In public testimony Tuesday before the House select committee investigating Jan. 6, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson revealed explosive new details about what then-President Donald Trump and his top aides were doing as rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol and in the days leading up to the attack.
The select committee announced Monday that it would be holding the last-minute hearing “to present recently obtained evidence and receive witness testimony,” but declined to provide specific details.
In the past two weeks, the panel has held five public hearings at which members have outlined the findings of their ongoing investigation into the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters. The committee had planned to take a break following the last hearing on June 23, in order to hear more witness testimony and examine new evidence it has received since the hearings began.
The committee’s vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., took the lead in questioning and presenting clips of earlier depositions given by Hutchinson, who was serving as a top aide to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows at the time of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot and had a front-row seat on the White House’s response.
What were some of the most shocking revelations?
Trump wanted his armed supporters to be allowed into his rally at the Ellipse
Hutchinson described a scene that took place backstage at Trump’s rally on the Ellipse just a few moments before he delivered his speech, in which the former president fumed that the area in front of the stage was not filled to capacity with his supporters.
“He was angry about the extra space and wanted more people to come in,” Hutchinson said, explaining a text message displayed on a screen in the hearing room in which she told then-White House chief of operations Anthony Ornato, “He was furious.”
“He wanted it full, and he was angry that we weren’t letting people through the mags with weapons,” she said, referring to the magnetometers that had been set up around the perimeter of the Ellipse to screen rally participants for weapons and other security concerns.
Hutchinson said it was explained to Trump that many of his supporters were choosing to listen to the speech from outside the magnetometers because they were carrying weapons, including guns, knives,and body armor, which they didn’t want to have confiscated.
“I overheard the president say something to the effect of, 'I don’t care that they have weapons, they’re not here to hurt me. Take the effing mags away, let my people in. … They can march to the Capitol from here,’” Hutchinson recalled.
Trump, who apparently tuned in to Hutchinson’s live testimony, responded to this charge in real time in a post on his social media platform, Truth Social.
“Never complained about the crowd, it was massive,” he wrote. “I didn’t want or request that we make room for people with guns to watch my speech. Who would ever want that? Not me!”
'We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable'
In the days leading up to Jan. 6, Hutchinson testified that then-White House Counsel Pat Cipollone expressed concern about Trump’s desire to join his supporters in marching to the Capitol while Congress met to certify the election results. On Jan. 3, Hutchinson said Cipollone approached her about the possibility of Trump going to the Capitol and said, “We need to make sure this doesn’t happen. … We have serious legal concerns if we go up to the Capitol that day.”
Hutchinson elaborated on that conversation in a video clip of one of her earlier interviews with the committee.
“He was concerned it was going to look like we were obstructing justice or obstructing the electoral count,” she said, adding that Cipollone was “worried that it was going to look like we were inciting a riot or encouraging a riot … at the Capitol.”
On the morning of Jan. 6, Hutchinson said Cipollone reiterated his concerns and pressed her again to “Please make sure we don’t go to the Capitol.”
“We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen,” Hutchinson said Cipollone told her.
Trump grabbed the wheel of his presidential vehicle when he was told it wasn’t safe to go to the Capitol on Jan. 6
Despite Cipollone’s concerns, Trump was insistent that he wanted to go to the Capitol after his speech at the Ellipse on Jan. 6, and his staff worked hard to try to make it happen, according to Tuesday’s testimony. As the situation at the Capitol escalated, with members of the mob quickly overwhelming U.S. Capitol Police, Trump’s security detail ultimately concluded that the situation wasn’t safe for Trump. But he wasn’t hearing it.
Hutchinson testified that when she returned to the White House after Trump’s speech at the Ellipse, she ran into Ornato, who was also a senior Secret Service agent, and Robert Engel, the head of Donald Trump's Secret Service detail.
“Did you effing hear what happened in the Beast?” Hutchinson recalled Ornato asking her, referring to Trump’s presidential vehicle. She said Ornato told her that when Trump got into the vehicle after his speech, Engel told him that the trip to the Capitol would not be possible, eliciting a “very strong, very angry response” from the president.
