Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, is sworn in at a hearing of the House Jan. 6 select committee on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, June 28, 2022. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
The U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol held a surprise hearing Tuesday featuring testimony from former White House staffer Cassidy Hutchinson, who detailed damning revelations about former President Donald Trump's actions on the day of the attack.
Hutchinson, who served as an aide to former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, described an angry, defiant president who rebuffed warnings from his own security detail and tried to let armed protesters avoid security screenings during a rally that morning protesting the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. And when the events that day spiraled toward violence, with the crowd chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” Trump declined to intervene, Hutchinson testified.
Trump “doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong,” Hutchinson recalled Meadows saying at the time.
Hutchinson’s explosive, moment-by-moment account of what was happening inside and outside the White House offered a vivid description of a Republican president so unwilling to concede his 2020 election defeat to Democrat Joe Biden that he lashed out in rage and refused to stop the siege at the Capitol. It painted a damning portrait of the chaos at the White House as those around the defeated president splintered into factions, one supporting his false claims of voter fraud and another trying unsuccessfully to prevent the violent attack.
At one point on Jan. 6, Hutchinson recalled, former White House counsel Pat Cipollone barreled down the hallway and confronted Meadows about rioters breaching the Capitol. Meadows, staring at his phone, told the White House lawyer that Trump didn’t want to do anything, she said.
Earlier, Cipollone had worried out loud that “we’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable” if Trump was to go to the Capitol after his speech at the rally, Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson also said Trump directed his staff, in profane terms, to take away the metal-detecting magnetometers that he thought would slow down supporters who were gathering for his speech on the Ellipse, behind the White House. In a clip of an earlier interview with the committee, she recalled the president saying words to the effect of: “I don’t f-in’ care that they have weapons.”
San José Rep. Zoe Lofgren, one of the committee members, spoke with KQED's Natalia Navarro about her reaction to Hutchinson's explosive testimony and what the public can expect in future hearings.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
NATALIA NAVARRO: Why did the committee call this hearing?
REP. ZOE LOFGREN: Ms. Hutchinson had some new information that we felt needed to get out. Obviously, we know from other instances that there is a lot of pressure that is placed on people. And we wanted to make sure that the story that she had to tell was able to be released.
When did you know that Hutchinson would testify?
We were not positive until really late last week. I think it's been widely reported that she sat for four interviews. Her lawyer for the first three was paid for by the Trump PAC, and when she switched lawyers, I think the testimony became ever more expansive. And it was at that point that we were able to arrange a live testimony.
What was your overall reaction to what she had to say yesterday?
I admire her courage. She seemed very candid and courageous. Obviously, she was in a key position in the White House, steps away from the Oval Office. She's a young person but had a very responsible job, and she was in a position to see and hear quite a bit, and she's willing to talk about it.
Obviously, not everything that she has told us has been reported out. There is more that will be included in upcoming hearings. Honestly, her testimony about [how] the president was told that they had discovered that people in the crowd had weapons, including AR-15s and Glocks and assault weapons, that they didn't want to go through the magnetometers because they didn't want their weapons taken away, that she overheard directly that he was ordering people to take the "f-ing mags away." He didn't care that they were armed because he didn't think they were going to hurt him, and the telling point was that those armed people could then walk to the Capitol from the Ellipse. Wow.
Do you plan to present evidence that members of Trump's inner circle met with hate groups, including the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, other rally organizers, and knew or even helped coordinate their plan of attack?
I'm going to leave that for future hearings. But as the chairman has said publicly, there certainly were connections between these extremist groups and the president's inner circle.
What role did Roger Stone play in all of this?
Again, we're going to leave that to a future hearing. As you know, he refused to testify before the committee. He took the Fifth Amendment repeatedly, but it was pretty clear that he played an important role in putting together the plot.
Who else would you like to hear from in future hearings?
I'd like to hear from Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel. He came in for an informal interview. But I think especially given Hutchinson's testimony yesterday, I think he owes it to us to come in and speak to the committee. I know from what our investigators have said, he's acutely attentive to the role of the White House counsel moving forward. On the other hand, historically, there have been times when the White House counsel had to come forward and talk about misconduct in the White House. Although he's relying on executive privilege, not attorney-client privilege, to the best of my knowledge there is an exception to the attorney-client privilege, and that is activity that is in furtherance of a crime or in furtherance of fraud.
Do you think it's likely the committee will get Cipollone to testify?
I can't say. And we were certainly asking him to do that. And based on the testimony of Ms. Hutchinson yesterday, I would hope that he is thinking about it.
The last time you spoke with KQED, you said it wasn't the committee's job to prosecute or to bring charges, and that was purely the role of the attorney general. Has any of the new information we got yesterday changed your opinion in any way?
Structurally, that's just a fact. The legislative committees don't have the legal authority to prosecute and no amount of evidence changes that structural fact. It's part of the constitutional order. Whether we think criminal offenses have been committed, we might have a view. And we've yet to discuss whether we will share that opinion with the Department of Justice. We may or we may not. But in the end, under our system of laws, the Congress is not a prosecutor. The Congress is a legislative body.
What was new to you in yesterday's hearing?
It wasn't new because I'd read the transcripts and knew of the information. But what was new, I think, to the public was Mr. Meadows' knowledge of the violence and his passivity, his willingness to go along with the situation that was leading to more and greater threats. The president's direct knowledge of the violent nature of some in the crowd and his interest in sending them down to the Capitol anyhow — that's pretty profound.
What's next for the committee?
We will be having other hearings that will cover the topics that have not yet been covered. And honestly, new information is flowing in, I think, in response to these hearings. And so we're scrambling to sort through information to see whether it's relevant or not. But we will have additional hearings and lay out all the facts that we're able to find. And ultimately, we will have recommendations on potential changes to law that might make the nation more secure.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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