with Hutchinson’s testimony. She said that she heard her boss, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, explain that Trump initially refused to talk the rioters down, remarking, “He doesn’t want to do anything,” and “He thinks Mike deserves it.”
Of course Mike deserved it, for as every mob boss knows, anything less than total obedience must be punished with extreme prejudice if you want to keep your perch at the top. Or, as Trump’s father drummed into his sons from an early age, “You’re a Trump. You’re a killer.” It’s just that most mob bosses either do the killing themselves or hire a professional to get it done, instead of relying on a mob of unpredictable Nazis, easily duped Fox News zombies, and a face-painted shaman. That’s the chilling yet undeniable proof that though Trump may fancy himself a mob boss, he isn’t one: If he were, Mike Pence would not still be around to refuse to testify about how it feels to hear the president wants you hanged.