Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top Trump White House aide, delivered stunning testimony before the House Select Committee investigating January 6 on Tuesday, laying bare how unhinged the president behaved during the riot and alleging that a march on the Capitol was planned ahead of time, and not called off despite knowledge that members of the crowd were heavily armed and prepared to commit violence. Hutchinson served under Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, giving her firsthand knowledge of Trump and his inner circle before and during the attack. Here are the biggest revelations from her testimony.
The Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers were mentioned during White House planning for 1/6.
Hutchinson testified that in the days leading up to the Capitol riot, she started to feel “scared and nervous” about the potential for violence on January 6 and became concerned about the planning going on at the White House. “I recall hearing the terms ‘Proud Boys’ and ‘Oath Keepers’ when [Rudy] Giuliani was around,” Hutchinson said.
She quoted Giuliani telling her on the night of January 2 that the plan was for Trump & Co. to lead the rally planned for the 6th to the Capitol that same day. When Hutchinson asked Meadows about Giuliani’s comments, she quoted him as saying “things might get real, real bad on January 6.”
Trump said of the armed 1/6 crowd, “They’re not here to hurt me.”
Trump and his inner circle were informed by the Secret Service that there were people armed with rifles, pistols, body armor, spears, and bear spray in the crowd at his Stop the Steal rally, according to Hutchinson. But the president still pushed to have more people allowed through the metal detectors so the area close to the stage would look full.
She said Trump was furious with his security officials, and she overheard him saying, “I don’t f- - -ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me.” Later, she said that Trump wanted them to march to the Capitol after his speech.
Trump wanted to lead the mob to the Capitol, but was denied by the Secret Service.
Previous witnesses had told the January 6 committee that Trump had been saying he wanted to march to the Capitol with his supporters in the weeks leading up to the rally, but Hutchinson revealed that Trump actually tried to go as soon as he finished his speech. Trump entered the presidential limo with the Secret Service, thinking he was being taken to the Capitol. Hutchinson said that Tony Ornato, the deputy White House chief of staff for operations, told her that Trump’s security detail said it was not safe, as the riot was already underway.
Trump became furious, and said something to the effect of, “I’m the f- - -ing president, take me up the Capitol now.” Then he reached up to the front of the vehicle to try to grab the steering wheel. Robert Engel, the head of Trump’s security detail, grabbed his arm and said, “Sir, you need to take your hand off the steering wheel. We’re going back to the West Wing. We’re not going to the Capitol.” With his free hand, Trump “lunged” at Engel. Ornato gestured toward his clavicles when relaying this to Hutchinson, suggesting Trump went for Engel’s throat.
“Hutchinson said that Engel was present when Ornato relayed the account and that neither man cast doubt on the story then or since,” according to the Washington Post. The paper also reported that three unnamed Secret Service agents who accompanied Trump dispute that he became physically violent — though not that he was angry at being refused an opportunity to lead the mob.
Trump once threw a plate in the White House dining room.
Hutchinson said the limo incident was not the only time she’d heard about Trump becoming violent. She recalled that in December 2020, when the AP published a piece in which Attorney General Bill Barr dismissed Trump’s election-fraud claims, she heard a noise in the Oval Office. She went to investigate and found the valet changing the tablecloth. “There was ketchup dripping down the wall and there was a shattered porcelain plate on the floor,” Hutchinson said. “The valet had articulated that the president was extremely angry at the attorney general’s AP interview and had thrown his lunch against the wall.”
Trump approved hanging Mike Pence.
After the riot was under way, Hutchinson testified that White House counsel Pat Cipollone barreled into Meadows’s office. Cipollone told Meadows they needed to speak to the president, but Meadows at first rebuffed him. “He doesn’t want to do anything about it,” she quoted her boss telling Cipollone. “Mark, something needs to be done or people are going to die and the blood will be on your effing hands,” Cipollone shot back. “I’m going down there.”
Meadows and Cipollone then walked a few steps over to the Oval Office dining room, and Hutchinson was in earshot. At the same time, Meadows was fielding a phone call from Republican lawmaker Jim Jordan, who was inside the Capitol was it was under siege. Hutchinson said she could hear the group, including Trump, talking about “the hang Mike Pence chant” that the mob was shouting by then. She did not, however, hear what Trump said.
After Meadows and Cipollone finished talking to Trump, they had another exchange where Cipollone continued to press Meadows to get the president to call off his bloodthirsty supporters. “You heard him, Pat, he thinks Mike deserves it,” Hutchinson quoted Meadows telling Cipollone about what the two men just heard from Trump. “He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.”
Meadows has refused to testify before the committee, defying a subpoena and leading him to be referred to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution for contempt of Congress. The Justice Department subsequently declined to charge him.
Michael Flynn took the Fifth when asked if 1/6 violence was justified.
During the hearing, the January 6 panel played a clip from former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn’s deposition in which he paused for one minute and 36 seconds when asked if he felt the violence on January 6 was justified, then repeatedly pleaded the Fifth.
Trump wanted to float pardons for rioters.
On January 7, 2021, Trump put out a video in which he condemned the riot, calling it a “heinous attack.” Hutchinson said Trump didn’t think it was necessary to say anything beyond his two tweets on January 6, but a group of advisers, including Mark Meadows, Jared Kushner, and Ivanka Trump, convinced him to speak in an effort to head off any effort to remove him via the 25th Amendment.
Hutchinson testified that original drafts called the rioters violent and talked about prosecuting them, but Trump struck that language. The president “wanted to put that he wanted to potentially pardon them,” she said. “He didn’t think that they did anything wrong,” she said. “He thought … the person who did something wrong that day was Mike Pence by not standing with him.”
Rudy Giuliani and Mark Meadows asked for pardons.
It wasn’t just Trump who wanted to pardon the January 6 rioters; Hutchinson testified that Mark Meadows was pushing for that language to be included in Trump’s January 7 statement as well, but White House counsel advised against it.
Previous witnesses testified that a number of Trump associates sought pardons for their activities on January 6, including several members of Congress. Hutchinson testified that Rudy Giuliani and Mark Meadows both indicated that they were interested in being pardoned, too.
Cheney alleges witnesses are being pressured over their testimony.
At the end of the hearing, January 6 committee vice-chair Liz Cheney suggested that witnesses called before the panel are being intimidated by people with ties to the Trump administration.
Cheney said that the committee has asked witnesses whether they’ve been contacted by anyone attempting to influence their testimony. She then presented two witnesses’ answers to that question. All references to individual identities were removed, but on Wednesday Punchbowl reported that at least one was sent to Hutchinson.
Cheney also displayed a message that had been sent to a witness, again with the identities removed. It was unclear how Cheney obtained the message. “[A person] let me know you have your deposition tomorrow,” it read. “He wants me to let you know that he’s thinking about you. He knows you’re loyal, and you’re going to do the right thing when you go in for your deposition.” Cheney said the committee will be discussing the witness-intimidation issue in order to determine next steps.
More on the January 6 hearings
- Ivanka Trump Gave the January 6 Panel What It Needed
- The January 6 Hearings Exposed Trump’s Criminality. Will It Matter?
- Turns Out the Secret Service Repeatedly Defied Trump on January 6