“Tony described him as being irate,” Hutchinson said. “The president said something to effect of ‘I’m the effing president, take me up to the Capitol now.’”
When Engel insisted that they needed to return to the White House, Hutchinson said Ornato told her that “the president reached up to grab the steering wheel,” prompting Engel to grab his arm and say, “Sir, you need to get your hand off the wheel.”
Trump “then used his free hand to lunge toward [Engel],” Hutchinson said, noting that Ornato motioned to his clavicle when retelling the story and adding, when prompted by Cheney, “Mr. Engel did not correct or disagree with any part of the story.”
Hutchinson went on to testify that this was not the first time that she had experienced Trump having a violent outburst.
“There were several times throughout my tenure with the chief of staff that I was aware of him throwing dishes or flipping a table cloth to let all contents of the table go onto [the] floor,” Hutchinson testified. She recalled one incident in particular that took place on Dec. 1, 2020, after Trump learned that then-Attorney General Bill Barr had told the Associated Press that there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the election.
Hutchinson said she walked into the White House dining room after hearing a noise from down the hall and found the White House valet cleaning up.
“I first noticed there was ketchup dripping down the wall, and there was a shattered porcelain plate,” 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.”
Meadows and Giuliani sought pardons from former President Trump
Hutchinson revealed Tuesday that Meadows and Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani sought pardons in the aftermath of Jan. 6. She also said that Trump had wanted to include a line in a statement issued on Jan. 7 about potentially pardoning the rioters, noting that this was encouraged by Meadows.
At an earlier hearing last week, the committee played part of one of Hutchinson’s taped depositions in which she named several Republican members of Congress who had attempted to secure pardons from the White House after Jan. 6, including Reps. Mo Brooks, Matt Gaetz, Andy Biggs, Louie Gohmert and Scott Perry.
'Mark needs to snap out of it.'
Throughout her testimony, Hutchinson portrayed Meadows as checked out and unconcerned at best, and at worst, as the enabler of Trump’s worst instincts.
Despite telling her on Jan. 2 that “things could get real, real bad on Jan. 6,” Hutchinson testified that, in the days that followed, Meadows barely looked up from his phone when he was warned by Ornato and national security adviser Robert O’Brien about the potential for violence on Jan. 6. Hutchinson described Meadows as similarly unfazed when he was first told about violence erupting at the Capitol.
Back at the White House after Trump’s speech at the “Stop the Steal” rally at the Ellipse, Hutchinson said Meadows continued to stare at his phone when she tried to talk to him about the violent scene unfolding live on TV in front of him.
“The rioters are getting really close. Have you talked to the president?” she recalled asking Meadows. She said his response, without looking up from his phone, was “No, he wants to be alone right now.”
“I started to get frustrated,” Hutchinson told the committee. “I sort of felt like I was watching … a bad car accident that was about to happen, where you can’t stop it but you want to be able to do something. I remember thinking in that moment, ‘Mark needs to snap out of it. I don't know how to snap him out of it, but he needs to care.’”
Evidence of alleged witness tampering
At the end of Tuesday’s hearing, Cheney raised concerns about possible witness tampering to discourage other former White House and Trump campaign staffers from coming forward with relevant information. She provided two examples of calls and other messages witnesses had told the committee they’ve received from former colleagues ahead of their testimony. One witness said the message relayed urged them to “be a team player" and reminded them that “Trump does read the transcripts,” while another was told “he wants me to let you know he’s thinking about you. He knows you’re loyal.”
Who were the witnesses?
Hutchinson’s testimony was the main focus of Tuesday’s hearing, with the committee supplementing her in-person remarks with clips of earlier taped depositions. But a handful of witnesses also appeared on video at various points throughout the hearing, including former White House and Trump campaign aide Max Miller, former Trump bodyguard Nick Luna, former White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany and Matthew Pottinger, Trump’s former deputy national security adviser, who resigned to protest the president's actions on Jan. 6.
The committee also showed a clip from the filmed deposition of Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who invoked the Fifth Amendment when asked whether he believed the violence on Jan. 6 was justified.
Barring any other last-minute surprises, the committee is now expected to take a break to examine new evidence it has received since it began the public hearings two weeks ago. The next round of hearings is expected to resume next month.