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Trump Knew Jan. 6 Protesters Were Armed, Aide Testifies

Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump
AP

President Trump knew that protesters were carrying weapons before directing them toward the Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021, where they stormed the building and interrupted the electoral count, a former aide testified to Congress on Tuesday.

Trump also demanded to go to the Capitol himself, according to the aide, Cassidy Hutchinson. When the Secret Service drove him back to the White House instead, he became angry and tried to grab the steering wheel, she testified, using his free hand to try to grab a Secret Service agent close to his neck.

“I’m the effing president,” he said, according to her account. “Take me up to the Capitol now.”

Hutchinson was a surprise witness called by the House select committee investigating the attack on the Capitol. She gave her account of Trump’s comments on the day of the attack, as well as testimony about several warnings of potential violence in the days leading up it.

Hutchinson said she heard about Trump’s conduct in the car from Tony Ornato, then the White House deputy chief of staff. Hutchinson was a special assistant to Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff.

The committee played police dispatch audio from the scene of Trump’s speech at the Ellipse, in which officers warned that some of the demonstrators were carrying AR-15s. Trump was set to give a speech at the Ellipse, and the area around the stage was cordoned off with magnetometers.

Shortly before the speech, Trump was concerned that not enough people were inside the magnetometers, Hutchinson said. She said that Trump had been warned that some of them were carrying weapons, and did not want to come inside and give up their weapons to the Secret Service.

“I don’t care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me,” Trump said, according to Hutchinson. “Let the people in… Take the effing mags away.”

She also said that the president indicated that the protesters could “march to the Capitol once the rally’s over.” In his speech, Trump said that he would walk with the protesters up to the Capitol building.

In his memoir, Meadows said that Trump meant he would walk with them “metaphorically.” But Hutchinson’s testimony contradicted that, indicating that Trump insisted repeatedly that he be allowed to go to the Capitol himself.

Hutchinson also testified that Ornato warned Meadows on Jan. 6 that the protesters were carrying knives, guns, bear spray, body armor, and spears made out of flagpoles. However, Meadows did not act on that information, she said. Ornato said he had also warned the president of that, she said.

On Jan. 2, Giuliani told Hutchinson that Trump would go up to the Capitol on Jan. 6.

“It’s going to be a great day,” he told her, according to her testimony.

She said she later discussed the conversation with Meadows, her boss, who warned her that “things might get real, real bad on Jan. 6th.” She said those conversations left her feeling scared and nervous about what might happen.

Hutchinson recalled watching later in the day as the Capitol was overrun by violent rioters. She said she saw Trump’s tweet from that afternoon, in which the president lamented the Vice President Mike Pence “didn’t have the courage” to overturn the election result.

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

The Jan. 6 hearings began on June 9, and the Democrat-led committee held its sixth panel on Tuesday. The hearings have focused on Trump’s unfounded bid to overturn the 2020 election, his pressuring of lawmakers to “find votes” for him and the connections to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Two more sessions are expected to come in July.

The latest hearing was announced abruptly on Monday night, when the committee announced it planned to disclose “recently obtained evidence.”