Former president Donald Trump wanted to join supporters he knew were armed and dangerous as they marched toward the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and was said to have become so enraged when Secret Service agents prevented him from doing so that he attempted to grab the steering wheel of his presidential limousine and then tried to assault a security staffer, a former top White House aide told Congress in testimony on Tuesday.
Cassidy Hutchinson, 25, had worked as a top aide to former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows and had a front-row seat to how the administration acted before, during, and after the attack on the Capitol.
In explosive sworn testimony, Hutchinson recalled being near the president as he prepared to deliver remarks to supporters near the Ellipse before Congress was due to certify Joe Biden’s 2020 election win.
Trump was angry the crowd would look half full before cameras, she testified in a previously videotaped deposition, because some of his supporters were not allowed to come through magnetometer security screening devices, or mags, because they were carrying weapons.
"He was angry that we weren't letting people through the mag with weapons,” Hutchinson testified.
Standing in a tent near the president, Hutchinson said, she heard Trump say words to the effect of, "I don't [fucking] care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me. Take the [fucking] mags away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here. Let the people in. Take the [fucking] mags away."
She said then–deputy chief of staff Anthony Ornato told her and Meadows that morning that he had informed Trump that some of the supporters gathering that day were armed.
Trump had been advised by lawyers against including lines in his speech that would mention him going to the Capitol, criticize Mike Pence for overseeing the election certification, or encourage people to fight, she said, but he had done so anyway.
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy then called her as Trump was speaking, furious that the president had said he would go to the Capitol. “Don’t come up here," she said McCarthy told her, before hanging up.
When Hutchinson returned to the White House, she said she encountered Ornato, who took her into his office alongside Trump security chief Robert Engel and told her what had happened inside the “beast,” or presidential limousine. Ornato said that, when Secret Service agents told him it would not be safe to go to the Capitol, Trump had become so irate that he screamed, “I’m the fucking president” and grabbed for the steering wheel.
“Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge towards Bobby Engel, and when Mr. Ornato recounted this story for me, he had motioned towards his clavicles,” Hutchinson said.
She said Engel listened to Ornato speak and did not correct anything from his story.
She also described a December 2020 incident in which Trump had become so furious that he threw his lunch against a White House wall when then–attorney general Bill Barr told the Associated Press that the Department of Justice had found no widespread election irregularities.
Such a tantrum was not without precedent, she said. “There were several times throughout my tenure with the chief of staff that I was aware of either him throwing dishes or flipping the tablecloth to let all the contents of the table go onto the floor and likely break or go everywhere,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson had already been a central witness in the behind-the-scenes hearings for the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, with some excerpts of her testimony played at recent public hearings. In one taped deposition, she detailed how six House Republicans had asked for blanket pardons. She also reportedly said she had witnessed Meadows burning documents after a meeting in the weeks after Election Day in 2020 and that Trump had reacted approvingly to chants from Capitol rioters that they wanted to hang former vice president Mike Pence.
In additional excerpts from those depositions that were shown during Tuesday’s public hearing, Hutchinson described what was going on at the White House as the rioters descended on the Capitol.
At one point, she went into Meadows’ office to see what was being done and found her boss sitting on the couch scrolling through his phone. “I just remember thinking in that moment Mark needs to snap out of this and I don't know how to snap him out of this but he needs to care,” Hutchinson said.
Minutes later, White House counsel Pat Cipollone came “barreling down the hallway,” she said, and told Meadows that the rioters had gotten to the Capitol and that they needed to go speak with the president. Hutchinson said Meadows replied that the president “doesn’t want to do anything.”
“Pat said something to the effect of … ‘Mark, something needs to be done or people are going to die and the blood’s going to be on your effing hands,’” Hutchinson said.
The two men then left to speak with the president.
In another clip from one deposition, Hutchinson said it was her understanding that Trump wanted to include language about pardoning the rioters in a Jan. 7 speech but that he was dissuaded from doing so by White House attorneys.
Hutchinson also testified that both Meadows and Trump’s then-personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani later sought pardons in connection with the events of Jan. 6.
In a series of posts on the social network he had built after he was kicked off Twitter over the events of Jan. 6, Trump described Hutchinson's story as "fake" and said he hardly knew who she was.
Speaking Tuesday, Hutchinson said she had been disgusted by the events of that day.
"I remember feeling frustrated, disappointed and really, it felt personal," she said. "I was really sad. As an American, I was disgusted. It was unpatriotic. It was un-American. We were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie.”
Reacting on Twitter, former Trump acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney called the hearing "a stunning 2 hours."
"That is a very, very bad day for Trump," Mulvaney wrote.
Hutchinson’s appearance at Tuesday’s public hearing was shrouded in intrigue, with the surprise hearing itself only announced 24 hours before. Previously, the committee had said it would not hold another public hearing until July.
"In recent days, the select committee has obtained new information dealing with what was going on in the White House,” Chair Bennie Thompson said at the start of Tuesday’s hearing. “It's important that the American people hear that information immediately."