(WASHINGTON) — The House Jan. 6 committee’s surprise hearing on Tuesday featured highly-anticipated and explosive testimony from someone who was inside the White House both as the Capitol attack unfolded and in the days before.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top adviser to then-President Donald Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, spent some two hours divulging details about what went on behind-the-scenes leading up to, during and after the attack.
Committee members and even some former Trump staffers hailed the 25-year-old for showing the courage to deliver her testimony publicly. Chair Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said members felt it important to offer her “firsthand” accounts “immediately.”
“It hasn’t always been easy to get that information, because the same people who drove the former president’s pressure campaign to overturn the election are now trying to cover up the truth about Jan. 6,” Thompson said. “But thanks to the courage of certain individuals, the truth won’t be buried. The American people won’t be left in the dark.”
With Hutchinson’s testimony, Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., argued that Trump and Meadows were well aware of the potential for violence at the Capitol last year yet ultimately dismissed the warnings. Trump even demanded to be taken to the Capitol alongside his supporters, Hutchinson said, despite concerns of legality and security from his team.
Here are some key takeaways from Hutchinson’s testimony:
Trump’s chief of staff knew Jan. 6 might get ‘real, real bad’
Kicking off her revelatory account before the committee, Hutchinson said that Meadows had warned her on Jan. 2, 2021, that “things might get real, real bad on Jan. 6.”
She said Meadows made the remarks to Hutchinson after meeting with Rudy Giuliani, who was at that point a central figure in Trump’s campaign to overturn the election. After the meeting, Giuliani talked enthusiastically to Hutchinson about plans to go to the Capitol, she said.
“It’s going to be great,” Giuliani said to her, Hutchinson said. “The president’s going to be there. He’s going to look powerful.”
When she walked into Meadows’ office to relay what Giuliani told her, she said Meadows responded with the remark about how “bad” the situation may be on Jan. 6.
“That evening was the first moment that I remember feeling scared and nervous for what could happen on Jan. 6,” she told the panel.
Hutchinson testified that Meadows generally knew about the potential for violence on Jan. 6 but failed to act. Both Meadows and Giuliani expressed an interest in seeking pardons over the events of Jan. 6, Hutchinson testified. Giuliani on Tuesday denied asking for a pardon. Meadows has not commented on Hutchinson’s testimony.
White House lawyers worried about criminal charges
Several White House staffers expressed concerns about the legality of what Trump intended to do on Jan. 6, Hutchinson told the committee. Specific crimes they were concerned about, she said, included defrauding the electoral count or obstructing justice.
One point of contention was Trump’s speech at the Ellipse, Hutchinson said. She recalled Trump lawyer Eric Herschmann urging speechwriters to avoid “foolish” language that Trump requested be included, such as the phrases “fight for me” and “we’re going to march to the Capitol.”
On the morning of Jan. 6, Hutchinson said White House counsel Pat Cipollone was adamant that Trump shouldn’t accompany his supporters to the Capitol.
“We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen,” she recalled Cipollone telling her at the time.
Trump knew his supporters were armed
With the committee displaying texts from Jan. 6 as visual aids, Hutchinson recalled how Trump was “furious” with the crowd size of his rally at the Ellipse on Jan. 6 and with advisers who didn’t want to let in individuals who had weapons. Those weapons included pistols, rifles, bear spray and flagpoles with spears attached to them, officials warned, according to Hutchinson.
Trump, she said, wanted the metal detectors to be taken away.
“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—— care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the f—— mags away. Let my people in,” she recalled. “They can march to the Capitol from here. Let the people in. Take the f—— mags away.”
Cheney said Hutchinson’s testimony established that Trump “was aware that a number of individuals in the crowd had weapons and were wearing body armor” when he spoke at the rally and urged them to then march to the Capitol.
She asked Americans to “reflect on that for a moment”
An ‘irate’ Trump grabbed the wheel inside presidential SUV
In one of the hearing’s most shocking moments, Hutchinson recalled hearing how Trump turned “irate” as he was driven away from the Ellipse after being told by his security that he could not go to the Capitol to meet supporters.
Hutchinson was not in the SUV at the time but said she heard the account from Tony Ornato, a senior Secret Service official, when everyone was back at the White House. Also in the room was Bobby Engel, the head of Trump’s security detail, Hutchinson said
“The president said something to the effect of, ‘I’m the effing president, take me up to the Capitol now’ — to which Bobby responded, ‘Sir, we have to go back to the West Wing,"” she continued. “The president reached up toward the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel. Mr. Engel grabbed his arm and said, ‘Sir, you need to take your hand off the steering wheel. We’re going back to the West Wing. We’re not going to the Capitol.’
“Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge toward Bobby Engel and when Mr. Ornato recounted this story to me, he motioned toward his clavicles,” she said.
In a statement later Tuesday, the Secret Service reiterated that it had been cooperating and intended to continue to cooperate with the House committee, “including by responding on the record” to Hutchinson’s testimony.
Two sources familiar confirmed to ABC News that Trump had indeed requested to go to Capitol on Jan. 6 and that the Secret Service refused due to security concerns. One of those sources said that the former president did return to his vehicle after his speech at the Ellipse and asked Engel if he could go to the Capitol, with Engel responding, essentially, that it was unwise.
In another alleged incident of Trump having an outburst, Hutchinson told the committee Tuesday that he threw his lunch at the wall in the White House dining room after learning about then-Attorney General Bill Barr’s interview with the Associated Press in which Barr made it clear the Department of Justice found no evidence of widespread fraud in the election. It wasn’t the first time Trump threw a dish or tablecloth in anger, Hutchinson said.
Meadows wanted to go to the ‘war room’ on Jan. 5
Hutchinson testified that the White House was aware of a “war room” assembled in the Willard Hotel in Washington on the night of Jan. 5.
Hutchinson said Trump asked Meadows to speak by phone with Roger Stone, a longtime Trump aide, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn the day before the rally, and that Meadows asked her to look into setting up Secret Service for him to go to the nerve center of the “Stop the Steal” movement that night.
She said she expressed to Meadows she didn’t think was a “smart idea” or “something appropriate for the White House chief of staff to attend or be involved in,” coming days after she overheard Guiliani mentioning “Oath Keepers” and “Proud Boys,” she testified earlier.
Eventually, Meadows dropped the request and said he would dial into a meeting, Hutchinson recalled.
Stone, for his part, said through his attorney that he and Meadows did not talk. “Unequivocally stated, Mr. Stone did not speak to or otherwise communicate with Mr. Meadows on January 5th or 6th. Additionally, Mr. Stone did not receive a call from Mr. Meadows on either day,” Grant Smith exclusively told ABC News.
Flynn, who Trump pardoned in December 2020 for lying to the FBI about conversations with the Russian ambassador, previously appeared before the committee and repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
In a clip played by the committee, Cheney asked Flynn if he “believed in the peaceful transition of power.”
“The Fifth,” Flynn replied.
ABC News’ Luke Barr, Ali Dukakis, Katherine Faulders, Ben Siegel and Pierre Thomas contributed to this report.
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