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Trump ordered armed supporters to Capitol, lunged for steering wheel

Trump ordered armed supporters to Capitol, lunged for steering wheel
Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Mark Meadows, speaks to the January 6 committee amid threats to her life and efforts at witness-tampering

Former president Donald Trump was unconcerned by reports that many of the supporters who attended his January 6 2021 rally at the Ellipse were armed and wanted them to march to the US Capitol nonetheless, a top aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told the House January 6 select committee yesterday.

Under questioning by committee vice chairwoman Liz Cheney, former special assistant to the president Cassidy Hutchinson dropped a series of bombshell revelations, making clear that Mr Trump and his closest allies knew exactly what was happening on the day of the riot, but were seemingly indifferent to the danger. Ms Hutchinson served as Mr Meadows’ principal assistant during his tenure as the ex-president’s final chief of staff.

The ex-White House aide’s testimony provided the select committee, and the millions watching the televised proceedings, with the most detailed account to date of how Mr Trump and his top aides conducted themselves before and during the pro-Trump riot.

The stunning revelations from Ms Hutchinson included: Mr Trump grabbed the steering wheel of his presidential limousine in an effort to go to the Capitol to join his supporters; Mr Trump’s chief of staff warned that things could get “real, real bad” on January 6; Mr Trump threw his lunch against the wall when his then-attorney general, Bill Barr, knocked down claims of mass voter fraud in the 2020 valg; and members of Mr Trump’s inner circle sought pardons after the violence.

The select committee also has evidence of attempted witness-tampering.

Pressed on her own reaction to what transpired on January 6, Ms Hutchinson was blunt.

“As an American, I was disgusted," hun sa. “It was unpatriotic. It was un-American. We were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie.”

Guns and tactical gear spotted in crowd of Trump supporters

Mr Trump and many of his allies have alleged that the rioters who sacked the Capitol in hopes of preventing Congress from certifying his 2020 election defeat to Joe Biden were mostly peaceful and unarmed.

Evidence presented by the panel contradicts those claims, derimot. Multiple police radio transmissions released by the select committee revealed police dispatchers and officers relaying reports of Trump supporters walking around the area near the Ellipse, located near the White House, with Glock pistols and AR-15-style rifles. Some were wearing ballistic helmets and military-style body armor.

<p>Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, leaves after testifying</s>

Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, leaves after testifying

Some of those helmeted and armored Trump supporters may have been among the members of the extremist group known as the Oath Keepers who now, along with members of the pro-Trump Proud Boys gang, face charges of seditious conspiracy for their roles in the Capitol attack.

While Ms Hutchinson did not explicitly link anyone in Mr Trump’s orbit to either extremist group, she told the committee that she had overheard talk of the Proud Boys when Mr Trump’s then-attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, was present in the White House. She also told the panel that Mr Trump instructed Mr Meadows to reach out to two allies with connections to the groups, provocateur Roger Stone and disgraced ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn, the day before the attack.

In the hours before Mr Trump was scheduled to speak on the Ellipse, the police reports of weapons near the site made their way to Tony Ornato, a secret service special agent whom Mr Trump had named as an assistant to the president.

Ms Hutchinson told the panel she and Mr Ornato relayed those reports to Mr Meadows, but the former North Carolina congressman did not appear to care.

<p>An image of former President Donald Trump talking to his chief of staff Mark Meadows is screened as Cassidy Hutchinson testifies to the committee </s>

An image of former President Donald Trump talking to his chief of staff Mark Meadows is screened as Cassidy Hutchinson testifies to the committee

“I remember Tony mentioning knives, guns in the form of pistols and rifles, bear spray, body armor spears and flag poles," hun sa. “Tony had relayed to me something to the effect of these, I think people are fastening spears onto the ends of flagpoles.”

Ms Hutchinson said Mr Meadows did not even look up from his phone when told of the danger, but rather asked simply, “All right, is there anything else?” and whether Mr Trump had been informed.

I tillegg, Ms Hutchinson said Mr Trump was particularly nonplussed by the idea that people in the crowd who had gathered near the White House that day were carrying weapons.

Trump wanted metal detectors removed

The former White House aide said Mr Trump was extremely irate just moments before he began speaking, because magnetometers installed by the Secret Service to establish a sterile zone close to their highest-profile protectee prevented armed rallygoers from joining the rest of the crowd at the Ellipse.

“When we were in the offstage tent … I was in the vicinity of a conversation where I overheard the president say something to the effect of, ‘I don‘t care that they have weapons, they are not here to hurt me, take the [f**king magnetometers] borte, let the people in,'" hun sa.

The former president and many of his advisers and congressional allies had been pushing for the man who was to preside over the joint session, then-vice president Mike Pence, to unilaterally reject electoral votes from swing states won by Mr Biden despite being advised that such an action would be unlawful.

“They’re not here to hurt me. Take the [f**king] mags away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here,” she recalled Mr Trump saying.

Though the Secret Service did not heed his demand to take down a basic security measure, Mr Trump did urge his supporters to march “peacefully and patriotically” to the Capitol in his speech that day, in an ad-libbed aside, said he would be going with them.

<p>Donald Trump speaks to supporters from The Ellipse near the White House in Washington, DC on 6 januar 2021. </psgt;

Donald Trump speaks to supporters from The Ellipse near the White House in Washington, DC on 6 januar 2021.

