Former White House aide recalls dire legal warnings and angry, defiant Trump in testimony
The House Jan. 6 committee held a surprise hearing Tuesday delivering alarming new testimony about Donald Trump’s angry, defiant and vulgar actions as he ignored repeated warnings against summoning the mob to the Capitol and then refused to intervene to stop the deadly violence as rioters laid siege.
Witness Cassidy Hutchinson, a lesser-known White House aide, rebuffed Trump’s team warnings against testifying and provided first-hand knowledge of what she saw and heard in the run-up to the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection, a proximity to power that gives stunning new details in the panel’s year-long investigation.
With calm, detailed recollections, Hutchinson testified about a defiant Trump who knew there were guns and other weapons in the rally crowd at the White House, sent his supporters to the Capitol anyway and tried unsuccessfully to physically pry the steering wheel from his presidential limousine driver so he could join them.
Before joining the White House, Hutchinson had worked in some of the most conservative Republican offices on Capitol Hill. She was hired as special assistant to the president and promoted up to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows.
Here are highlights from the sixth hearing.
Angry, defiant, vulgar Trump
Trump was angry and defiant on the morning of Jan. 6, as he assessed the size of the crowd for his rally in front of the White House, upset that not everyone who had answered his summons to come to Washington could get in to see him because of the security lines.
Told that guns, knives and other weapons were being confiscated from the security screenings, Trump didn’t care. “They’re not here to hurt me,” the president said. He wanted to take away the magnetometer stations to allow more people inside the grounds, regardless of their weaponry.
“Take the effing mags away,” an agitated Trump barked at security moments before taking the stage, Hutchinson recalled.
White House lawyers worry of crimes
Trump’s lawyers at the White House were trying to tamp down the president’s speech to the crowd he had summoned for his “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6, and they were trying to stop his plans to go to the Capitol that day when Congress would be certifying the election results for Joe Biden’s victory.
Hutchinson testified that lawyer Eric Herschmann said it “would be foolish” to include some of the language the defeated president wanted to add to his speech — comments like fighting for Trump, or him telling the crowd “I’ll be there with you.” Herschmann warned such language shouldn’t be included for legal concerns and because of the optics it would portray.
That language ultimately stayed in the script as Trump rallied the crowd to “fight like hell” and promised he would join them at the Capitol.
Days before Jan. 6, White House counsel Pat Cipollone suggested there were “serious legal concerns” if Trump went to the Capitol with the crowd, Hutchinson recalled.
“We need to make sure this doesn’t happen,” she recalled Cipollone saying in the run-up to the rally.
The morning of Jan. 6, Cipollone restated his concerns that if Trump did go to the Capitol to intervene in the certification of the election, “We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable.”
Hutchinson then described what happened after the rally as Trump climbed into the presidential limousine, the “beast,” as it is called, as relayed to her later by Trump’s deputy chief of staff for operations.
Trump, inside the vehicle, tried to pry the steering wheel away from the driver, demanding to be taken to the Capitol.
Proximity to power, and ketchup
The hearing opened with a calm, even-spoken Hutchinson explaining her job responsibilities advising Meadows, often handling his cell phones, as the committee showed an architectural rendering of the layout of the West Wing.
Hutchinson’s office was situated between the Oval Office on one side and Meadow’s office on the other. Hers was also next to that of the vice president’s staff.
She had an upfront view of conversations across the offices and beyond.
Hutchinson described fielding a desperate phone call as she stood backstage at Trump’s rally that day from House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, who was upset that Trump had sent the crowd to the Capitol when she had promised they would not go.
She also told of helping the White House staff mop up ketchup off the walls of the Oval Office dining room after Trump, learning that his attorney general, William Barr, told The Associated Press there was no fraud on a scale to tip the presidential election, apparently hurled a plate of food at the wall.
In one gripping scene Hutchinson recalled walking Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani out of the White House when he asked if she was “excited about the 6th.”
“We’re going to the Capitol, it’s going to be great, the president’s going to be there, he’s going to look powerful,” she recalled Giuliani saying.
When she returned inside and told Meadows of that conversation, he told her a lot was going on.
“Things might get real, real bad,” Meadows told her, she recalled.
Associated Press writers Farnoush Amiri, Mike Balsamo, Eric Tucker and Nomaan Merchant contributed to this report.