US Capitol panel faces questions about assistant

A congressional investigation into the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump raises questions about steps it took to corroborate a White House employee’s account that the then-president interacted with Secret Service agents that day. had struggled in his armored SUV.

US media, citing Secret Service sources, said Trump’s intelligence chief Robert Engel and the driver of the car were willing to challenge the aide’s statement that Trump was driving the modified Chevrolet Suburban. grasped when he learned that the Secret Service would not drive him to the Capitol, where thousands of his supporters rioted.

Neither Engel nor the driver made any public statements on Wednesday.

Trump denied holding the wheel on Tuesday.

A staff member of the U.S. House of Representatives committee said on Jan. 6 it would welcome testimony from any witness willing to provide new information under oath following Tuesday’s testimony by Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to Mark Meadows, White’s chief of staff. House of Trump.

The House aide declined Wednesday to answer questions about whether the commission had already interviewed Secret Service agents or other officials who had firsthand knowledge of the incident Hutchinson described.

Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said on Wednesday that the commission had not attempted to confirm details of Hutchinson’s testimony in the 10 days before the hearing, which was scheduled unusually quickly.

In a separate statement, it said it was working with the commission.

Guglielmi did not immediately respond to questions about the significance of the 10 days or whether the committee had previously contacted the agency to discuss Trump’s behavior on Jan. 6.

Hutchinson testified that Tony Ornato, a senior Secret Service official, told her that Trump had struggled with agents after he delivered a fiery speech to his supporters outside the White House that morning, in which he repeatedly blamed widespread fraud for his election loss. for Joe Biden.

Trump’s claims of vote fraud have been dismissed by a succession of judges and dismissed by state election officials.

The riots were an attempt to prevent Congress, chaired by Vice President Pence, from certifying Biden’s election.

“If it is true that the Secret Service is denying the charges against President Trump of shooting and mistreating officers, then the story is really about gossip that is not bearing fruit,” Republican US Senator Lindsey Graham said on Wednesday.

“The committee could have told the other side of the story with a little effort, but they chose NOT to because they wanted sensational headlines.”

Republican Trump supporters have not challenged other revelations in Hutchinson’s testimony.

These include Trump’s knowledge — even approval — of his supporters walking heavily armed through Washington DC on Jan. 6 and that he had no qualms about rioters urging Pence to be hanged.

Hutchinson also testified that Trump was known for his White House outbursts that resulted in food being spread on walls and dishes being turned upside down.

“Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony before the Jan. 6 committee has been hailed as ‘brave’ and dismissed as ‘incredible,’” Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said on Twitter on Wednesday.

“It is time for those present in some of the darkest moments for our democracy to come forward under oath and, like them, tell their story.”

A former Meadows deputy, Hutchinson, now 26, has been a constant presence among White House personnel in the last few months of 2020, often aboard Air Force One, friendly with staff, and with Trump’s Secret Service detail.

Her office was a 10-second walk from the President’s Oval Office.

Employees who worked at the White House were surprised by the undue influence of a then 24-year-old and surprised by her drama over the SUV on the day of the riots.

Sources familiar with the matter said she planned to join the small contingent of staffers who moved to Florida with Trump after he handed over power to Biden in January 2021, but Trump ultimately chose not to have her in. to take service.