Top White House official gives shocking look into inner workings of West Wing as violence loomed
When the January 6 committee called a surprise hearing with just a day’s notice, many in Washington expected something special. The hearing, held on Tuesday, lived up to the hype, as a former top official in the Trump White House for the first time detailed publicly the inner deliberations of Donald Trump and his team in the days just before and during the attack on the Capitol itself.
While every public meeting of the panel has led to surprising and embarrassing revelations about White House staff and the Trump campaign, today’s hearing seemed to blow previous revelations out of the water.
Cassidy Hutchinson, who served then-chief of staff Mark Meadows as a liaison between the West Wing and Congress, joined the panel for a surprise session of live testimony as the panel’s sole witness. She had previously given testimony to the panel in a recorded interview, but today laid out the damning details of what she saw publicly for the first time at the hearing.
Let’s take a look at the biggest new pieces of information we learned from Ms Hutchinson’s firsthand account of the White House on and before Jan 6:
The Trump team knew it would be ‘real, real bad’
One of the biggest questions the January 6 panel sought to uncover from the outset of its investigation was: Did Donald Trump know that his supporters were likely to use violence in an attempt to force Congress to bow to his wishes that day?
We know now, the answer was “yes.” Ms Hutchinson described two conversations she had just days before January 6 during her testimony; one conversation with Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lead attorney, and one conversation with her boss, マークメドウズ.
In the first conversation, Mr Giuliani hinted to Ms Hutchinson that Donald Trump had plans to rally his supporters at the Capitol himself, declaring: “We’re going to the Capitol. It’s going to be great. The president is going to be there, he’s going to look powerful.”
Not knowing what he meant, Ms Hutchinson then asked Mr Meadows about the plans for January 6. He supposedly responded with worry.
“[T]hings might get real, real bad on January 6,” he supposedly said.
That about clears it up whether the Trump team knew violence was possible or likely; and given further testimony from Ms Hutchinson about the crowd itself on January 6, it suggests that Mr Trump was hoping for such violence to occur, or at a minimum did not care, when he went forward with plans to hold a “Stop the Steal” rally and encouraged his followers to march on the Capitol.
The president’s response to weapons in the crowd
A particularly chilling moment on Tuesday came when committee members played DC police radio chatter from the day of the January 6 riot while Mr Trump’s rally was taking place and before violence began.
In the hair-raising audio, multiple police officers describe reports as well as their own first-hand accounts of numerous Trump supporters armed to the teeth in the crowd that was dispersed across the National Mall and elsewhere in Washington DC on the day of the attack.
Several officers are heard describing seeing AR-15s being wielded by persons in the crowd — the ownership and public carry of such weapons is entirely illegal in the District of Columbia — and in one jaw-dropping moment, an officer is frantically heard warning her fellows of an “elevated threat” as a man apparently armed with a rifle scales a large tree.
Ms Hutchinson testified that Mr Trump’s was notified of the weapons in the crowd. His response? Calling on Secret Service to remove metal detectors from the area around his rally, 彼女は言いました.
“I don’t f***ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the f***ing [metal detectors] あちらへ. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here. Let the people in. Take the f***ing [metal detectors] あちらへ,” the aide said she heard the president demanding of his staff and Secret Service.
‘We’re going to be charged with every crime imaginable’
White House counsel Pat Cipollone was very blunt when he told Mark Meadows his opinion of the president’s legal chances should he go forward with plans to join his supporters in the Capitol, Cassidy Hutchinson testified.
“People are going to die and the blood is going to be on your f***ing hands,” the White House’s top attorney explained to the chief of staff. “We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen.”
Trump tried to take the wheel
One of Ms Hutchinson’s last revelations before the committee recessed for a short break, was the startling claim that Donald Trump assaulted a Secret Service agent, including grabbing at his neck, before attempting to grab the steering wheel of the presidential limo and divert its direction toward the US Capitol.
A president physically attacking a Secret Service agent (which Mr Trump has already denied on his Truth Social platform) is unheard of in the history of the United States and if true is an incredible window into the president’s mental state amid the attack on Congress. The incident supposedly occurred just as Mr Trump was leaving his rally at the Ellipse on January 6, where he told his followers that they should march on the Capitol and “fight” for the election to be overturned. He also said that he would join them.
“Tony proceeded to tell me that when the president got in the ‘Beast’ he was under the impression from Mr Meadows that the off-the-record movement to the Capitol was still possible and likely to happen, but that Bobby had more information," 彼女は言いました.
“So as the President had gotten into the vehicle with Bobby, he thought they were going up to the Capitol and when Bobby relayed to him we’re not, we don’t have the assets to do it, it’s not secure, we’re going back to the West Wing, the President had a very strong, very angry response to that,” Ms Hutchinson continued.
According to Ms Hutchinson the president’s deputy chief of staff Tony Ornato told her that he raged in the passenger seat of his armoured vehicle, “I’m the f***ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now.”
“Mr Trump then used his free hand to lunge toward Bobby Engel,” she testified that he recounted to her; Mr Engel was Mr Trump’s Secret Service agent in charge of security that day.
The ex-president has denied this episode took place, and launched into a wave of criticism targeting Ms Hutchinson as her testimony concluded on Tuesday.
“Her Fake story that I tried to grab the steering wheel of the White House Limousine is ‘sick’ and fraudulent – very much like the Unselect Committee itself,” Mr Trump raged online.