Americans were taken deep inside the White House on Tuesday for a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse into the days leading up to the Capitol attack as well as what transpired on Jan. 6 itself as a Donald Trump defiant was desperately trying to get to the Capitol during the riots even as frantic staffers sought to discourage him amid fears the administration could be charged with crimes.
Cassidy Hutchinson, who worked for former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, provided the House committee investigating Jan. 6 with the most compelling evidence it has received to date. His testimony was particularly powerful, given his constant access and communications with Meadows, members of Congress, Cabinet officials and other high-level aides.
The select committee originally planned to suspend its series of public hearings for at least a few weeks, but abruptly decided to reconvene to present new evidence and testimony from Hutchinson. And she delivered in detail anecdotes and recollections about top aides knowing in advance that violence was likely to happen, staffers’ efforts to get Trump to call off the riots, and vivid stories about physical clashes involving the former president himself.
Hutchinson said she first learned of the scale of the planning around Jan. 6, four days earlier, during a conversation with former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. After a meeting at the White House on Jan. 2, 2021, Giuliani spoke to Hutchinson as she walked him back to his car about what he expected: Trump would be going to the Capitol and “he’s going to look powerful.”
When discussing the subject with her boss, Meadows said, “Things could get really, really bad on January 6.” That’s when Hutchinson said she started to feel more apprehensive about the day.
“When I heard Rudy’s perspective on the 6th, that night was the first time I remember being scared and nervous for what might happen on January 6th,” Hutchinson said Tuesday. “I was more concerned with what was happening regarding the planning aspects.”
In the following days before Congress certified Joe Biden’s presidential victory, Hutchinson relayed what the White House knew exactly could happen on January 6 and the efforts of at least some top aides and legal advisers to exercise caution.
And Hutchinson testified that confirmed reports and stories that many allies denied: Trump had every intention of visiting the Capitol on Jan. 6 after his speech on the Ellipse on efforts to overturn the election results of 2020.
In a Jan. 3 conversation, former White House attorney Pat Cipollone actively discouraged Trump from visiting the Capitol complex, fearing he could be charged with crimes such as obstruction of justice and election count fraud.
“We’re going to be charged with every crime imaginable if we make this move/if we go up to the Capitol,” Cipollone said, according to Hutchinson’s testimony.
Others seemed to feel in the coming days that Trump was actively and successfully discouraged from attending the certification. During Ellipse’s speech, Hutchinson received a call from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, who expressed frustration that Trump was not marching to the Capitol and got previous assurances that it wouldn’t happen. not. He said, “Don’t come up here.
But Trump seemed defiant until the last moment and eventually – and only reluctantly – backed down.
Hutchinson recalled a story he was told that after his speech, Trump tried to get his security detail to drive him to the Capitol and felt from Meadows that he could still go. When told they were going back to the West Wing, Trump tried to get behind the wheel and Bobby Engel, his security chief, told him to take his hands off. Hutchinson recounted Trump “using his free hand to rush towards Engel.”
“I’m the f— president,” Trump told his security chief. “Take me to the Capitol now.”
Trump’s other behavior in the weeks and days leading up to Jan. 6 was also a major part of Tuesday’s hearing.
After the Associated Press interview with then-Attorney General Bill Barr, in which Barr said he found no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, Hutchinson said she had gone to the dining room of the White House to find “ketchup dripping on the wall”. and “broken china” after Trump threw his lunch against the wall. She shared that it wasn’t the first time this had happened.
The hearing ended with another bombshell: She testified that, along with some GOP members of Congress, Giuliani and Meadows both expressed interest in presidential pardons tied to Jan. 6. Meadows provided the Jan. 6 committee with some requested documents, but was held in contempt of the House for refusing to comply with a congressional subpoena.
Hutchinson said the White House ultimately split into three camps on how to handle the Jan. 6 fallout: those who wanted Trump to take immediate action, another group who tried to play it both ways, and the “hijack and blame category”. She said her boss – one of Trump’s closest aides at the time – occupied the bottom two.
When she became aware of reports of violence at the Capitol, Hutchinson said she tried to get Meadows to have more urgency, initially to no avail.
The chants of rioters calling for former Vice President Mike Pence to be hanged seemed like a straw for some staffers. Cipollone asked Meadows to call on Trump to do more, but the chief of staff said the former president was unlikely to do so.
“You heard it Pat. He thinks [Pence] Deserves that. He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong,” Meadows told Cipollone, who in turn replied, “That’s crazy.
“I remember feeling frustrated, disappointed and really personal,” Hutchinson said of the chaos and violence that unfolded on Capitol Hill and Trump’s tweet about Pence. “As an American, I was disgusted. It was unpatriotic. It was un-American. We were watching the Capitol disfigure itself because of a lie.