It didn’t take long to find out why the House Jan. 6 committee investigating the attack on the Capitol chose to hold a surprise hearing on Tuesday: Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson provided what quickly became clear was the most damning testimony to date on President Donald Trump’s actions on Jan. 6.
Her testimony is particularly important when it comes to just how much Trump cultivated and even desired the insurrection itself — and whether, crucial from a legal standpoint, his effort to overturn the election was corrupt.
Essentially, Hutchinson stitched together repeated warnings — some involving Trump himself, including that he was warned that his Jan. 6 rallygoers had weapons — about what might happen. Despite these warnings, aides struggled to talk Trump out of a plan to march to the Capitol. And despite warnings about weapons in the crowd the morning of Jan. 6, Trump still directed people toward the Capitol in his speech.
Hutchinson, a former aide to then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, said Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani had advocated for a march to the Capitol after Trump’s speech on the Ellipse. She said this prompted Meadows to worry “things might get real, real bad on Jan. 6."
Hutchinson proceeded to detail warnings about weapons in Trump’s Jan. 6 crowd. She said White House Deputy Chief of Staff Anthony Ornato reported the morning of Jan. 6 — around 10 or 10:15 a.m. — that people had “knives, guns in the form of pistols and rifles, bear spray, body armor, spears and flagpoles,” with people “fastening spears on to the ends of flagpoles.” She said Ornato informed Meadows of this. She also said Ornato told her that he had informed Trump himself of it.
Rather than worrying about that, she said, Trump actually wanted people attending his rally not to have to go through magnetometers. She said he said he was worried about how large the crowd was — a long-standing preoccupation of Trump. The former president said he wasn’t worried about weapons because these were “my people,” Hutchinson testified.
Crucially, Hutchinson also testified that Trump was unconcerned about sending such people toward the Capitol — something he would ultimately do.
She said she heard Trump say something to the effect of: “I don’t f---ing care that they have weapons; they’re not here to hurt me. Take the f---ing mags away. Let my people in. They can march the Capitol from here. Let the people in. Take the f---ing mags away."
(“Mags” apparently refers to magnetometers.)
That’s Trump advocating sending people to the Capitol in virtually the same breath as him talking about them having weapons.
To the extent Trump can defend this conduct, it would seem that defense would be: He just wanted more people at his rally, and he perhaps worried less about weapons wielded by those marching to the Capitol because lawmakers would be inside, unlike himself.
But that still means he would have been aware of these people being armed and chose to send them to the Capitol anyway, with disastrous consequences. At the very least, the weapons would speak to people’s potential intent.
What’s more, Hutchinson’s testimony and plenty of other evidence indicate those around Trump worried about the implications of going to the Capitol even before it was established that people had weapons. Apart from Meadows’s “real, real bad” comment, she testified that White House counsel Pat Cipollone warned on Jan. 3 or 4 that going to the Capitol could result in potential crimes including obstruction of justice, violating the Electoral Count Act and even inciting a riot.
“We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen,” she said Cipollone told her.
Hutchinson also testified that, when the march began, people knew what it could mean. She also said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called her angrily and said, “You told me this whole week you weren’t coming up here. Why did you lie to me? ... Don’t come up here." When the Capitol was breached, she said Cipollone reacted angrily to Trump’s inaction, saying, “People are going to die, and the blood is going to be on your f---ing hands.”
In other words: This was quite predictable and even predicted by those inside the White House.
Trump now stands accused of obstructing an official proceeding, very much in line with Cipollone’s warnings. It seems unlikely that these kinds of warnings weren’t delivered to Trump, given the contentious nature of the planned march to the Capitol. That Trump would still push supporters toward the Capitol even after being warned about weapons would sure seem to drive home that Trump at the very least wasn’t that worried about the prospects of something like the insurrection happening.
Combined with his apparent contentment with what actually transpired — and failure to quell it immediately — it suggests it indeed might have been something Trump at the very least contemplated, if not desired. And at the very least, he willingly laid the groundwork.