The congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection held a surprise hearing today that included several new bombshells further implicating former President Trump and top advisers. The main witness today was Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top aide to then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows who was privy to many of the innermost discussions in the waning days of the Trump administration.
Hutchinson told the committee that Trump knew that rioters were heavily armed but wanted security officials to let them into the Capitol anyway. She also told stories of an apoplectic Trump lunging at staffers and smashing dishes inside the White House.
As Katie Benner writes for The New York Times:
Hutchinson provided many bombshells. The shocking description of Trump wrestling the Secret Service for control of his car on Jan. 6 so he could go to the Capitol. Portraying Meadows, her former boss, as a man who abdicated responsibility to the nation and hoped to be pardoned. And saying Trump knew that his supporters had dangerous weapons when he asked them to march on Congress.
Cheney ended the hearing on a solemn note, saying that democracy is preserved by people “who know the fundamental difference between right and wrong.” People of high rank and power have refused to talk about that distinction with the committee, but Hutchinson, a low-ranking official, didn’t shy from it today.
The Washington Post has more details on today’s revelations, including a description of an enraged Trump literally trying to wrestle the wheel away from his driver when the Secret Service told him it was too dangerous to go to the Capitol:
After the speech, Trump got back in his heavily fortified limousine and literally tried to wrestle the steering wheel away from the head of his Secret Service detail to go to the Capitol, according to Hutchinson, who said she was repeating what she heard from Ornato. (Secret Service decided it was too dangerous.)
Here’s how Hutchinson relayed what she heard from Ornato about the moment:
“The president said something to the effect of ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’ to which [Robert Engel, the head of the Secret Service detail] responded, ‘Sir, we have to go back to the West Wing.’ The president reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel. Mr. Engel grabbed his arm, said, ‘Sir, you need to take your hand off the steering wheel. We’re going back to the West Wing. We’re not going the Capitol.’ Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge towards Bobby Engel,” Hutchinson testified, and said Ornato motioned to his clavicles to describe a kind of choking-motion. [Pols emphasis]
“Let my people in.”
— President Trump’s alleged response when told that Capitol rioters were heavily armed.
Hutchinson said that White House Counsel Pat Cipollone had been frantically trying to prevent Trump from going to the Capitol — where he had talked about storming into the House chambers himself — because of clear and obvious legal implications.
Hutchinson also testified that Trump did not want to call off the rioters at the Capitol and had to be talked into making a statement:
Hutchinson said she saw Cipollone “barreling down the hallway” looking for her boss, Meadows. She overheard the conversation: “I remember Pat saying to him, something to the effect of, ‘The rioters have gotten into the Capitol, Mark, we need to go down and see the president now.’ And Mark looked up [from his phone] and said ‘He doesn’t want to do anything, Pat.’” [Pols emphasis]
Today’s hearing should be a watershed moment for all but the most lobotomized Trump supporters. There’s not much that anyone could say at this point to refute claims that Trump was trying everything possible to initiate a coup on Jan. 6, 2021.