Unlike previous hearings, Tuesday’s public hearing of the U.S. Congressional Committee’s investigation into January 6, 2021, Capitol attack had no pre-announced theme. The name of the lone witness was not officially made public in advance, and even the date was not released until Monday.
But former President Donald Trump and his efforts to undo the 2020 election remained a constant focus of the panel’s sixth hearing this month.
The surprise hearing, which promised “recently obtained evidence,” relied heavily on the live testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who shared “first-hand” stories about Trump’s behavior. On and about January 6, 2021.
Here’s a look at five key lessons from the hearing:
‘They’re not here to hurt me: Trump knew protesters were armed
Hutchinson told the panel that Trump was “furious” ahead of his speech at the Ellipse near the White House before the January 6 riots because the area was not crowded with people, asking his staff to allow protesters who may be armed at the rally.
Trump asked for the magnetic weapon detectors (mags) to be removed so more people could enter the area.
Trump said he didn’t care if the crowd was armed. Removehe the expired magazines; they are not here to hurt me. Let them in; let my people in,” Hutchinson quoted Trump. “They can march to the Capitol after the rally is over. They can march from the Ellipse. Get rid of the running warehouses; then they can march to the Capitol.”
Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, to prevent the certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory [File: John Minchillo/AP Photo]
Trump wanted to join his supporters at the Capitol
The committee Tuesday presented testimony from Hutchinson and other White House officials who said Trump wanted to go to the Capitol on January 6, against the advice of his legal and security assistants.
The panel also included a written chat between National Security Council officials discussing the president’s possible route to the Capitol.
Hutchinson told the committee that White House attorney Pat Cipollone warned of serious legal consequences if Trump went to the Capitol.
“Mr. Cipollone said something along the lines of, ‘Please make sure we don’t go to the Capitol, Cassidy. Stay in touch with me. We will be charged with every crime imaginable if we make that move possible,” Hutchinson told the commission.
Hutchinson also described a “very angry” Trump who got physical with staff when he learned he couldn’t go to the Capitol after his speech at the Ellipse.
“I’m the dying president. Take me to the Capitol now,” Trump told aides in the presidential vehicle, according to Hutchinson, who relayed the information from then-Deputy White House Chief of Staff Tony Ornato, who was in the car.
Hutchinson quoted Ornato as saying Trump was “furious”. She said Trump tried to grab the wheel, but Secret Service official Bobby Engel stopped him.
“Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge at Bobby Engel,” Hutchinson said. “When Mr. Ornato told me this story, he gestured to his collarbones.”
Hutchinson says there were three camps in the White House
Hutchinson told the panel that White House aides and advisers fell into three camps on January 6.
“There was a group of individuals who strongly urged him to take immediate and swift action” to stop the riots, Hutchinson told the panel.
She said that group included Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and then-White House attorney Eric Herschmann.
Hutchinson added that other advisers wanted to be more neutral — they knew something had to be done. Still, they tried to “take the line in the knowledge that Trump didn’t necessarily want to take immediate action and condemn riots.”
“And then there’s the last group that rejected the blame – ‘Let’s blame Antifa; these aren’t our people,” Hutchinson said. “I understand that Mr. Meadows fell into the category of deflecting guilt, but he ultimately chose a more neutral path, knowing that there were several advisers in the president’s circle urging him to take more action.”
Despite calls to action, Trump hesitates to call for an end to the attack on the Capitol.
Trump’s children and confidants urged him to tell his supporters to leave the Capitol on January 6, the panel said Tuesday, sending text messages and testimony to that effect.
Hutchinson said she remembers Ivanka Trump spoke at several points that “she wanted her father to send them home”.
The commission showed text exchanges between Donald Trump Jr and Meadows, with Trump’s son urging the then-president to condemn the attack as soon as possible.
According to the commission, conservative show host Laura Ingraham Meadows also sent a text warning that Trump is “destroying his legacy and playing on every stereotype” by not calling for an end to the Capitol riots.
Trump eventually urged his supporters to go home “in peace” and tell them “we love you” early evening on January 6, hours after these calls.
Hutchinson also recalled that White House attorney Cipollone approached Meadows in his office as the rioters approached the Capitol. Still, the then-White House chief of staff seemed to dismiss the situation’s urgency.
“I remember Pat saying something to him along the lines of, ‘The rioters are at the Capitol, Mark; we have to go down to see the president now.” And Mark looked up at him and said, ‘He won’t do anything,’ said Hutchinson.
She added that Cipollone told Meadows, “Something has to happen, or people will die, and the blood will be on your blotting hands.”
Commission plays a video of Trump during a sixth hearing on June 28, 2022, Capitol attack [J Scott Applewhite/AP Photo]
Cabinet Secretaries Discussed Invoking 25th Amendments
Hutchinson said then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo contacted Meadows after January 6 to warn him that cabinet secretaries were discussing invoking the 25th Amendment to strip Trump of his presidential powers.
“From what I understand, it was more of this what I’m hearing; I want you to be aware of it,” she told the panel.
The constitutional provision allows for a transfer of power if the president is unable or unfit to serve.
Cheney also said the committee “learned” that cabinet secretaries tabled the 25th Amendment after the January 6 attack.
During her testimony, Hutchinson described an increasingly erratic Trump post-election, even before January 6, 2021.
She said Trump threw his lunch against the wall in early December 2020 after learning that then-Attorney General William Barr told the Associated Press news agency there was no evidence of electoral fraud.
“The [White House] valet had said the president was extremely angry at the AP interview with the attorney general and threw his lunch against the wall, forcing them to clean up,” Hutchinson said.
“So I grabbed a towel and started wiping the ketchup off the wall. I helped the clerk. He said something along the lines of, “He… [Trump] is furious about this.”