Jun 28, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Cassidy Hutchinson's Jan. 6 bombshells

Cassidy Hutchinson, a top former aide to Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, is sworn-in

Cassidy Hutchinson, a top former aide to Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, is sworn-in as she testifies during the sixth hearing by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, delivered the most damning testimony to date in the Jan. 6 hearings, tying former President Trump directly to the attack and providing potential evidence if criminal charges are pursued.

The big picture: She described multiple incidents of Trump's rage, including reportedly trying to seize the wheel and lunge at his former security detail when the Secret Service would not drive him to join protesters at the Capitol.

  • She detailed Trump's unwillingness to call off the crowds despite knowing some were armed and violence was expected.
  • She also testified that Meadows sought a pardon after the attack on the Capitol and that then-White House Counsel Pat Cipollone warned that Trump and aides could be charged with "every crime imaginable" if Trump joined protesters at the Capitol.

Why it matters: Hutchinson was a trusted aide to Meadows. Her proximity to the chief of staff and access to the inner workings of the West Wing allowed her to share her extraordinary view into the events leading up to and on Jan. 6, including closed-door conversations and paper trails.

At the Ellipse on Jan. 6

Trump was aware his supporters had weapons and wore body armor when he directed them to march to the Capitol following his "Save America" rally, Hutchinson said.

  • "I was in the vicinity of a conversation where I overheard the president say something to the effect of 'I don't f---ing care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in, they can march to the Capitol from here,'" she testified.

Hutchinson testified that Tony Ornato, Trump's then-deputy chief of staff and Secret Service agent, recounted how the former president lunged at his chief of security, Bobby Engel, while in the presidential limo, "The Beast," when Engel refused to drive him to the Capitol.

  • "The president said something to the effect of, I'm the f---ing president, take me up to the Capitol now," Hutchinson said. When Engel refused, telling him it wasn't safe, Trump "reached up toward the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel," Hutchinson said.
  • "Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge towards Bobby Engel, and when Mr. Ornato had recounted the story to me, he had motioned towards his clavicles," Hutchinson said.
  • Engel was in the room and didn't refute Ornato's version of the story, Hutchinson added.

Inside the White House’s prior knowledge of Jan. 6 attack

  • Hutchinson testified that on the evening of Jan. 2, 2021, following a meeting with Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani and Meadows, Giuliani asked her: “Cass, are you excited for the 6th? It’s going to be a great day.”
  • He then told her: "we're going to the Capitol" on Jan. 6.
  • "It's going to be great. The president is going to be there. He's going to look powerful. He's going to be with the members. He's going to be with the senators," he said
  • Hutchinson said she later asked Meadows about what Giuliani meant, and Meadows told her: "Things might get real, real bad on January 6."

Warnings from top national security officials

National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien called Meadows on Jan. 4 to warn him about potential violence on the Hill on Jan. 6, Hutchinson testified.

  • Meadows later met with Ornato, who mentioned the potential of protestors bringing weapons to the “Save America” rally on the Ellipse, and later, to the Capitol.
  • Ornato mentioned knives, guns, tear gas and spears, among other weapons, Hutchinson said.

Former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe made clear he worried Trump’s post-election claims of fraud “could spiral out of control and potentially be dangerous either for our democracy or, with the way that things were going, for the 6th,” Hutchinson said.

White House counsel worried about criminal activity

The White House counsel repeatedly warned the president and his team he was concerned they would be charged with "every crime imaginable" if they directed Trump's supporters to the Capitol following his Jan. 6 speech on the Ellipse.

  • "On January 3rd, Mr. Cipollone approached me knowing that [Meadows] had raised the prospect of going up to the Capitol on January 6th," Hutchinson testified.
  • Cipollone told her, per Hutchinson: "We need to make sure that this doesn't happen. This would be legally a terrible idea for us."
  • On Jan. 6, before Trump and his top aides — including Hutchinson — walked out to the Ellipse for his speech, Cipollone "said something to the effect of 'Please make sure we don't go up to the Capitol. Keep in touch with me. We're going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen,'" Hutchinson recounted.

During the attack

On Jan. 6, immediately after rioters breached the Capitol, Hutchinson said Cipollone marched to Meadows' office and told him: "'We need to go down and see the president now.'"

  • "And Mark looked up at him and said, 'He doesn't want to do anything, Pat,'" Hutchinson recounted.

In a previous, taped deposition, Hutchinson detailed another exchange between Cipollone and Meadows, in which Cipollone told Trump's then-chief: "We need to do something more — they’re literally calling for the Vice President to be f---ing hung.”

  • According to Hutchinson, Meadows replied: “You heard [Trump], he thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn’t think they're doing anything wrong.”

After the attack

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reached out to Meadows following the Capitol attack and informed him that Trump's cabinet secretaries were discussing invoking the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office.

  • "From what I understand, it was more of this is what I'm hearing, I want you to be aware of it," Hutchinson said.
  • Hutchinson also testified that both Meadows and Giuliani sought pardons related to Jan. 6.

Pressure from Trumpworld

Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) shared statements from witnesses suggesting that some within Trump's inner circle tried to intimidate them and pressure them to remain loyal to the former president before participating in the panel's investigation.

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