'They're not here to hurt me': Former aide says Trump knew Jan. 6 crowd was armed

WASHINGTON — A former top White House aide described Donald Trump’s shocking behavior on Jan. 6, saying the former president wanted armed protesters at his rally, tried to forcibly steer his limousine to the Capitol and, when his bodyguards refused, reached for the throat of one of them.

Cassidy Hutchinson, a former senior aide to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, detailed the former president’s outbursts in testimony before the Jan. 6 committee Tuesday and in recorded interviews with the panel’s investigators.

Once, after Attorney General William Barr told The Associated Press that there was no evidence of fraud in the 2020 election, Trump threw his ketchup-dressed lunch at a White House wall in a furious rage. Hutchinson was forced to clean up his mess.

The explosive testimony from Hutchinson, the official in closest proximity to Trump to appear at a public hearing, portrayed the just-defeated president as angry and violent on the day he urged his supporters to march to the Capitol, where some of them would attack police officers and break into the building in an effort to reverse the election results.

In a series of posts on his platform Truth Social, Trump largely dismissed and denied Hutchinson’s testimony.

Meadows would later seek a pardon for his actions related to Jan. 6, Hutchinson testified.

She also told the committee, in a previously recorded interview, that she overheard a conversation between Meadows and White House counsel Pat Cipollone about Trump’s reaction to reports that the crowd then attacking the Capitol was chanting “Hang Mike Pence.”

Cipollone wanted Meadows to intervene with Trump.

“Mark responded something to the effect, ‘You heard him, Pat. He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong,’” Hutchinson said of Meadows’ summation of Trump’s feelings about the rioters and Pence.

Later, when Trump sent a tweet saying Pence lacked courage for refusing to stop the certification of the 2020 election, Hutchinson testified that she was struck with emotion.

Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, testifies during the sixth hearing by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol on June 28, 2022.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, testifies during the sixth hearing by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol on June 28, 2022.Mandel Ngan / AFP – Getty Images

“As an American, I was disgusted,” she said. “It was unpatriotic, it was un-American. We were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie.” 

When Trump condemned the violence at the Capitol in a Jan. 7 statement, it was only after advisers told him — according to Hutchinson — “you need this for cover.” The aides had warned he risked being removed from office, she testified.

But Trump and Meadows ignored warnings about potential violence Jan. 6, and they both wanted Trump to join the march to the Capitol, Hutchinson testified.

Trump said he wasn’t worried about weapons in the crowd that had assembled near the White House because “they’re not here to hurt me,” Hutchinson testified.

Frustrated that his supporters couldn’t get through magnetometers at his rally at the Ellipse that morning, Trump aired his fury to allies backstage, Hutchinson recalled in recorded video played as she testified before the panel Tuesday.

“I don’t f’ing care that they have weapons,” Hutchinson testified that Trump said. “They’re not here to hurt me. Take the f’ing mags away.”

“I don’t f’ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the f’ing mags away.”

Hutchinson testified Trump said on Jan. 6

Trump then urged his supporters, knowing some of them were armed, to march to the Capitol. On the morning of Jan. 6, police radio conversations played at the hearing revealed Secret Service and Washington, D.C., police officers had observed rally attendees outside the magnetometers with AR-15 semi-automatic rifles and other weapons.

After he spoke at the rally, Trump returned to his limousine, known as “The Beast,” thinking that he would be driven to the Capitol, Hutchinson testified, citing a story told to her by a Secret Service official.

When a member of Trump’s security team informed him that the plan was to travel back to the White House rather than to the Capitol, Trump had a “very strong, very angry response,” Hutchinson testified.

“I’m the f’ing president,” Trump said, according to Hutchinson’s recollection of her conversation with Ornato. “Take me up to the Capitol now.”

Told again that wouldn’t happen, Trump grabbed for the steering wheel from the back seat and wrestled his security agent for control of the car, Hutchinson said she was told, adding that Trump then reached for the “clavicles” of his bodyguard.

That was consistent with a pattern of behavior Hutchinson described witnessing from Trump over time.

More broadly, Hutchinson testified that Trump and Meadows both wanted Trump to march to Congress. 

