The Jan. 6 Committee just finished a groundbreaking hearing with Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top aide to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows who interacted with top White House and Trump campaign figures in the days leading up to the Capitol attack, and during the attack itself.
Her testimony laid out a shocking pattern of both knowledge by Trump and others that the Jan. 6 rallies would grow violent, and a willingness to let that happen and even encourage it.
Here are some key takeaways.
Top Trump advisors knew he wanted to go to the Capitol on Jan. 6 — and they knew it could get violent
The hearing started with the days ahead of Jan. 6. Hutchinson — who worked down the hall from the Oval Office and was seen as a conduit to Meadows and Trump — recalled that on Jan. 2, Rudy Giuliani told her something to the effect of “We’re going to the Capitol. It’s going to be great. The President is going to be there. He’s going to look powerful. He’s going to be with the members. He’s going to be with the senators. Talk to the chief about it. Talk to the chief about it. He knows about it.”
She later asked Meadows what Giuliani was talking about. Hutchinson testified that, in response, Meadows said, “Things might get real, real bad on Jan. 6.”
John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, told Hutchinson that Trump’s effort to overturn the election could be “dangerous, either for our democracy, or the way things were going for the 6th,” she recalled.
Trump instructed Meadows to be in touch with Roger Stone and Michael Flynn about Jan. 6
Interestingly, Hutchinson testified that Trump instructed Meadows to reach out to Michael Flynn and Roger Stone the night before Jan. 6 “regarding what would play out the next day,” as committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) put it. Meadows did so, Hutchinson said. Both men were deeply involved in the effort to steal the election, and both spoke to a rally crowd on the night of Jan. 5. Stone received protection from members of the Oath Keepers who were later involved in the attack.
Trump knew there were weapons in the crowd, wanted to get rid of metal detectors before siccing crowd on Congress
Trump not only knew about weapons in the crowd on Jan. 6, but actually seemed to embrace that fact, Hutchinson testified. She focused on Trump’s rage upon learning that the immediate crowd area around the stage at the White House Ellipse — the part that was surrounded by metal detectors — was not full because people in the crowd had weapons and could not go through the magnetometers with them.
Backstage at the rally, Hutchinson said she overheard Trump say something to the effect of, “I don’t effing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the effing mags away. Let my people in, they can march to the Capitol from here. Let the people in, take the effing mags away.”
White House lawyers warned of criminal charges as Jan. 6 unfolded
Several people testified to the committee that they were aware of Trump’s desire to go to the Capitol after his speech at the White House. But there were also White House officials who feared the consequences of him doing so. Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, stood out: Hutchinson recalled him repeatedly asking her to ensure that Trump did not go to the Capitol, at one point even saying, “We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen” — specifically, Hutchinson recalled him expressing concern about obstruction of justice and defrauding the electoral count.
Trump lunged at his Secret Service lead, attempting to steer toward the Capitol after his speech
Perhaps the most explosive moment Hutchinson described came second-hand, recounting an incident that Ornato, the deputy chief of staff, described to her after Trump’s motorcade reached the White House following his speech at the Ellipse. Hutchinson described how Trump reportedly exploded in anger in the car upon learning from his Secret Service lead, Robert Engle, that they would not be able to travel to the Capitol because Trump’s safety could not be assured.
“I’m the effing president, take me up to the Capitol now,” Trump said, Hutchinson recalled hearing. Then, he lunged for the steering wheel, moving Engle to grab the President’s arm. Then, Trump lunged at Engle himself — at his clavicles, Hutchinson recalled Ornato indicating. “Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge towards Bobby Engel,” she said.
Meadows didn’t want to hear about the threat to the Capitol
One persistent pattern in Hutchinson’s testimony was the extent to which her boss, Meadows, seemingly didn’t want to hear about the threat to the Capitol. On several occasions, Hutchinson recalled Meadows burying his head in his phone or otherwise not responding when she or others delivered alarming news. Before the attack on the morning of Jan. 6 for example, Hutchinson recalled Ornato telling Meadows about numerous weapons in the crowd for Trump’s rally. “I remember distinctly Mark not looking up from his phone,” she recalled.
Meadows eventually said simply, “Alright, anything else?” she said.
Separately, she testified that Meadows “did not act on those concerns” that Jan. 6 would be violent. During Trump’s speech, as rioters began breaching the security lines at the Capitol, Hutchinson attempted to open the door to Meadows’ vehicle to update him on the situation, but “he immediately shut it.” He did the same thing a few minutes later, she said. And when she finally informed him of the situation 20 to 25 minutes later, “he almost had a lack of reaction.” He simply asked how much time was left in Trump’s speech, she said.
Even after learning of the attack, Trump and Meadows weren’t willing to do anything for hours
As the attack unfolded, Meadows and Trump hunkered down in the White House, unwilling to do anything much, Hutchinson testified. She described an extremely alarmed Cipollone telling Meadows something to the effect of, “the rioters have gotten to the Capitol, Mark. We need to go down and see the president now.”
Meadows was unmoved: “He doesn’t want to do anything, Pat,” Hutchinson recalled him responding.
Separately, Hutchinson recalled a conversation between Cipollone and Meadows after the pair had had a discussion with Trump about the “Hang Mike Pence!” chants at the Capitol. After Cipollone again told Meadows they needed to do something — he specifically cited the Pence chant — Meadows told Cipollone something to the effect of, “You heard them, Pat, he thinks Pence deserves it. He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong,” Hutchinson recalled.
Trump wanted to bring up pardons for rioters in video on Jan. 7
Trump eventually sent a gushing video telling the rioters he loved them, and asking them to go home in “peace” after they’d spent several hours attacking Congress.
But Hutchinson’s testimony also shed light on the video Trump released the following day. According to discussions she overheard with White House lawyers and discussions she had with Meadows, she said Trump didn’t want to talk about the rioters being violent, or about criminal prosecutions of them. Rather, “he wanted to put in that he wanted to potentially pardon them,” she said. Giuliani and Meadows both indicated they were interested in pardons, Hutchinson said separately.
Ultimately, Trump did the Jan. 7 speech largely according to planned drafts — except “the President still could not bring himself to say, quote, that this election is now over,” Cheney noted.
The committee presented potential evidence of mob-like witness intimidation and obstruction
At the end of the hearing, the committee leaders shared two statements that unnamed witnesses before the committee had received from unnamed sources. They indicated that the statements could be evidence of obstructing Congress.
Asked if they’d been contacted by any former colleagues or anyone else attempting to influence their testimony, one witness said, “They have reminded me a couple of times that Trump does read transcripts, and just keep that in mind as I proceed through my interviews with the committee.”
Another witness said they received a call in which someone said, “He wants me to let you know he’s thinking about you. He knows you’re loyal, and you’re going to do the right thing when you go in for your deposition.”