Ms Hutchinson testified that Mr Trump’s exhortation to the rallygoers had been watered down at the insistence of then-White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who’d warned that a line in Mr Trump’s draft remarks calling for supporters to “fight for me, fight for what we are doing, fight for the movement” — combined with his intention to go to the Capitol himself — would leave them open to being charged with “every crime imaginable”.

Trump grabbed at steering wheel of presidential limo and ‘lunged’ at Secret Service agent

Despite the advice from his top White House lawyer, Mr Trump was intent on following through with his pledge to accompany the armed group to the seat of America’s legislative branch.

Ms Hutchinson told the panel that upon exiting the rally stage, Mr Trump hopped in his armored limousine under the impression that his protective detail would clear a path for him to travel the 1.8 miles (3 km) stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue separating the White House complex from Capitol Hill.

But by the time he’d finished his remarks, the road was so clogged that Secret Service officials had already concluded that such a trip, however short, would be a dereliction of their protective duties.

Recalling a conversation with Mr Ornato and the driver of the presidential vehicle, Special Agent in Charge Robert Engel, Ms Hutchinson testified that Mr Trump, upon being informed that his bodyguards could not spirit him to the Capitol safely, became incensed. Mr Trump shouted at Mr Engel: “I’m the f**king president. Take me up to the Capitol now!”.

Ms Hutchinson told the select committee that the two Secret Service agents informed her that when he told Mr Trump he could not heed his command, the former president first tried to grab the steering wheel of the 9,300 pund (4,200 kg) SUV, then “lunged” at Mr Engel’s throat.

<p>Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. </s>

Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

Trump threw his lunch against the wall – leaving behind a smear of ketchup

Ms Hutchinson said the president’s alleged violence towards his own bodyguard wasn’t the first time he lashed out physically in response to bad news. She told the select committee that Mr Trump’s reaction to former attorney general William Barr’s declaration that the presidential election had not been tainted by fraud was to throw his lunch — including the plate it had been served on — against the wall of his private dining room. It left behind a smear of ketchup on the wall.

The presidential motorcade returned to the White House just as Mr Trump’s supporters assaulted police officers and illegally made their way into the Capitol itself.

Ms Hutchinson recalled seeing Mr Cipollone, the top White House lawyer who had warned Mr Trump against traveling to the Capitol, “barreling down the hallway” to Mr Meadows’ office, opening the door, and telling the White House chief of staff that the two of them needed to see the president because rioters had breached the Capitol’s defences.

“Mark looked up and said: [Mr. Trump] doesn‘t want to do anything,'" hun sa.

In a separate videotaped deposition excerpt, she told investigators that Mr Cipollone returned a short time later accompanied by a deputy, Eric Herschmann.

“I remember Pat saying something to the effect of ‘Mark, we need to do something more. They’re literally calling for the vice president to be [f***ing] hung,’” she recalled.

She said Mr Meadows replied by telling the two attorneys that Mr Trump said, “Mike deserves it”, and added that Mr Trump did not think the rioters were doing anything wrong.

Trump aides sought pardons

Ms Hutchinson also revealed that Mr Meadows and Mr Giuliani both asked for presidential pardons in the aftermath of the riot.

One select committee member, Maryland Representative Jamie Raskin, said Ms Hutchinson’s testimony was so impactful as to eclipse other high-profile whistleblowers from scandals past.

“This witness simply blew away any pretense that the president and all the president’s men didn’t know what was actually going on in that crowd,” he said during a brief question-and-answer session with reporters outside the ornate hearing room.

He added that the crowd Mr Trump had summoned “was obviously armed and dangerous” and “hell-bent on entering the Capitol” when they marched down Pennsylvania Avenue.

“I never ever appreciated how much of a coward Mark is until today. But this pretty much proves it,” Representative Ruben Gallego of Arizona, who was on the House floor during the riot, fortalte Den uavhengige.

Sources familiar with the select committee’s deliberations say the hastily convened hearing on Tuesday was necessary because Ms Hutchinson had received threats on her life and was the subject of efforts at witness-tampering.

The afternoon session, the panel’s sixth public hearing to present what it has discovered during a year-long investigation, came as a surprise to all but a select few working on the probe.

Select committee chairman Bennie Thompson had previously said the panel would halt presenting its work during the Independence Day recess in order to evaluate a trove of new evidence it had recently received. That includes a large cache of video footage shot by British documentarian Alex Holder while trailing Mr Trump and his family members during months leading up to the 3 november 2020 election and through the end of his time in the White House.

One of the law enforcement officers who fought to defend the Capitol from that pro-Trump mob, District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department officer Daniel Hodges, fortalte Den uavhengige it was “hard to imagine” that Mr Trump and his closest allies were in the dark about plans for violence on January 6.

“Nothing I’ve really seen has been super shocking, becauseTrump had long since revealed his character before [januar 6]. But that being said, it’s still a little shocking learning that he knew that there were lethal weapons in the audience, and he wanted them to hear him speak, and then they wanted to march on the Capitol," han sa.

“He said that they aren’t here to hurt me, implying that he knows they’re here to hurt someone,” Mr Hodges added. “The president of the United States set us up”.