Told of armed rallygoers on Jan. 6, Trump called for relaxed security
WASHINGTON (CN) — President Trump was repeatedly warned about armed rallygoers on Jan. 6, and he responded by calling for the Secret Service to reduce security so he could have a larger audience for his speech that preceded the violent attack on the Capitol, the Jan. 6 committee revealed Tuesday.
Cassidy Hutchinson, who was the top aide to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, testified this afternoon that, during the Ellipse rally on Jan. 6 that evolved into an attempted insurrection, Trump was angry the rally was not at capacity. After being warned that there were attendees armed with guns, bear spray, knives and brass knuckles, Trump called for armed people to be let past security checkpoints and into the rally.
Hutchinson said the president wanted Secret Service officials to remove the magnetometers used to screen rallygoers for weapons because he said the attendees didn’t pose a threat to him.
“I don’t effing care that they have weapons. They are not here to hurt me. Take the effing mags away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here,” Trump said, according to Hutchinson.
Her testimony painted a picture of a quiet and reserved Meadows on Jan. 6, as Trump supporters laid siege to the Capitol, attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election at Trump’s behest.
“He almost had a lack of reaction,” Hutchinson said of Meadows.
She said Anthony Oranato, who served as both a Secret Service official and White House adviser, warned ahead of time that the Jan. 6 rally could turn violent, and that he told Meadows on Jan. 6 that rallygoers were armed with knives, guns and spears afixed to flagpoles.
Hutchinson testified that Rudy Giuliani told her on Jan. 2, 2021, Trump would be at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
“He looked to me and said something to the effect of ‘Cass, are you excited? The Sixth is going to be a great day,'” she testified.
When she told Meadows about her conversation with Giuliani, her boss allegedly told her: “Things might get real, real bad on Jan. 6.”
It was, Hutchinson continued, “the first moment I remember feeling scared.”
White House counsel Pat Cipollone meanwhile warned Hutchinson to make sure that Trump did not go to the Capitol on Jan. 6, she said, adding that he expressed fear about criminal charges.
“Please make sure we don’t go up to the Capitol, Cassidy. We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable,” she said the White House attorney told her.
According to Hutchinson’s testimony, Cipollone was worried about administration officials being charged with incitement of an insurrection and undermining the Electoral Count Act.
At one point, Hutchinson said there was a conversation about Trump holding a speech at the Capitol and even going into the House chamber.
Hutchinson recalled that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called her as well and said Trump should not come to the Capitol building.
Trump did not end up going to the Capitol on Jan. 6, but Hutchinson said she heard of a physical altercation between the then-president and his security staff when he found out he was not being driven to the Capitol riot.
“I’m the effing president, take me up to the Capitol now,” Trump reportedly yelled at his security detail in the presidential limo.
When he was told he was not being taken to the Capitol, he lunged for the steering wheel and then grabbed at the throat of Secret Service agent Bobby Engel.
Hutchinson testified Tuesday afternoon at a surprise hearing that the committee convened with less than 24 hours’ notice. The committee had initially planned not to hold another hearing until after the long holiday weekend for the Fourth of July, as many members of Congress are already out of town
Relying heavily on Hutchinson’s testimony, committee members emphasized that the witness, during her work in the West Wing, spoke daily with a wide range of Trump administration officials, senior White House staff and members of the White House counsel’s office, as well as members of Congress.
Before Tuesday’s hearing, Hutchinson sat for four recorded interviews with the committee.
Previous hearings included video in which Hutchinson testified that six of the Republican lawmakers who perpetuated Trump’s election lies asked for presidential pardons after the Jan. 6 insurrection.
She told the committee that Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene, Louie Gohmert, Mo Brooks, Matt Gaetz, Scott Perry and Andy Biggs all sought executive protection after the riot.
Hutchinson also watched Meadows burn documents after a meeting with Perry, who was a strong advocate of Trump’s attempts to subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Hutchinson also told the committee that the White House counsel’s office warned Trump, Meadows and Giuliani against the then-president’s warped legal strategy to contest the election results and halt the certification of the Electoral College.
Hutchinson recently obtained a new legal counsel, ditching a former Trump official for attorney Jody Hunt who served as chief of staff to former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Hunt made headlines during the Trump presidency for her cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia.
The committee has announced at least two additional hearings focused on the violent rioters and far-right extremists who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 as well as a hearing about Trump’s hours-long silence as his supporters led a riot that turned deadly.