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Explosive first-hand testimony was delivered Tuesday to the January 6 committee from a former Trump White House aide about the former president’s conduct on the day of the insurrection and those leading up to it.
Cassidy Hutchinson, who was a senior aide to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, testified under oath about a volatile and angry president. Trump, she said, was prone to throwing dishes and once even grabbed the steering wheel of the presidential limousine because he so desperately wanted to go to Capitol Hill with the rioters.
Trump and Meadows, Hutchinson said, knew of the potential for violence before Jan. 6; the names of the violent white supremacist groups that showed up on Capitol Hill that day were being released in the White House when the president’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, was present; Trump knew that the people who showed up at his January 6 speech had guns and he was furious that so many were being stopped by magnetometers; and when the insurrection was taking place, Meadows seemed to have little reaction while Trump didn’t care.
“He doesn’t want to do anything, Pat,” Meadows said, according to Hutchinson, in a conversation with White House counsel Pat Cippolone, who urged Meadows to pressure Trump to crack down on the violence.
Cipollone replied, “Mark, something has to be done, or the blood is going to be on your goddamn hands.”
There were many other amazing stories like the one from the hearing that was announced the day before. The committee, in announcing the hearing, said only that new information had come to light.
Here are five takeaways from the audience:
1. We’ve heard about Trump’s temperament throughout his life, but this was the most vivid detail during his tenure as president.
Trump said at one point during the 2016 presidential campaign that he could be so presidential that everyone would be “bored.”
Hutchinson painted a picture of a volatile man who was far from what Americans have long expected of how their presidents should behave. This is some of what she told:
— She said she was told that Trump grabbed the steering wheel of the presidential limousine and put his hands on the “collarbones” of the Secret Service agent driving the car, and those involved did not dispute the account.
Trump had been “furious” when he heard that the Secret Service said it could not secure the area around the Capitol, and that Trump had to be taken back to the White House.
“I am the fucking president,” Trump thundered. “Take me to the Capitol now.”
The agent refused.
— Trump had a penchant for throwing plates. Hutchinson recalled entering the presidential dining room on Dec. 1, 2020, after Bill Barr said in an interview that there was no evidence of widespread election fraud.
Hutchinson found ketchup dripping from the wall and a smashed plate on the floor. The president was “extremely angry” about Barr’s interview. Trump, Hutchinson said, had thrown his lunch against the wall. Hutchinson grabbed a towel and helped the staff wipe down the wall.
Hutchinson said there were “several times” throughout his tenure at the Meadows when Trump dropped plates and knocked over the tablecloth in the dining room, causing the table’s contents to break or go everywhere.
2. The committee is methodically trying to establish intent and premeditation.
It is a difficult threshold to reach, but the committee is deliberately and intentionally laying the groundwork for intent and premeditation. At Tuesday’s hearing, he showed:
— Meadows was told by intelligence before Jan. 6 that the day could turn very violent. He shared that with Trump. But Meadows rarely had any reaction or seemed surprised at all and was just as taken aback by the violence on the day of the insurrection, according to Hutchinson.
— Meadows also participated, by phone, though he wanted to go in person, in a briefing with Roger Stone and retired General Michael Flynn in the “War Room” they had set up Jan. 5 at the Willard Hotel.
Stone and Flynn were intimately involved in the “Stop the Steal” movement. There are photos of Stone with the white supremacist militia acting as his bodyguard on January 6.
Flynn has been linked to the QAnon conspiracy and advocated for the Fifth, the right not to incriminate himself, on multiple occasions before the January 6 committee, including when asked simply if he believed in the peaceful transfer of power in the United States. .
— Trump knew violent people in the crowd, he knew they were armed, he did not want their weapons taken from them, and he did not feel threatened.
“I don’t care if they have guns,” Trump said, according to Hutchinson. “They’re not here to hurt me. Let them in, take the magazines.” Trump noted that they could march on Capitol Hill afterwards.
Instead, he was more concerned that the crowd would not look as big as he wanted in the pictures and was hyping them up, encouraging them to go to the Capitol after his speech.
— Trump resisted calls to reduce the violence, and Hutchinson quotes Meadows as saying that Trump thought Vice President Mike Pence deserved to be hanged.
“He doesn’t want to do anything,” Meadows said of Trump, according to Hutchinson. “This is his people.”
At another point, Hutchinson said she heard Meadows tell Cipollone, who urgently told Meadows about the violence and that they were even chanting to hang Pence: “You heard him, Pat. He thinks he deserves it. He doesn’t think he deserves it.” them” is doing something wrong”.
So far there is nothing explicit from people testifying that Trump said he wanted his supporters to violently storm the Capitol, but there are plenty of breadcrumbs.
3. The White House counsel was concerned about the legal exposure of Trump and the White House.
As Trump pushed to be allowed to go to Capitol Hill with his supporters, as many White House aides testified, Cippolone worried that he and others in the White House could be charged with crimes if Trump attended.
His message to Hutchinson and Meadows when it came to Trump wanting to go to Capitol Hill: Make sure it doesn’t happen.
“We will be charged with every conceivable crime if that happens,” Cippolone said, according to Hutchinson.
He noted that Cippolone said it would appear that Trump was inciting a riot and that there could be charges related to obstruction of Congress and conspiracy to defraud the United States by blocking the counting of electoral votes.
The committee also revealed on Tuesday that the possible crimes committed were not just from the past. Toward the end of the hearing, Vice President Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, warned of possible witness tampering.
4. Add Meadows and Giuliani to the list of those who asked for pardons.
Speaking of legal exposure, Hutchinson testified Tuesday that her boss, Meadows and Giuliani sought pardons but did not get them.
At the latest hearing, there were about a half dozen Republican members of Congress who were also named seeking pardons. Now again, like those Republican members of Congress, it is not explicitly known why they were apologizing, if they believed they had done something illegal or if they simply thought a Democratic administration would attack them.
But Meadows spoke to Stone and Flynn, as did Trump, and Giuliani was identified Tuesday as someone who mentioned the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys. prior to January 6 in the halls of the West Wing.
Many people were concerned about legal exposure, but the question remains what will come of these hearings legally.
The January 6 committee is not a law enforcement agency, and it is unclear what is going on at the Justice Department and the FBI from an investigative standpoint as it relates to the White House and the January 6th.
5. Republicans largely have their fingers in their ears about these hearings.
Hutchinson is a Republican. In fact, nearly everyone who testified during these hearings has been a Republican, from White House staff and lawyers to campaign aides and state election officials.
They were people who worked for the Trump White House, who were trying to get him reelected, or others who voted for him.
It’s hard to know what will move the political needle today with such entrenched partisanship or if this will potentially hurt Trump in the medium term because of all the drama associated with him.
But Republican viewers right now are not attuned to the main source evidence.
A CBS/YouGov poll conducted last week found that while nearly seven in 10 Democrats follow the hearings some or a lot, only a quarter of Republicans do and less than half of independents.
Overall, half of those surveyed said they believe Trump was trying to stay in office through illegal means. More than eight in 10 Democrats and 51% of independents thought so, but only 13% of Republicans thought so.
And while 80% of Democrats think the January 6 committee should recommend that Trump be charged with crimes, 44% of independents think the same and only 8% of Republicans.
It’s hard to hear a tree fall in a forest when you’re thousands of miles away.