Ex-White House aide: Trump knew rioters had weapons, demanded to go to Capitol

Jan. 6 committee to review new evidence, hear from unidentified witness in session Tuesday
UPI

June 28 (UPI) — Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Mark Meadows, President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, testified Tuesday that Trump demanded to go to the Capitol after his Jan. 6, 2021, speech at the Ellipse and became violent with the Secret Service when they refused.

Her testimony came as the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack released a National Security Council chat log showing how security officers tried to stop Trump from walking to the Capitol.

“MOGUL’s going to the Capital … they are clearing a route now,” a message timestamped 12:29 p.m. said, using Trump’s code name.

“They are finding the best route now.”

“MilAide has confirmed that he wants to walk. They are begging him to reconsider.”

Trump’s motorcade eventually took him back to the Oval Office instead of the Capitol.

Hutchinson detailed Trump’s anger in the moments after his speech as his supporters then marched on the Capitol. She said she learned what happened inside the presidential limo — known as “the Beast” — from Secret Service official Tony Ornato. Secret Service agent Bobby Engel was also involved in the conversation and had been in the vehicle with Trump.

“Tony proceeded to tell me that when the president got in the Beast, he was under the impression from Mr. Meadows that the off-the-record movement to the Capitol was still possible and likely to happen, but Bobby had more information.”

She said Engel told Trump they couldn’t take him to the Capitol because it wasn’t safe.

“The president had a very strong, very angry response to that. Tony described him as being irate. The president said something to the effect of, ‘I’m the effing president, take me to the Capitol now.’

“Bobby responded, ‘Sir, we have to go back to the West Wing,'” Hutchinson added.

“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 towards Bobby Engel and when Mr. Ornato recounted this story to me, he motioned toward his clavicles.”
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Hutchinson also testified that White House officials were aware that members of violent, far-right groups had planned to attend Trump’s rally on Capitol Hill and felt “things might get real, real bad.”

She said the concerns came up during White House conversations involving Meadows, Trump and Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, in the days leading up to Congress’ certification of the Electoral College votes for Joe Biden.

“I recall hearing the word ‘Oath Keeper’ and hearing the word ‘Proud Boys’ closer to the planning of the Jan. 6 rally, when Mr. Giuliani would be around,” Hutchinson said in a recorded deposition given on a previous date.

Hutchinson recalled a conversation she had with Meadows after Giuliani told her “something to the effect of ‘we’re going to the Capitol.'”

Meadows “was scrolling through his phone,” Hutchinson said.

“I remember leaning against the doorway and saying, ‘I just had an interesting conversation with Rudy, Mark. It sounds like we’re going to the Capitol.’ He didn’t look up from his phone and said something to the effect of, ‘there’s a lot going on, Cass, but I don’t know, things might get real, real bad on Jan. 6.

“That evening was the first moment that I remember feeling scared and nervous for what could happen on Jan. 6,” Hutchinson added.

On the day of the rally, she said Trump became “furious” that security officials were preventing armed supporters from attending the rally because he was concerned about his crowd size.

“I was in the vicinity of a conversation where I heard the president say, ‘I don’t care that they have weapons. They are not here to hurt me. Take the effing mags away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol after the rally is over,” Hutchinson testified, referring to the magnetometers used for security screening.

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Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the ranking member of the House committee, took issue with Trump encouraging the crowd to march on the Capitol after his speech knowing they were armed with weapons and body armor.

Hutchinson said Meadows didn’t appear to be concerned when he was alerted by security officials that rally attendees were armed with knives, bear spray, guns and flagpoles outfitted with spears on the end.

“I remember distinctly Mark not looking up from his phone,” she said, adding that he responded to security officials by saying, “Alright, anything else?”

In recorded testimony, Hutchinson said Meadows told White House counsel Pat Cipollone that Trump didn’t want to stop the violence at the Capitol.

“I remember Pat saying to [Meadows] something to the effect of, ‘The rioters have gotten to the Capitol, Mark. We need to go down and see the president now.’

“And Mark looked up at him and said, ‘He doesn’t want to do anything, Pat,'” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson recounted another incident in December 2020 when Trump threw his lunch against a wall in the White House dining room after the Associated Press published an interview with then-Attorney General William Barr in which he said the Justice Department hadn’t found evidence of widespread fraud during the election.

She said Meadows attended a meeting with Trump in the dining room about the Barr interview.

“After Mark had returned, I left the office and went down to the dining room and I noticed that the door was propped open and the valet was inside the dining room changing the table cloth off of the dining room table. He motioned for me to come in and then pointed towards the front of the room near the fireplace mantle and the TV, where I first noticed there was ketchup dripping down the wall and there’s a shattered porcelain plate on the floor.”

Hutchinson said the valet told her Trump had become “extremely angry” at Barr “and had thrown his lunch against the wall.”

In recorded testimony at a hearing last week, Hutchinson told the committee that several Republican lawmakers had sought pardons from Trump after the Capitol attack. They included Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Louie Gohmert of Texas and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania.

Hutchinson’s in-person testimony on Tuesday came in a hearing that was scheduled at the last minute on Monday.

Last week, Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told reporters that the committee would not hold another hearing until July. At the time, he said that the panel had obtained new evidence that includes hours of additional video footage of Trump and his family members from documentary filmmaker Alex Holder.

The footage includes interviews with Trump, his adult children and former Vice President Mike Pence, as well as scenes from the riots at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, The Washington Post reported.

Thompson added that the committee had been in contact with Ginni Thomas — a conservative activist and the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who contacted top White House officials after the election and urged them to find a way to keep Trump in power — about testifying before the committee.

During the panel’s last meeting Thursday, it heard testimony that Trump had considered replacing then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen with Jeffrey Clark, a Justice Department environmental lawyer who supported Trump’s false claims that he won the election.

Federal investigators searched Clark’s home last week as part of an investigation by the Justice Department into efforts to overturn the election. John Eastman, a former Trump attorney, also said in a court filing Monday that federal agents had seized his phone.

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