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The January 6 committee hearings that have captivated Washington for the past few weeks reached a fever pitch Tuesday, with former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson detailing a series of fresh accusations against former President Donald Trump, headlined by Trump allegedly attacking his head of security in a limousine on January 6.
In testimony to lawmakers, Hutchinson recalled a conversation with former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Tony Ornato, who described an “irate” Trump grabbing the steering wheel of his limo and lunging his free hand at the throat of Secret Service agent Robert Engel when Trump was told he couldn’t be taken to the Capitol on January 6 because of safety concerns.
The altercation happened just after Trump finished a speech on the Ellipse near the White House, where he demanded metal detectors be removed so his armed supporters could approach him, which didn’t concern Trump because he felt the crowd was “not there to hurt me,” according to Hutchinson.
Hutchinson testified that former White House counsel Pat Cipollone urged her to do everything in her power on January 6 to make sure Trump did not make it to the Capitol, with Cipollone warning “we’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable” if the president made it there.
Hutchinson testified White House officials were well aware of the potentially disastrous outcome of holding a rally on January 6: She said her boss, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, warned the day could turn “real bad” and former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe worried things would “spiral out of control.”
Hutchinson said Meadows made the comments on January 2, after she brought up concerns about remarks Rudy Giuliani—Trump’s personal attorney at the time—made about going to the Capitol during the certification of the election four days later.
Meadows was also aware of a heavily armed crowd of Trump supporters in D.C. on January 6 but seemed unfazed when he learned about it, not even looking up from his phone when informed, according to Hutchinson.
Cipollone approached Meadows at one point during the riot and demanded the White House “do something more” in response to rioters chanting “hang Mike Pence!” according to Hutchinson, but Meadows replied: “You heard [Trump], Pat, he thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.”
Hutchinson also said she cleaned up ketchup splattered on the wall of the White House dining room, after Trump threw his lunch plate in rage over the Associated Press publishing a December 2020 story in which former Attorney General Bill Barr declared there was no evidence supporting Trump’s election fraud claims.
After the Capitol riot, the committee alleged former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent a message to Meadows informing him members of the president’s cabinet were discussing using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. Meanwhile, Hutchinson said Giuliani and Meadows both asked about pardons following the storming of the Capitol, joining a list of members of Congress that also allegedly asked for pardons from Trump.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the House January 6 committee’s vice chairwoman, ended Tuesday’s hearing by showing anonymous witness statements suggesting Trump’s team might be trying to tamper with testimony.
“I’m the effing president, take me up to the Capitol—now!” Trump said as he lunged his hand for Engel’s neck, according to Hutchinson’s testimony.
Trump blasted Hutchinson’s testimony in a series of posts on his social media platform, Truth Social, labeling her a “Whacko” and “Total Phony!!!” Trump said the story of the limo altercation was “Fake” and claimed “I didn’t want or request that he make room for people with guns to watch my speech.” He also reiterated an earlier claim that he did not express support for the January 6 rioters’ “hang Mike Pence” chants.
Tuesday’s hearing was the sixth from the committee this month, but it deviated from the playbook of the five earlier hearings by solely relying on Hutchinson’s wide-ranging testimony. Previous hearings only covered specific topics, like the actions of rioters on January 6 and Trump’s push to get states to overturn election results. The hearing also differed from others in that it was abruptly announced—only about 24 hours’ notice was given before Tuesday’s proceedings. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), committee chairman, said the hearing was called because of new information the committee received in recent days, which he felt needed to be relayed to the American public “immediately.”
What To Watch For
The next hearings are not expected until mid-July.
Jan. 6 Hearings: Trump Grabbed Limo Steering Wheel, Lunged At Security Chief In Rage At Not Being Taken To Capitol, Ex-Aide Says (Forbes)
Jan. 6 Hearings: Trump Wanted To Let Armed Rioters Enter His Rally, Aide Says (Forbes)
Jan. 6 Hearings: Meadows Warned January 6 Could Be ‘Real Bad’ Days Before Riot, Aide Says (Forbes)
Jan. 6 Hearings: 6 Republicans Allegedly Asked Trump For Pardons—Including Marjorie Taylor Greene And Matt Gaetz (Forbes)
Trump Approved Of ‘Hang Mike Pence!’ Chants During Capitol Riot, Staffers Reportedly Learned (Forbes)