WASHINGTON – Former President Donald Trump grabbed for the steering wheel of his car and lunged at his security director while demanding to be taken to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, even though a White House lawyer warned he could be charged with “every crime imaginable,” a former aide told the House panel investigating the Capitol attack Tuesday.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Trump and his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, provided two hours of riveting testimony about Trump's interest in firing up the crowd on Jan. 6 and his volcanic temper when aides such as former Attorney General Bill Barr disappointed him.
The testimony came as part of the sixth June hearing as the panel documented pressure Trump put on his aides and the Justice Department to overturn the results of the 2020 election despite being told repeatedly he lost.
Here are some takeaways from the House panel’s hearing about how Trump prepared for his Jan. 6 rally and then reacted as a mob of his supporters ransacked the Capitol:
Hutchinson: White House lawyer warned about 'every crime imaginable'
Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told Hutchinson on Jan. 2, 2021, about Trump’s plan to go to the Capitol. Cipollone warned Hutchinson the next day and again the morning of Jan. 6 to have Meadows prevent such a move.
“We need to make sure that this doesn’t happen,” Hutchinson quoted Cipollone as telling her Jan. 3, 2021. “This would be legally a terrible idea for us. We have serious legal concerns if we go up to the Capitol that day.”
Cipollone also stressed Trump could be charged with inciting a riot. The House charged Trump with inciting the insurrection that unfolded that day, but he was acquitted in a Senate trial. Hutchinson quoted Cipollone as warning it could look as if “we were inciting a riot or were encouraging a riot.”
Trump never walked to the Capitol. But he said he would during his speech near the White House that morning. Cipollone warned Hutchinson that Trump could be charged with obstructing justice or defrauding the count of Electoral College ballots if he did that.
“Please make sure we don’t go up to the Capitol, Cassidy,” Hutchinson quoted Cipollone as telling her the morning of Jan. 6. “Keep in touch with me. We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen.”
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Police spotted weapons in the crowd on Jan. 6
On the morning of Jan. 6, police reported men walking near the Ellipse armed with AR-15-style rifles and Glock-style pistols, according to committee statements. Some of the gunmen hid in trees.
The committee played a recording of police officers describing what the people were wearing and guns they were carrying. Three men in fatigues were spotted carrying rifles.
“Look for the don’t tread on me flag,” one officer said, describing a man in a tree. “American flag face mask. Cowboy boots. Weapon on the right side hip.”
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'Let the people in': Trump said he didn't care if people had weapons
Anthony Ornato, the former White House deputy chief of staff for operations, warned Trump and Meadows about 10 a.m. on Jan. 6 about weapons among spectators waiting for the president’s speech, according to Hutchinson.
Meadows, who sat on the couch in his office, didn’t even look up from his phone as Ornato described people carrying flagpoles, sticks, spears, knives and guns, including pistols and rifles, according to Hutchinson. Afterward, Meadows asked if Ornato had briefed the president and he said he had, Hutchinson said.
Later that day, backstage at the rally, Hutchinson said she overheard Trump tell staffers he didn’t care whether people had weapons because “they’re not here to hurt me.”
“Let the people in,” Trump said, urging staffers to remove the metal detectors slowing down the arrival of the crowd.
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Hutchinson heard warnings about Oath Keepers and Proud Boys
The panel's vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said U.S. Capitol Police issued a report Jan. 3, 2021, noting “the Proud Boys and other groups planned to be in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6,” and that they targeted Congress rather than counterprotesters.
Hutchinson said that while in the White House, she heard the names of fringe groups “Oath Keepers” and “Proud Boys" during that period.
“I recall hearing the words ‘Oath Keepers’ and the words ‘Proud Boys’ closer to the planning of the Jan. 6 rally when Mr. Giuliani would be around,” Hutchinson said in a videotaped deposition.
Trump tried to grab steering wheel, lunged at security chief
As Trump’s motorcade headed back to the White House, the president, sitting in the back of his car nicknamed "the beast,” reached forward to try to grab the steering wheel in frustration that he wouldn't be heading to the Capitol, Hutchinson said she was told by Ornato.
"The president said something to the effect of: ‘I am the f---ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” Hutchinson quoted Ornato as telling her.
Trump also lunged at his security chief, Robert Engel, in an apparent attempt to choke him, Hutchinson said Ornato told her. Engel was in the room when Ornato told the story and didn’t dispute it, she said.
