Jun 29, 2022 - Podcasts

The most damning Jan. 6 testimony so far

Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to former president Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, testified Tuesday to the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol.

  • Plus: how the Roe decision could affect your online privacy.
  • And: the human toll of surging migration at the Southern U.S. border.

Guests: Axios' Margaret Talev and Margaret Harding McGill.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Erica Pandey, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Lydia McMullen-Laird and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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ERICA PANDEY: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Wednesday June 29. I’m Erica Pandey in for Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what you need to know today: how the Roe decision could affect your online privacy. Plus, the human toll of surging migration at the Southern U.S. border.

But first, today’s One Big Thing: new testimony says former President Trump may have tried to join the January 6th insurrection.

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: I was in the vicinity of a conversation where I overheard the president say something to the effect of, you know, “I don't f-ing care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me, take the f-ing mags away.”

ERICA: That's testimony yesterday from Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top to former president Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows. She's describing the moment Trump urged the secret service to let his supporters go to the Capitol, despite knowing they were heavily armed. That testimony came as part of a surprise hearing Tuesday from the House select committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol. Axios managing editor for politics Margaret Talev is here with more. Hi, Margaret.


ERICA: Margaret, this testimony was pretty shocking for observers. How much does this change our understanding of Trump's role?

MARGARET: Erica, this was so far in the January 6th hearings, the most damning testimony for the former president. And that's true because Cassidy Hutchinson tied him directly to the attack that day on January 6th, 2021, by talking about his knowledge of weapons, his knowledge of the protesters and many other details. She gave testimony that the former president tried to take the steering wheel of the car that he was riding in and then lunged at his security detail when the secret service would not take him to the January 6th protest at the Capitol. She also testified that he, on multiple occasions, had thrown plates at the wall at the White House, that he was known to turn the tablecloth in fits of rage. And so we saw a picture of a president who acted violently through this testimony.

ERICA: Did this testimony establish Trump's criminal culpability and what took place on January 6th? Was there any sort of smoking gun here?

MARGARET: Of course, these are congressional hearings, these are not criminal proceedings and the standard for testimony and evidence is different. Congress can't make the Justice Department do anything and the Justice Department has remained very independent and tight-lipped about what it intends to pursue. But certainly when you have a former aide with really unparalleled access inside the White House, she was able, both personally and through her conversations with other people, to describe in detail actions that could lend themselves potentially towards evidence were there to be a criminal investigation. But that really depends in part on what she witnessed firsthand and in part on what can be corroborated when she’s talking about things that she was described by others.

ERICA: And who from Trump's inner circle, did the Hutchinson testimony implicate?

MARGARET: The most interesting figure that it illuminated was that of Cassidy Hutchinson's former boss, the former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and paints a picture of him directly involved in conversation with President Trump throughout the day with the White House Council and with so many people who were seeking to influence him and seeking to influence the president through him, begging him to intervene to get the president, to call off the protesters, to protect vice president Mike Pence, to acknowledge that he had lost the election so that the country could move on.

ERICA: Margaret at the end of the hearing, we heard a bit about possible witness tampering. What did you think of that?

MARGARET: I actually think this may be the most important element of the hearing. Look, the headlines are gonna be about the former president throwing plates or whether he lunged at his security detail. But, what Congresswoman Cheney was referring to at the end of the hearing, our texts and, uh, evidence from folks who have come before the committee already privately who have indicated that they have gotten what they perceive to be pressure from former President Trump or Trump world. Such as, he's reading the transcripts, he's keeping track of who's testifying, you know, he values loyalty, he knows you're loyal. He knows you'll do the right thing. She raised a red flag about concerns about this. I would expect to hear a lot more about this in future hearings.

ERICA: Margaret Talev is the managing editor for politics at Axios. Thanks Margaret.

MARGARET: Thanks Erica.

ERICA: In a moment, how the Supreme Court abortion ruling could put online privacy at risk.

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ERICA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Erica Pandey in for Niala Boodhoo. Last week's Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe V. Wade brings up new questions about individual rights beyond abortion access. As Axios’ tech policy reporter, Margaret Harding McGill writes many experts fear the decision could erode our privacy online. She joins us now with more on this. Hi, Margaret.

MARGARET HARDING MCGILL: Hey Erica. Thanks for having me.

ERICA: So the original Roe v. Wade decision 50 years ago was based largely around a personal right to privacy in your own decisions. How does this recent court opinion change that?

MARGARET: So the court opinion basically undermines this idea that there is a constitutional right to make personal decisions without interference from the government. That same right that grants you federal access to abortions underpins rights to contraception, rights to interracial marriage and a right to same-sex relationships and marriage. So one fear I've heard is that those rights could also be in jeopardy by the Supreme Court and if that happens, a lot of activity that people do in their daily lives online could become evidence in criminal investigations against them.

ERICA: Right, there's been a lot of attention on apps that track a person's menstrual cycle, the kinds of data they collect and how that data might be used against someone in an abortion investigation. What other online activity could potentially be used as evidence?

MARGARET: Well, prosecutors can serve Google with a keyword search warrant that could reveal every user that has searched for abortion help or for Planned Parenthood. They could get text messages. They could seek the phone's location data to see how many accounts have visited the location of an abortion clinic. So much of our daily lives happens online and now all of this activity in some states has become criminal.

ERICA: Do we know how tech companies like Google or Apple would handle data across from law enforcement, if they were looking into a potential abortion?

MARGARET: Well, the tech companies aren't coming outright and saying what they would do, but the thing to keep in mind is that the act of law enforcement seeking location data, content, username, browser history, that's already been happening. Tech companies do hand that information over. What has changed is the activity that is now criminal. So tech companies are gonna have to grapple with how they answer these requests, but they already have policies for answering them in other types of investigations.

ERICA: What do consumers do now? What, what can they do with this information?

MARGARET: There are steps consumers can take - you know, they could, look into their settings on their phones and try and minimize location history or location sharing. But honestly, as the privacy experts that I talk to said, it's really unfair to put this on consumers. That's a big burden for them. And what they would like to see is for Congress to pass a federal privacy law. And then on the tech company side, there's data minimization. If Google is not holding onto where you were three months ago, they can't share it with law enforcement. So as long as the companies are collecting the data and storing the data, they're gonna keep getting subpoenaed. If they stop storing it for so long or even collecting it in the first place that reduces that risk.

ERICA: Margaret Harding McGill covers tech policy at Axios. Thanks Margaret.

MARGARET: Thank you.

ERICA: One last story for you today. At least 50 migrants were found dead inside an abandoned truck in San Antonio, Texas on Monday. The majority of the dead are believed to be from Mexico, with others from Honduras and Guatemala…and this looks to be one of the most deadly incidents involving migrants crossing the U.S. border in modern history. Temperatures had climbed to 101 degrees that day and the cause of death for most is thought to be heat stroke in the sweltering, overcrowded truck. As summer heat sets in and new record highs are recorded in the U.S., a surge in migrants attempting to cross the southern U.S. border has officials worried about the months to come.

The investigation into the deaths in San Antonio is continuing today and we’ll keep following the story.

And that’s all from us for this Wednesday – remember you can text me and the team at (202) 918-4893. Please keep sending us your thoughtful observations and questions about abortion rights in your community.

I’m Erica Pandey in for Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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