Minutes before Donald Trump took the stage at an Ellipse rally on Jan. 6, 2021, he urged the Secret Service to remove security magnetometers to let in people with weapons because “they’re not here to hurt me,” a former top White House aide told the Jan. 6 select committee on Tuesday.
Cassidy Hutchinson also testified to the panel about concerns raised by her former boss, then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, about 100 hours before a violent mob stormed the Capitol on the day Trump had marked to subvert the 2020 election.
“Things might get real, real bad,” Hutchinson recalled Meadows telling her on Jan. 2, 2021.
Hutchinson’s comments came at the outset of an explosive public hearing of the select committee focused on her insights into the machinations by Trump, Meadows and their allies in the runup to Jan. 6. Her knowledge, informed by being present in nearly every meeting involving Meadows during the post-election period, have quickly propelled Hutchinson into a prominent role for Capitol riot investigators.
Hutchinson’s knowledge of the post-election campaign by Donald Trump loyalists to keep him in power for a second term he didn’t win — an awareness belied by her young age — already has proven highly valuable to the panel and helped it fill in details previously obscured by stonewalling. Her testimony, hastily announced by the committee the previous day, is expected to bring America inside the West Wing as Trump, Meadows, and their allies tried to reverse Joe Biden’s victory.
“Almost all, if not all, meetings Mr. Trump had, I had insight on,” Hutchinson has told the committee.
Capitol riot investigators have revealed significant portions of Hutchinson’s prior testimony in litigation and in previous hearings. Hutchinson was present, she told the committee, when then-White House counsel Pat Cipollone told Meadows and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani that a Trump-backed plan to appoint alternate presidential electors was legally unsound. She was there when Meadows convened members of the pro-Trump House Freedom Caucus to strategize about challenging the election results on Jan. 6, 2021.
And she tracked Trump and Meadows’ movements on Jan. 6 itself, providing detail about Trump’s whereabouts as chaos began to unfold at the Capitol.
A person familiar with Hutchinson’s expected testimony said she was involved in logistical discussions about potentially moving Trump from his Ellipse rally on the morning of Jan. 6 to the Capitol, where he had hoped to rally supporters until he was blocked by the Secret Service for security reasons. Hutchinson was also backstage during the rally and witnessed conversations among senior staff.
She told the committee about a stressed Meadows taking multiple calls during the rally from a secure vehicle; she remembered Trump’s chief of staff asking to connect with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Giuliani.
“I know that he was on several calls during the rally. And I went over to meet with him at one point, and he had just waved me away, which is out of the ordinary,” Hutchinson recalled.
She also told the committee she’d heard of Trump’s Jan. 6 movements on a Secret Service radio channel that broadcast his location to West Wing aides. That channel helped her discern that Trump was in the Oval Office dining room after his rally speech on the Ellipse.
The select committee has relied on Hutchinson, 26, and other West Wing aides to reconstruct Trump’s actions that day, particularly while the Capitol was under assault and the president took no discernible steps to stop the violence.
Tuesday’s hearing is the panel’s sixth as it presents its findings to the public. Investigators had rescheduled two hearings to mid-July focused on domestic extremism and Trump’s 187 minutes of inaction as his supporters ransacked the Capitol and threatened the lives of lawmakers and then-Vice President Mike Pence.
It’s unclear if any other witnesses will join Hutchinson Tuesday afternoon.
Documentary filmmaker Alex Holder, who had extensive access to the Trump family, met with investigators last Thursday morning after getting subpoenaed by the select panel for his recordings and testimony, which he provided. A Holder spokesman declined to comment on any possible role in Tuesday’s hearing.
The select committee has focused its public hearings squarely on Trump. Its first hearing laid out what the panel described as a seven-part effort by the former president to overturn the 2020 election.
Subsequent hearings have focused on elements of the plot it’s seeking to portray: how the Justice Department and Trump campaign debunked false voter fraud claims even as the then-president kept repeating them; how Trump systematically pressured Pence to seek to overturn the election on Jan. 6; how Trump leaned on state and local election officials to appoint alternative electors; and how Trump pressured his DOJ to legitimize the effort.