For the first time, the House Select Committee to Investigate the attack on the Capitol has presented on-the-record, live testimony from someone with insider knowledge of former President Donald Trump's mindset immediately before, during, and after the events on Jan. 6, 2021.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a senior aide to the then-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows had a front row seat as events unfolded. From altercations with the Secret Service to the dismissal of threats against the life of Vice President Mike Pence, Hutchinson's testimony sent shockwaves through the political establishment, nearly 18 months after the day in question.
"As an American, I was disgusted," she told the panel about watching the events on Jan. 6. "It was unpatriotic. It was unamerican. We were watching the Capitol Building get defaced over a lie."
Hutchinson worked in the White House from 2019 until the end of the Trump administration, first in the Office of Legislative Affairs and then in Meadows' office as his principal aide.
With the level of access to both Meadows and the president, Hutchinson was able to recount intimate details of the environment in and around the president in early January 2021.
She recounted a conversation on the evening of Jan. 2, just four days before the Capitol attack, with Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and one of Trump's personal attorneys. She testified that she walked Giuliani out of the White House after an evening meeting with Meadows and others, and during the walk he brought up plans for the sixth.
Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., listen as 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 in Washington, Tuesday, June 28, 2022 (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
"He said something to the effect of 'Cass, are you excited for the sixth? It's going to be a great day,'" Hutchinson recalled him saying. "'We're going to the Capitol, and it's going to be great.'"
After Giuliani left, Hutchinson went to speak with Meadows. When she told Meadows what Giuliani had said, she testified that Meadows said, "Things might get real real bad on Jan. 6."
"That evening was the first moment I remember feeling scared and nervous for what could happen on Jan. 6," she told the committee, "and I had a deeper concern for what was happening with the planning aspects of it."
Hutchinson testified she had a conversation with John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence and former U.S. House member from Texas, in which he expressed his view that the continuing attempts to overturn the election would be bad for Trump and his legacy, saying it would set a "dangerous precedent."
Hutchinson's testimony also illustrated the extent to which the White House knew in advance of security threats to the Capitol in the lead-up to Jan. 6 and on the day itself. She recalled for the committee several conversations about potential violence
She told the committee she recalled hearing the words "Oathkeepers" and "Proud Boys" in discussions about plans for the rally on the ellipse near the White House.
The Oathkeepers and Proud Boys are far-right militant organizations that engaged in violence during the Capitol insurrection. Members of both organizations have been charged with various crimes for their role in the riot.
Committee evidence showed the Secret Service had received prior intelligence and knew the threat the groups had posed. U.S. Capitol Police reflected a similar concern in a bulletin posted ahead of the attack, warning that "Congress itself is the target on the 6th."
Hutchinson also said she received a call from Robert O'Brien, Trump's national security advisor, in which he asked to speak to Meadows about the potential for violence. She added that Anthony Ornato, then the White House deputy chief of staff for operations, knew about intelligence reports warning of violence ahead of the day.
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 in Washington, Tuesday, June 28, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Hutchinson then recalled a conversation between her, Ornato, and Meadows at approximately 10 a.m. on the morning of Jan. 6. Ornato informed Meadows that potential rally attendees had been found to have a litany of weapons on them, including knives, guns, pistols, rifles, bear spray, body armor, spears, and flag poles.
"These effing people are fastening spears onto the ends of flagpoles," she recalled Ornato telling Meadows.
She said Meadows seemed unaffected. He was silent for a few seconds and did not look up from his phone before asking "Alright, anything else?"
Many potential attendees could not enter because they had weapons that would be detected by the Secret Service's magnetometers and confiscated. Trump was not concerned and wanted them let in anyway because he wanted the entire arena space they had constructed for the event to be full.
"I don't effing care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me. Take the effing [magnetometers] away," Trump said, according to Hutchinson.
Through it all, Meadows seemed checked out of the events going on around him.
"He almost had a lack of reaction," she said. "He asked 'How much longer does the president have in his speech?'"
After the president finished his speech, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy called Hutchinson and asked her whether the president would be coming to the Capitol. Hutchinson had previously told him that was not the plan, but given the president's comments on stage, McCarthy thought the plan had changed.
Hutchinson recalled McCarthy asking her, "Why would you lie to me?" about the president's plan to go to the Capitol.
Despite efforts from Trump and Meadows to get a movement to the Capitol put together, the Secret Service, led by Robert Engel, the special agent in charge on Jan. 6, ultimately informed Trump he would not be going to the Capitol because there were not sufficient resources to take him safely.
Hutchinson, describing an incident in the president's motorcade recounted to her by Ornato, said that the president had a "very strong, very angry" response to that. Ornato described him as "irate," she said.
"'I'm the effing president, take me to the Capitol now,'" Trump said, according to Ornato's recounting.
When Engel again refused, Trump grabbed at the steering wheel of the car he was in. Engel then told him to let go and Trump used his free hand to grab at Engel's clavicle, Hutchinson recounted what Ornato said to her.
Hutchinson also recollected a discussion she had with Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, earlier that day in which he told her any movement by the president to the Capitol presented "serious legal concerns."
Cipollone told Hutchinson that in no uncertain terms she could not let any movement to the Capitol happen.
Ultimately, Trump did re-enter the West Wing, but that did not end his interest in the protests. According to inside accounts, he watched the violence unfold in a dining room adjacent to the Oval Office.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a top former aide to Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, is seen in a video of her interview with the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, during a hearing on Thursday, June 23, 2022, at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Hutchinson reported that Meadows seemed uninterested in participating in any conversations with the president around the riots, until he learned that allies of his and the president's might be in danger.
She recalled feeling powerless in a previously recorded interview: "I felt like I was watching a bad car accident that was about to happen. You can't stop it, but you want to do something. I remember thinking in that moment that Mark needs to snap out of this."
Cipollone tried to urge Meadows to act as well. When Meadows demurred, Cipollone angrily said according to Hutchinson, "Something needs to be done, or people are going to die, and blood is going to be on your effing hands.".
She also remembered a conversation between the two when it became clear the rioters were shouting "Hang Mike Pence."
"He thinks Mike deserves it," Meadows allegedly said to Cipollone. "He thinks they aren't doing anything wrong."
Mark Meadows did decide to intervene once it became clear that his allies in Congress were at risk due to the breach on the Capitol. According to Hutchinson, only then did he take action, calling Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio 4th District) to determine his safety.
Soon after, the president tweeted, "Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution." Hutchinson said she felt "disgusted" by his commentary.
While varying ideas on how to handle the protests rang throughout the Oval Office — Meadows seemed poised to "blame Antifa" — several hours passed before the president released a pre-recorded message urging the rioters to go home, saying "we love you."
The committee teased the content of future hearings, showing text messages sent to Meadows from Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, as well as Donald Trump Jr. advocating for the president to tell people to go home.
The panel also played footage from the CBS News live coverage of the attack in which Kevin McCarthy condemned the violence and said he did not know why the president had yet to speak out against the rioters.
When Trump eventually told the rioters to go home, Hutchinson recalled him being reluctant to film the video.
Before concluding the hearing, Vice Chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) praised Hutchinson for her bravery and courage to speak out about the events on Jan. 6. Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss. 2nd District) concurred, commending Hutchinson for "doing your patriotic duty." He also signified that he hoped she would inspire others to come forward.
"[T]o that group of witnesses, if you've heard this testimony today, and suddenly you remember things you couldn't previously recall, or there are some details you'd like to clarify, or you discovered some courage you had hidden away somewhere, our doors remain open," Thompson said.
Updated on June 28, 2022, at 5:50 p.m. ET with full write-through.