And, she said, Cipollone repeatedly pressed her to try to stop a march to the Capitol.

“We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if Trump goes to the Capitol,” she said he told her. Cipollone said he was concerned about the possibility of obstructing the count of electoral votes that day and “that it would look like we were inciting a riot or encouraging a riot.”

The committee has been trying to get Cipollone to testify, who has refused.

After Trump encouraged the crowd to march to the Capitol, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., called Hutchinson, she testified.

“You told me this whole week you weren’t coming up here,” McCarthy told her. “Why would you lie to me?”

Hutchinson assured McCarthy that Trump wasn’t coming to the Capitol, she said.

The panel used her testimony Tuesday and at prior recorded sessions to show that the idea of Trump going to the Capitol was debated at the highest levels of the White House in the days preceding the insurrection — and that Trump wanted to go.

Four days before Jan. 6, Rudy Giuliani told Hutchinson that Trump planned to go to the Capitol, Hutchinson testified.

Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and a Trump confidant, had just left a meeting with Meadows. As Hutchinson walked Giuliani out of the White House, he asked if she was excited about Jan. 6, Hutchinson testified.

“We’re going to the Capitol,” Hutchinson testified that Giuliani said. And then referring to Trump, he said, “The president is going to be there. He’s going to look powerful.”

Hutchinson said she relayed the discussion to Meadows.

“Things might get real, real bad on Jan. 6th,” Hutchinson testified that Meadows told her in response.

At the time, according to prior testimony before the panel, Giuliani was at the forefront of a campaign to invalidate the 2020 election, in part by stopping the count of electoral votes at the Capitol.

Hutchinson’s testimony represents the committee’s strongest argument yet about whether Trump intended to incite an insurrection. At age 25, she was in unusually close proximity to the power players in Trump’s West Wing, including Meadows, for whom she worked on legislative affairs and as an executive assistant.

The committee members praised Hutchinson for volunteering testimony in four recorded sessions and at Tuesday’s hearing, portraying her as anomalously brave amid a field of Trump administration officials who have been less forthcoming.

“The same people who drove the former President’s pressure campaign to overturn the election are now trying to cover up the truth about January 6th,” Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said at the hearing. “But thanks to the courage of certain individuals, the truth won’t be buried. The American people won’t be left in the dark. Our witness today, Ms. Cassidy Hutchinson, has embodied that courage.”

In recorded testimony from a prior deposition, played at a committee hearing last week, Hutchinson leveled bombshell allegations that several members of Congress sought pardons for themselves and colleagues following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

Hutchinson’s appearance Tuesday was shrouded in mystery: The hearing was announced Monday and her name was withheld by the panel — a break from panel’s past practice of giving notice of hearings a week ahead of time and with an accompanying list of witnesses.

Committee members see her as a pivotal figure because of her proximity to Meadows, the former congressman and Trump gatekeeper who was in frequent communication with the then-president and his allies who worked to reverse the outcome of the 2020 election. Lawmakers say Trump acted illegally in that effort, which included a plan to certify fake electors and resulted in the storming of the Capitol.

As Meadows’s executive assistant, Hutchinson had access to documents and conversations that could shed new light on the actions and motives of Trump White House officials, lawmakers and outside allies of the former president.

“I don’t know Cassidy Hutchinson, and I can’t speak to how things worked at the White House, but when Meadows was on the Hill he always insisted that she be in *every* meeting he had, no matter how small,” Brendan Buck, a onetime House GOP leadership aide, wrote on Twitter. “It was odd then, and [doesn’t] seem to be working out for him now.”

Tuesday’s hearing is the sixth in a series investigating Jan. 6 and Trump’s role in it. Early last year, the House impeached Trump for inciting the riot, but the Senate, voting after he was already out of office, failed to reach the two-thirds majority necessary to convict him.

In its previous hearings, the committee has focused on the physical violence at the Capitol, the advisers who told Trump he had lost the election, the threat posed to the safety of the then-vice president as rioters sought to stop him from presiding over the counting of electoral votes, the Trump team’s plan to install fake electors and Trump’s push to enlist the Justice Department in that effort.

Hutchinson, who had previously served as a White House intern, attended Christopher Newport University.

source: nbcnews.com