Smashing plates. Flipping tablecloths. Shouting expletives until he’s red in the face.
This time, several of the flare-ups allegedly came during the 187 minutes when the then-president was out of public view while his supporters attacked the Capitol — a question that had been one of the enduring mysteries of the day. Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, described Trump in a fit of rage that day.
In one part of her testimony — disputed by Trump — Hutchinson described a conversation she had with a Secret Service agent. According to her account, the agent recounted that Trump was so angry about being blocked from going to the Capitol, he moved to grab the steering wheel of the presidential SUV and lunged at the agent. Hutchinson put her hand on her neck while describing the latter part of the incident.
“The president said something to the effect of, ‘I’m the f-ing president, take me up to the Capitol now,’” Hutchinson testified.
Three Secret Service agents who accompanied Trump are disputing that he assaulted or grabbed at the leader of his security detail or that he grabbed for the steering wheel, according to one current and one former law enforcement official familiar with their accounts. The agents do not dispute that Trump was furious and exchanged tense words with one of the agents, the two people said.
Though the specifics about Trump’s alleged actions on Jan. 6 and other days were new, the portrait of his rage was familiar to many people who worked in his White House, though few have come forward before to say so publicly and under oath.
“He would get into these narcissistic outrages where he was screaming and yelling at no one in particular. He was always yelling and screaming,” said John F. Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff in 2017 and 2018. “To get him in one of those rages was not unusual.”
Kelly added, “Knowing Trump the way I know him, not a single bit of it surprised me, with the one exception of what happened in the car. It surprised me that he would do that.”
One longtime adviser to Trump acknowledged the difficulty of the sworn televised testimony, even for Republican voters who have overlooked Trump’s flaws in the past.
“It’s the most damaging political thing we’ve seen to him yet with these hearings. It puts a pin on him having a temper, and that’s tough politically,” one longtime adviser said, who like some others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal details. “Politically today was a very bad day for the president and for Mark Meadows.”
Trump’s own response to the testimony was less than a paragon of poise. He released a barrage of posts on his Truth Social platform, denying Hutchinson’s claims, insulting her handwriting and emphasizing his points with all-caps and exclamation points.
“Her Fake story that I tried to grab the steering wheel of the White House Limousine in order to steer it to the Capitol Building is ‘sick’ and fraudulent, very much like the Unselect Committee itself,” Trump said. “Her story of me throwing food is also false … and why would SHE have to clean it up, I hardly knew who she was?”
Also on Jan. 6, Hutchinson described Trump’s pique at the size of the crowd for his speech on the Ellipse, demanding to remove metal detectors to let more people in despite warnings that some attendees were armed.
Trump denied wanting to make room for people with guns. “Never complained about the crowd, it was massive,” he said Tuesday.
Hutchinson also recounted Trump’s earlier reaction to then-Attorney General William P. Barr telling the Associated Press on Dec. 1, 2020, that there was no widespread fraud affecting the outcome of the election.
“There was ketchup dripping down the wall and there’s a shattered porcelain plate on the floor,” Hutchinson testified. “The valet had articulated that the president was extremely angry at the attorney general’s AP interview and had thrown his lunch against the wall, which was causing them to have to clean up. So I grabbed a towel and started wiping the ketchup off the wall to help the valet out.”
She added that Trump’s eruption in the dining room was not unique — that there were several times when she worked in the West Wing when Trump threw and broke his place settings.
On a trip in 2019 to Jamestown, Va., Trump was in a covered outdoor tunnel walking to an event when he opened a Diet Coke and the fizzy soda started spraying on him, according to a person who witnessed the episode. The person said Trump grew so disgusted and angry that he swore and hurled the Diet Coke across the tunnel. “It just went everywhere,” the person said. “And someone had to go over and clean it up.”
During one meeting with top political advisers, in August 2019, after Trump learned an aide had talked negatively about him to reporters, he tossed a remote control and screamed so loudly that he startled some longtime advisers and pushed them to leave the room.
“Everyone was afraid of him, including me,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said at the Faith and Freedom Coalition gathering this month.