“Mr. Engel grabbed his arm, said, ‘Sir, you need to take your arm off the steering wheel,’” Hutchinson testified under oath. “’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 for me, he had motioned towards his clavicles.”
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Hutchinson 'disgusted' at Trump tweet against Pence
Former Vice President Mike Pence, in his role as Senate president, defied Trump on Jan. 6 and refused to reject electors as Trump demanded.
Hutchinson said as a staffer she was disappointed with Trump tweeting criticism of Pence even as members of the mob erected a gallows outside the Capitol and chanted "Hang Mike Pence."
Trump tweeted: "Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify."
"As an American, I was disgusted," Hutchinson said of the tweet. "It was unpatriotic. It was un-American."
Former deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger told the committee he decided immediately to resign after seeing the tweet.
“That’s when I knew I was leaving that day, once I had read that tweet," Pottinger said.
'Ketchup dripping down the wall': Trump erupts at Barr dismissing voter fraud
Trump was furious after The Associated Press published an interview Dec. 1, 2020, with former Attorney General Bill Barr, who announced he found no evidence of widespread voter fraud, according to Hutchinson.
Hutchinson said she saw a broken porcelain plate and "ketchup dripping down the wall" in the White House dining room. Hutchinson described helping a White House valet clean up a plate Trump had broken.
“The valet had articulated that the president was extremely angry at the Attorney General's AP interview and had thrown his lunch against the wall,” Hutchinson said.
Such tantrums were not uncommon by Trump, 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.
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Barr resignation accepted immediately
When Barr later met with Trump, he said he was aware that the president was dissatisfied with him and offered his resignation.
“He pounded the table very hard. Everyone sort of jumped,” Barr said. “Accepted.”
Committee will review possible witness tampering
The committee had announced at its Thursday hearing that the next sessions would be in July but abruptly announced the Tuesday hearing because of recently obtained evidence.
Part of the reason for the urgency was because Cheney said a witness received a call saying "a person" knew the witness was going to give a deposition the next day. The caller told the witness the person knew the witness was loyal and was “going to do the right thing when you go in,” Cheney said.
“I think most Americans know that attempting to influence witnesses to testify untruthfully presents very serious concerns,” Cheney said.
A committee member, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., told reporters after the hearing that the panel would investigate possible witness tampering.
“It's a crime to tamper with witnesses. It’s a form of obstructing justice,” Raskin said. “The committee won't tolerate it, and we haven’t had a chance to fully investigate it or fully discuss it, but it's something we want to look into.”
Aides warned about danger, threat to Trump legacy on Jan. 6
Hutchinson said a number of White House officials voiced fears about violence because of participation of extremist groups such as the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys.
Former national security adviser Robert O’Brien told Hutchinson he wanted to meet with Meadows. John Ratfcliffe, former director of national intelligence, avoided involvement in the administration’s post-election agenda of fighting over results of the 2020 election, according to Hutchinson.
Ratcliffe, a former Republican member of the House from Texas, thought searching for missing ballots and challenging election results in specific states would hurt Trump’s legacy, according to Hutchinson.
“He had expressed concern that it could spiral out of control and potentially be dangerous either for our democracy or the way that things were going for the Sixth,” Hutchinson said in videotaped testimony to the committee. “He felt that there could be dangerous repercussions.”
Hutchinson: Giuliani, Meadows sought pardons
Hutchinson testified that Trump considered including language in a speech Jan. 7, 2021, about pardoning participants in the Capitol attack, but Cipollone and White House lawyer Eric Herschmann said it wasn't a good idea.
Giuliani and Meadows each suggested they wanted pardons for themselves, Hutchinson said.
"He did," Hutchinson said of Giuliani. "Mr. Meadows did seek that pardon," she added.
Ex-Trump officials defend Hutchinson; Trump goes on the attack
Trump issued a statement Tuesday questioning Hutchinson’s credibility without disputing details from her presentation.
"I hardly know who this person, Cassidy Hutchinson, is, other than I heard very negative things about her," Trump said in a post on the Truth Social website. “She is bad news!”
Other officials from the Trump administration defended her. Alyssa Farah Griffin, a former assistant to Trump, tweeted that “Cassidy Hutchinson is 25 years old and has more courage than many elected members of Congress more than twice her age.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Cassidy Hutchinson: Trump lashed out before attack - Jan. 6 takeaways