Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Former White House aide recounts play-by-play of the West Wing leading up to Jan. 6

Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, testifies as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol on Tuesday.
Andrew Harnik
/
AP
Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, testifies as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol on Tuesday.

Updated June 28, 2022 at 6:02 PM ET

A surprise hearing called with a former White House staffer unveiled details about the days leading up to and the moments during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Cassidy Hutchinson, once an aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, told the committee that former President Donald Trump knew that some protesters at the rally at the Ellipse were armed when he called for them to march to the Capitol. She also said that he didn't want to stop the Capitol riot and that Meadows and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani both sought pardons as a result of the events of Jan. 6.

Trump did not pardon either adviser.

Hutchinson depicted a West Wing where some staff were extremely concerned about violence erupting at the Capitol that day – and others, like Trump and Meadows, were not.

Throughout the hearing, Trump responded to her testimony, labeling it "fake" and calling Hutchinson someone he "hardly" knew and "bad news" in posts to the social media network Truth that he owns and controls.

Warnings of violence and continued planning in the days leading up to Jan. 6

The committee had announced the hearing on Monday with less than a day's notice "to present recently obtained evidence and receive witness testimony" after saying there would be no additional hearings until July. Given that urgency and the major pieces of information Hutchinson had already shared with the Democrat-led committee for its nearly 11-month investigation, expectations were set that her testimony, presented in person and in recordings from her four committee interviews, would be significant.

To start, the committee dialed out a bit to the days before the riot.

In previously recorded and live testimony, Hutchinson recalled that on Jan. 2 she first began feeling concerned about what could happen on the day of the Ellipse rally. It started with a conversation with Giuliani, where He told her that Jan. 6 would be a "great day."

Giuliani told her the president and others would go to the Capitol, where Trump would look "powerful."

When Hutchinson asked Meadows about the conversation and the plan, he told her "something to the effect of 'There's a lot going on, Cass, but I don't know, things might get real, real bad on Jan. 6,' " she recalled, indicating those who worked closely with Trump not only expected the violent attack on the Capitol, but planned on it.

"When hearing Rudy's take on the 6th and Mark's response, that was the first moment that I remember feeling scared and nervous about what could happen," she said.

Hutchinson described, in previously recorded video interviews, how Trump's former director of intelligence John Ratcliff disagreed with the administration about attempting to overturn the election and with the White House's handling of the post-election period.

She heard the words "Proud Boys" and "Oath Keepers" more often on the days leading up to Jan. 6, she said in video testimony, and there were intelligence reports warning of the potential for violence that week. Some of the reports included listings for events such as "Fight for Trump" which described the "need to flood" the Capitol and "show America, and the senators and representatives inside voting that we won't stand for election fraud!"

Capitol Police warned that the Proud Boys and other extremist groups were planning to arrive in Washington on Jan. 6.

"Unlike previous post-election protests, the targets of the pro-Trump supporters are not necessarily the counter-protesters as they were previously, but Congress itself," according to reports shown by the committee.

Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone warned Hutchinson on Jan. 3 against going to the Capitol on Jan. 6, she said.

"He said to me 'We need to make sure that this doesn't happen. This would be a legally terrible idea for us' ... he then urged me to continue relaying that to Mr. Meadows," she told the panel.

On the morning of Jan. 6, Cipollone issued another warning, telling her " 'Please make sure we don't go up to the Capitol, Cassidy ... We're going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen. In the days leading up to the rally, Cipollone had discussed the risk of charges for defrauding the electoral count, obstructing justice or Congress, and possibly inciting violence, she said.

Cipollone, a key attorney in Trump's Senate impeachment defense, was among the Trump aides who pushed back against a plan to pressure the Justice Department to overturn the 2020 election results, according to a Senate Judiciary Committee report. The Jan. 6 committee's vice chair, Republican Liz Cheney, has pleaded from the dais for him to join the committee's blockbuster public hearings.

Hutchinson recalled being told Trump was 'irate' he could not go to the Capitol

When she attended the Jan. 6 rally at the White House, Hutchinson said she overheard a conversation with Trump saying he knew people had "many weapons."

"When we were in the off-stage announce tent, 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 [magnetometers] away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here,' " Hutchinson said in videotaped testimony.

During the speech, Trump talked about walking to the Capitol, where he had earlier posited he might give a speech or even enter the House chamber.

Trump told the rally that day he would go to the Capitol, and Secret Service and National Security Council staff communicated about "clearing a route," according to the committee.

But when Trump learned there were no security assets and he would have to return to the White House, the former president grew "irate" and attempted to grab the steering wheel of the car. Hutchinson was not in the car, but heard it from others with no one correcting the record, she said.

"'I am the effing president, take me up to the Capitol now,'" Hutchinson testified that the president said.

Trump didn't want to stop the rioters, Hutchinson said

Trump didn't want to do anything to stop the rioters who stormed the Capitol, she testified, as she recounted conversations between her and Meadows.

Inside the West Wing, Cipollone came "barreling down the" hallway, Hutchinson said, and told Meadows: "The rioters have gotten into the Capitol, Mark. We need to go see the president now."

But Meadows responded, she said, that Trump "doesn't want to do anything."

Cipollone then told Meadows, she said: "Something needs to be done, or somebody is going to die and this is going to be on your effing hands."

As the rioters grew rowdier and more violent, Trump talked to Meadows and Cipollone about the "Hang Mike Pence" chants that had broken out at the Capitol.

"I remember Pat saying something to the effect of, 'Mark, we need to do something more. They're literally calling for the vice president to be effing hung,' " Hutchinson said.

"And Mark had responded something to the effect of, 'You heard him, Pat. He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn't think they're doing anything wrong,' " she added, as she refers to the president.

Hutchinson said that Cipollone added, "'This is effing crazy. We need to be doing something more.' "

The committee is 'carefully considering our next steps'

Cheney says while the committee has seen many witnesses — including many Republicans — testify fully, it has not been true for "every witness."

"We have received evidence of one particular practice that raises significant concern," she said.

Cheney added that the committee asks witnesses who were connected to the Trump administration or campaign if they've been contacted by any of their former colleagues or anyone else who attempted to influence their testimony. And it has encountered witness tampering.

Getting witnesses to lie in their testimony "presents very serious concerns," Cheney said the committee is "carefully considering our next steps."

In the last five hearings, the committee laid out its case against Trump as the center of the election fraud conspiracy that ultimately led to the deadly insurrection on Jan. 6. Witnesses have appeared in person and in previously taped interviews to provide details on how the then-president knew he lost but pursued efforts to pressure state officials, the Justice Department and voters to overturn the election in his favor.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ximena Bustillo
Ximena Bustillo is a multi-platform reporter at NPR covering politics out of the White House and Congress on air and in print.
Jonathan Franklin is a digital reporter on the News desk covering general assignment and breaking national news.