(WASHINGTON) — Startling testimony on Tuesday from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson before the House committee investigating Jan. 6 drew shock from Donald Trump’s orbit as well as support for Hutchinson’s character — and a rebuke from the former president himself.
Hutchinson, who worked as a top aide to Mark Meadows, Trump’s last chief of staff, was the only witness at a surprise hearing on Tuesday. She testified for nearly two hours about Trump’s frame of mind surrounding the 2020 election he lost as well as the events before, during and after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol.
Speaking before the House committee under oath, Hutchinson recalled how she had been told that Trump lunged at a Secret Service agent on Jan. 6 when he was told he could not go to the Capitol with a supportive mob after his speech at the Ellipse near the White House. She also testified that, in a separate incident, Trump threw his lunch at the wall after then-Attorney General Bill Barr gave an interview saying there was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election — and it wasn’t the only instance of Trump breaking plates or tossing tables over, she said.
Hutchinson told the panel that Trump wanted to ease security for his Jan. 6 speech despite being told that people looking to attend the rally were armed. “They’re not here to hurt me,” Trump said, according to Hutchinson, who testified that he went on to downplay accounts that the mob at the Capitol called for then-Vice President Mike Pence to be hung.
Tuesday’s hearing was capped off with warnings from Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., a Trump critic and vice chair of the committee, warning that some witnesses had been intimidated by the former president’s allies.
But it was Hutchinson’s testimony that drew the strongest reaction, with the former president trying to dismiss her as a lowly and disingenuous staffer whom he did not know. Others who worked in the White House with Hutchinson and Trump, however, publicly defended her.
Trump wrote on Truth, his social media site, that he had “heard very negative things” about Hutchinson during her time in his administration and called her a “phony” and a “leaker.”
But aides and former members of Trump’s administration expressed surprise at her testimony, saying it could be further damaging to the twice-impeached former president.
“This is bad,” one aide still close to Trump told ABC News.
Mick Mulvaney, Meadows’s predecessor as chief of staff, echoed that.
“This is explosive stuff. If Cassidy is making this up, they will need to say that. If she isn’t they will have to corroborate. I know her. I don’t think she is lying,” he tweeted.
“That is a very, very bad day for Trump,” Mulvaney added once the hearing finished.
And while Hutchinson’s testimony sparked claims online of lying or hearsay among Trump loyalists — and the Republican Party’s official social media accounts — those who worked in the White House alongside her vouched for her values and her background.
“Anyone downplaying Cassidy Hutchinson’s role or her access in the West Wing either doesn’t understand how the Trump WH worked or is attempting to discredit her because they’re scared of how damning this testimony is,” tweeted former White House deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews, who resigned after Jan. 6. “For those complaining of ‘hearsay,’ I imagine the Jan. 6 committee would welcome any of those involved to deny these allegations under oath.”
Tuesday was the latest in a series of public hearings the House committee plans to hold through at least July, focusing on such topics as Trump’s pressure on the Department of Justice to overturn the 2020 election results and the violent events of the insurrection itself.
The panel’s work come as Trump openly teases a third presidential run, in 2024. While polling shows the public broadly disapproves of Trump’s conduct related to Jan. 6, surveys also show him as the front-runner among the conservative base in a potential 2024 GOP primary field.
ABC News’ Ben Siegel contributed to this report.
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