Unpublished testimony blasts Trump’s defense

Unpublished testimony blasts Trump's defense

A member of the former president’s cabinet described to a commission of inquiry how Trump, fully informed of the situation, wanted to join his armed supporters on the march to Congress.

Correspondent in Washington,

The commission of inquiry into the events of January 6, 2021 produced damning testimony on Tuesday afternoon for Donald Trump and his entourage. During a surprise session announced only the day before, Cassidy Hutchinson, close associate of Mark Meadows, the secretary general of the White House, came to describe the scenes and the conversations she had witnessed that day and during those that had preceded.

Present on the morning of January 6 at Ellipse Park, during Trump’s speech, then inside the White House during that fateful day, this 26-year-old young woman gave the commission of inquiry the one of the first complete testimonies, experienced from the inside, of the atmosphere which reigned in the entourage of Donald Trump, but also of several detailed conversations which risk making it difficult for the former president and his close collaborators to plead the ignorance, or the thesis of a peaceful demonstration gone wrong.

The young woman’s conversations with Mark Meadows and Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, remove any ambiguity about what Trump’s entourage knew about the potentially explosive nature of this demonstration, gathered in Washington on the day of certification. by Joe Biden’s Victory Congress.

Hutchinson thus explained how four days earlier, on January 2, 2021, Rudy Giuliani had announced to him that the president intended to lead the demonstrators gathered to contest the result of the presidential election to the Capitol. “Cass, are you excited for January 6? »said the lawyer. “It’s going to be a great day. … We are going to the Capitol. It’s going to be awesome ! The president will be there, he will look powerful”.

When she peeks into Mark Meadows’ office to describe this conversation to him, the latter is concerned: “There’s a lot going on, Cass, but I don’t know, it could get really, really bad on January 6”said the Secretary-General of the White House, bent over his phone. “That night is the first time I remember feeling fear and nervousness for what might happen on January 6”said the young woman to the commission.

“They can walk to the Capitol”

Hutchinson also claimed to have heard mention in White House talks of the names of the two far-right groups involved in the assault on the Capitol, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, many of whose members have been arrested and charged with conspiracy and sedition. That same morning, White House legal counsel Pat Cipollone warned Hutchinson and asked him to do everything to prevent Trump from leading the protesters and marching on the Capitol.

“Make sure we don’t go to the Capitol”he said to him. “We’re going to be charged with every crime imaginable if we go there.” “He was also concerned that we might look like we were inciting a riot or encouraging an attack on the Capitol,” she said.

According to Hutchinson, Trump and his entourage were also fully aware of the presence of weapons among the crowd at the January 6 rally in Ellipse Square: stun gas bombs, knives, brass knuckles, Tasers and blunt objects. that can be used as weapons. Trump is angry at security checks that deter his activists from approaching the podium where he is to deliver his speech. “I heard the president say something like, ‘I don’t give a damn if they have guns! They’re not here to hurt me! Take down those fucking gates, and let the people in, from here they can walk to the Capitol! »testified Hutchinson.

Trump mad with rage

After the speech, where he announced he would walk to the Capitol with the crowd, Trump ran into instructions from his bodyguards. the secret-service considers the move dangerous, and its leader has been warned by Cipollone against a “very very bad idea”. Back at the White House, Hutchinson learns how Trump, mad with rage, even came to blows with his bodyguard. According to her, Tony Ornato, the deputy director of White House personnel, described to her how Robert Engel, the president’s protection officer that day, saw Trump rushing to the front of the presidential limousine. to try to drive. “I’m the fucking president!” Take me to the Capitol now! »Trump reportedly yelled as he shoved Agent Engel away.

As the riot storms the Capitol, calling for Vice President Mike Pence to be hanged, she hears a bewildered Meadows explain to her that Trump approves of the slogan. “I remember Pat Cipollone, saying to Meadows something like ‘Mark, we need to do something more, they’re literally asking for the VP to be hanged’she told the commission. “And Mark said something like, ‘You heard it, Pat, he thinks Mike deserves it, he doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.’

Hutchinson also described how Trump flew into a rage when he learned that his attorney general William Barr had publicly refuted the election fraud allegations in an interview with The Associated Press, throwing his lunch at the wall in anger. “I went down to the dining room, the door of which was open, and where the valet was changing the tablecloth. He waved me in and pointed to the wall by the fireplace mantel and television: ketchup was running down the wall and there was a broken china plate on the floor.

“As an American, I was disgusted”

But it is above all the lack of reaction from the White House during the riot that most horrifies Cassidy Hutchinson. Shortly after rioters burst into the Capitol, legal counsel Pat Cipollone rushes into Meadows’ office to demand a meeting with Trump. But Meadows replies that the president does not want to hear anything and does not wish to be disturbed. Cipollon, says Hutchinson, “said very clearly to Mark: something has to be done or people will die and you will have blood on your hands! »

When Trump finally sends a message on Twitter, where instead of appealing to his supporters for calm, he continues to accuse Mike Pence of having lacked courage, Hutchinson is overwhelmed. “As a member of the presidential administration, after doing everything to highlight what the president had done for the country…I remember feeling devastated, disappointed, and personally hurt. It was really sad… As an American, I was disgusted. What the president was doing was unpatriotic. It was anti-American. We were witnessing the desecration of the Capitol in the name of a lie. And that was something that was really hard to accept…I still have a hard time getting over the emotions it brought up in me.”

Hutchinson also confirmed to the commission of inquiry how Mark Meadows and Rudy Giuliani had asked the day after January 6 to benefit from the presidential pardon.

Veiled threats

This largely unpublished testimony, from a member of Donald Trump’s cabinet, came to dismantle in advance whole sections of the defense of the former president. While the House Committee does not have the power to press charges against the former president, revelations from its investigation are making it increasingly difficult for Attorney General Merrick Garland to ignore an increasingly damning record. The commission also revealed veiled threats that Trump’s entourage sent to witnesses before they were heard. She also reminded those who had not yet had “the courage to speak out” that it was not too late to come and testify.