One former administration official said he pounded on the table and screamed profanities regularly. This person said he screamed at a former Trump administration official in 2020 when they offered resistance to Johnny McEntee becoming head of presidential personnel. “You people never listen to me! You’re going to do this! Nobody ever does what I tell them to do!” Trump screamed, adding expletives to each sentence for emphasis, according to this person. “You’re going to do this!”
During Kelly’s tenure, he would try to keep other aides away from Trump when he knew he was in a particularly foul mood, a person with direct knowledge said. Shouting matches with Trump often involved the former president growing red in the face and profanely screaming. He would scream so loudly at former homeland security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and former attorney general Jeff Sessions that others would try to keep them out of the Oval Office.
At one point in 2018, Trump threw a paper across the Oval when he grew angry with Kelly, his former chief of staff, for saying the wall would not be built from sea to sea. “He was red-faced and angry and holding a paper with Kelly’s quotes, and he threw it across the Oval,” a former senior administration official said.
Trump’s temper also made an appearance in the report of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Former strategist Stephen K. Bannon told investigators Trump screamed at White House counsel Donald McGahn about his displeasure over Sessions’s recusal from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. “Bannon recalled that the President was as mad as Bannon had ever seen him,” the report said.
Lawyers have often borne the brunt of Trump’s rage. He regularly screamed at McGahn’s successor, Pat Cipollone, and told him he was the worst lawyer he’d ever had. “I have the worst lawyer of all time,” Trump would say to others, with Cipollone in the room, adding an expletive. “Why are you such a terrible lawyer?”
Another former adviser described the president berating his lawyers repeatedly after the election when they would not go along with his claims of fraud in meetings with his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
Other times Trump would react furiously to what he saw on TV. He exploded at aides in late 2018 when Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh gave a Fox News interview where he awkwardly discussed his sex life. “Who would put him out there? Who thought that was a good idea?” Trump said with expletives, according to a person who heard his comments.
Flashes about Trump’s temper also appeared in multiple allegations of unwanted sexual advances, long before he was president. His first wife, Ivana Trump, alleged in divorce proceedings that Trump raped her while furious about a painful hair procedure. Trump denied the allegation and his ex-wife repudiated her claim in 2015.
Books about Trump’s presidency have had titles like “Rage” and “Fire and Fury,” and former administration officials from Barr to former defense secretary Mark T. Esper have published accounts of heated showdowns with the president.
Trump also blew up with world leaders such as French president Emmanuel Macron, “saying all sorts of crazed things,” according to a person who was with him on a 2018 trip to Paris. The next year, Trump stormed out of an Oval Office meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), leading her to say his family and staff should “have an intervention.”
Trump responded the next day by denying the outburst took place. “I walked out; I was so calm,” he told reporters at the White House. He then called on aides such as Kellyanne Conway to back him up.
“Very calm,” Conway said. “No temper tantrum.”
“What was my attitude when I walked in?” Trump then asked, turning to communications adviser Mercedes Schlapp. “Did I ever scream?”
“No, you were — no, you were very calm,” she said.
“What was my attitude, yesterday, at the meeting?” Trump said, calling on economics adviser Larry Kudlow.
“Mercy is right, Kellyanne is right,” Kudlow agreed. “You were very calm.”
Carol D. Leonnig contributed to this report.
The Jan. 6 insurrection
Congressional hearings: The House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol held a series of high-profile hearings to share its findings with the U.S. public. What was likely to be the panel’s final public hearing has been postponed because of Hurricane Ian. Here’s a guide to the biggest hearing moments so far.
Will there be charges? The committee could make criminal referrals of former president Donald Trump over his role in the attack, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said in an interview.
The riot: On Jan. 6, 2021, a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 election results. Five people died on that day or in the immediate aftermath, and 140 police officers were assaulted.
Inside the siege: During the rampage, rioters came perilously close to penetrating the inner sanctums of the building while lawmakers were still there, including former vice president Mike Pence. The Washington Post examined text messages, photos and videos to create a video timeline of what happened on Jan. 6.