Furious that he could not storm the Capitol with his supporters on January 6, Donald Trump physically assaulted a member of his intelligence agency and tried to grab the steering wheel of the car he was in, a former top White House aide said in an explosive public testimony on Tuesday.
According to Cassidy Hutchinsona former aide to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, the ex-president stepped into a secured vehicle after his January 6 speech, assuming he would be driven to Capitol Hill, where he had just urged his supporters to march and “fight” on his behalf — even though he had been warned that they were armed and that he may have engaged in illegal behaviour. But Robert Engel, the then head of his security team, said that was not possible and that he was instead transported back to the White House. Trump was furious, Hutchinson told the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, telling what Engel and former deputy chief of staff Tony Ornato told her after the incident. “I’m the damn president,” Trump is said to have said. “Take me to the Capitol now.”
When Engel refused, Trump had a “very strong, very angry reaction,” Hutchinson testified: Trump clutched at the wheel. Engel grabbed his arm and told him to let go of the steering wheel. With his free hand, Hutchinson said she was told that Trump “lunged” at Engel.
It was a stunning testimony and provided new details about actions by Trump, Meadows and other MAGA figures leading up to the January 6 attack and the day of the violence. Hutchinson, a 25-year-old interning for prominent GOP lawmakers Ted Cruz and Steve Scalise before working for Meadows, said: Pat CipolloneThe former White House counsel warned her and other staffers ahead of the event that there would be “serious legal concerns” if Trump did indeed march to the Capitol with supporters: “We will be charged with every crime imaginable if we do that movement happen,” said Hutchinson, who Cipollone had told her ahead of the Jan. 6 meeting.
Hutchinson and Vice-Chairman of the Committee Liz Cheney, who led the questioning on Tuesday, also made it clear that Trump and Meadows knew in advance that his supporters were armed. On the morning of the attack, Hutchinson said Ornato Meadows warned that rally participants were carrying weapons, including rifles, knives, spears and flagpoles; Meadows, according to Hutchinson, seemed uninterested, not even looking up from his phone. Trump, meanwhile, had become “furious” that his speech was not attending to full capacity — something he blamed on security for not allowing his supporters with weapons to enter. “I don’t fucking care if they have guns,” Trump is said to have said in a backstage exchange minutes before addressing his supporters. “They’re not here to hurt me… Let my people in.”