The House select committee investigating the riot at the United States Capitol on January 6th, 2021, held a surprise hearing to reveal recently obtained information. The hearing included both live and taped testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson.
Hutchison sat for four separate videotaped interviews with the committee.
"In recent days, the select committee has obtained new information dealing with what was going on in the White House on January 6th and days prior," Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson said. "Specific, detailed information about what the former president and his top aides were doing and saying in those critical hours. First-hand details of what transpired in the office of the White House chief of staff just steps from the Oval Office as the threats of violence became clear."
Republican Rep. Liz Cheney said Hutchinson's testimony will be "relevant to each of our future hearings," which will "supply greater detail, putting the testimony today in a broader and more complete context."
"In her role working for the White House chief of staff, Miss Hutchinson handled a vast number of sensitive issues. She worked in the West Wing, several steps down the hall from the oval office. She spoke daily with members of Congress, with high-ranking officials in the administration, with senior White House staff, including Mr. Meadows," Cheney said.
Several days before the riot, Hutchinson said that White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told her that things "might get real, real bad on January 6th."
"I remember leaning against the doorway and saying, 'I just had an interesting conversation with Rudy, Mark. It sounds like we're going to go 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 January 6th."
"That evening was the first moment that I remember feeling scared and nervous for what could happen on January 6th," she said.
The committee then showed evidence that some of the protesters who attended President Donald Trump's speech at the Ellipse were armed with a variety of weapons. Several protesters around the Capitol were also armed with pistols and AR-15s.
"They had weapons and other items that were confiscated pepper spray knives, brass knuckles, tasers, body armor, gas masks, batons, blunt weapons," Cheney said. "And those were just from the people who chose to go through the security for the president's event on the Ellipse, not the several thousand members of the crowd who refused to go through the mags."
Hutchinson testified that President Trump was aware his supporters had weapons but did not care.
"When we were in the off-stage announce tent, I was part of a conversation ...I was in the vicinity of a conversation where I overheard the president say something to the effect of, 'You know, 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,'" she said.
Meadows also told the committee how Meadows and Trump wanted to go to the Capitol on January 6th but were advised against it by White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, who warned it would put them all in legal jeopardy.
"Cippilone said something to the effect of, 'please make sure we don't go up to the Capitol... we're going to get charged with every crime imaginable,'" Hutchinson said.
Despite the warning, Trump still tried to go from the Ellipse to the Capitol building. When Secret Service agent Robert "Bobby," Engel told him they could not go, he became "irate" and "reached up toward the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel."
"[Then-White House deputy chief of staff Tony Ornato] 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 that Bobby had more information. So as the President had gotten into the vehicle with Bobby, he thought they were going up to the Capitol, and when Bobby relayed to him we're not, we don't have the assets to do it, it's not secure, we're going back to the West Wing, 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 F-ing President, take me to the Capitol now.'"
Hutchinson testified that Meadows was aware of concerns that his Cabinet may invoke the 25th Amendment against Trump.
"From what I understand, it was more of a, 'This is what I'm hearing. I want you to be aware of it, but I also think it's worth putting on your radar because you are the chief of staff, you're technically the boss of all the Cabinet Secretaries and, you know, if conversations progress, you should be ready to take action on this.' Like, 'I'm concerned for you and your positioning with this,'" she said.
Cheney closed out the hearing with potentially bombshell claims. She said that at least two wtinesses had been conacted by people connected to former President Trump and told that he would be paying close attention to what they said.
“What they said to me is, as long as I continue to be a team player, they know that I’m on the team, I’m doing the right thing, I’m protecting who I need to protect, you know, I’ll continue to stay in good graces in Trump World,” Cheney quoted one unnamed witness as saying. “And they have reminded me a couple of times that Trump does read transcripts and just to keep that in mind as I proceeded through my depositions and interviews with the committee.”
“[A person] let me know you have your deposition tomorrow. He wants me to let you know that 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," Cheney quoted from a message she received from another witness.
Cheney said the committee was considering its next steps.
"I think most Americans know that attempting to influence witnesses to testify untruthfully presents very serious concerns," she said.