WASHINGTON — As the top aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Cassidy Hutchinson had an up-close view to the inner workings of the Trump White House, a vantage point that has made her a key witness for the Jan. 6 House Select Committee investigating last year’s attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Hutchinson was the featured witness in an abruptly called committee hearing held on Tuesday, laying out in two hours of testimony vivid details about Trump’s prior knowledge of the potential for danger at the Capitol on the morning of Jan. 6, 2021, his failed attempt to force the head of his security detail to drive him to the violent protest, and his reluctance to disavow the violence at the Capitol despite pleas from many of his closest allies and advisers.
The committee initially said new hearings would not be held until July, but after Hutchinson changed attorneys, dropping a former Trump legal adviser as her lawyer, she agreed to testify publicly about Trump’s chaotic final days in office.
Here are takeaways from the sixth hearing:
Prior knowledge of weapons
As the committee continues to make the case that the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol was a premeditated attempt to upend the congressional certification of the 2020 election results, Hutchinson testified that Trump and top White House officials were aware that many of his supporters who arrived in Washington for a “Stop the Steal” rally outside the White House were spotted carrying weapons, including AR-15 rifles, spears and handguns.
Hutchinson said Trump dismissed the potential threat of violence, telling his aides “I don’t f-ing care if they have weapons, they’re not here to hurt me.” The president was “furious,” according to Hutchinson, that many of his supporters opted to watch his speech from the National Mall, instead of going through metal detectors set up by the U.S. Secret Service on the perimeter of the rally site.
Trump was incensed that the dispersed crowd would not lead to the optics of a crowded rally, and he unsuccessfully demanded that the metal detectors be taken away, Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson, who essentially sat in on most meetings between Trump and Meadows, described scenes of an “irate” president in the days following his election defeat to Democrat Joe Biden.
Trump allegedly attacked the head of his security detail after he refused to drive the president to the Capitol protest site, according to Hutchinson’s sworn testimony.
She told lawmakers that the head of the White House’s security operations at the time, Tony Ornato, told her that Trump lunged from his seat in the presidential limo and attempted to take control of the steering wheel, and soon after placed his hands on the driver’s throat when told the vehicle was not headed to the Capitol because of reports of escalating violence.
Trump, according to Ornato’s account to Hutchinson, said: "I’m the f’ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now.”
Hutchinson also recounted helping wipe ketchup from the Oval Office dining room after a worker relayed that Trump had thrown a plate of food and tossed a table cover, in reaction to then-Attorney General Bill Barr telling The Associated Press in a Dec. 1 interview that the Justice Department has found no evidence of widespread voter fraud as claimed by Trump.
“There were several times throughout my tenure with the chief of staff that I was aware of [Trump] either 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.
Possible witness intimidation
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the co-chair of the committee, previewed what might be another avenue the panel is investigating — possible witness tampering by those in Trump’s orbit.
Cheney capped off the hearing by noting that several of the witnesses who have cooperated with the committee have received messages from those close to Trump, urging them to remain “loyal” to the former president and to stay in the “good graces of Trump world.”
“I think most Americans know that attempting to influence witnesses to testify untruthfully presents very serious concerns,” Cheney said.