By Terrance Turner
June 28, 2022
Yesterday, word broke that the January 6th committee was calling a surprise hearing for Wednesday at noon. The news took many political observers by surprise, as the committee had earlier indicated that they would take some time off as the July 4th holiday neared. But the committee called this spontaneous hearing to feature testimony from a witness. The witness is Cassidy Hutchinson.
Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) noted that Hutchinson is a familiar face on Capitol Hill because she once held a prominent role in the White House Legislative Affairs Office and later was the principal aide to then-President Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
“Ms. Hutchinson spent significant time up here on Capitol Hill representing the Trump administration,” Cheney said, “and we welcome her back up here today. Until now, our hearings have been organized to address specific elements of President Trump’s plan to overturn the 2020 election. Today, we are departing somewhat from that model, because Hutchinson’s testimony touches on several important and cross-cutting topics — topics that are relevant to each of our future hearings.”
In her role working for the White House Chief Of Staff, Ms. Hutchinson handled a vast number of sensitive issues,” noted Cheney. “She worked in the West Wing several steps down the hall from the Oval Office […] She spoke daily with members of Congress, with high-ranking officials in the administration, with senior White House staff including Mr. Meadows, with White House counsel lawyers and Mr. Tony Ornato, who served as the White House Deputy Chief Of Staff. She also worked on a daily basis with members of the Secret Service who were posted in the White House.” (She also interned for Senator Ted Cruz.)
“Today you will hear Ms. Hutchinson relate certain first-hand observations about President Trump’s conduct on January 6th. You will also hear new information regarding actions and statement of Trump’s senior advisors that day, including his Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and his White House counsel,” Cheney said. “And we will get into some of what Trump and members of The White House staff knew about the potential for violence on January 6th even before that violence began.”
After swearing her in, Chair Bennie Thompson (D-South Carolina) noted that Hutchinson once worked for House Republican Whip Steve Scalise and also interned for Sen. Ted Cruz. He reiterated that Hutchinson worked for the White House Office of Legislative Affairs (from 2019 to 2020) and then served as a special assistant to the White House Chief Of Staff’s office from March 2020 through January 2021.
He added that when Hutchinson began working for the White House in 2019, she began in the legislative affairs office but was soon promoted. He asked Hutchinson: “Can you explain your role for the committee?”
“When I moved over to the White House Chief Of Staff’s office with Mr. Meadows — when he became the fourth chief of staff — it’s difficult to describe a typical day,” Hutchinson said. “I was a special assistant to the president and an advisor to the Chief of Staff. The days depended on what the President was doing that day and that’s kind of how my portfolio was reflected. I had a lot of outreach with members of Congress, senior cabinet officials; I would work on policy issues with relevant integral components and members on the Hill, as well as security protocols at the White House complex,” she said.
Thompson confirmed that Hutchinson received another promotion in March 2020, becoming Meadows’ principal aide. He asked: “What did a typical day look like in your work with Mr. Meadows?”
“It varied with what was going on. We spent a lot of time on the Hill; I spent time on the hill independently, too as I was his liaison for Capitol Hill. We did a lot of presidential travel engagements, but mostly I was there to serve what the Chief of Staff needed and a lot of times with the chief of staff needed was a reflection of what the president’s schedule was detailed to be that day.”
Hutchinson testified that she and Meadows were in contact practically every day.
Thompson showed a map of the first floor of the White House and pointed out that the Oval Office is to the right of the Chief of Staff’s office, and that Hutchinson’s office was directly nearby. “It only takes 5 or 10 seconds or so to walk down the hall from your office to the Oval Office,” he observed. Thompson then recognized Cheney for questions.
On January 2nd, four days before the attack on our Capitol, President Trump’s lead lawyer Mr. Giuliani was meeting with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and others, Cheney noted. She asked: “Ms. Hutchinson, do you remember Mr. Giuliani meeting with Mr. Meadows on January 2nd, 2021?
“I do. He met with Mister Meadows in the evening on January 2nd, 2021,” Hutchinson said. She testified that as she and Giuliani were walking to their vehicles, Giuliani expressed excitement about the 6th. “Cass, are you excited about the 6th? It’s going to be a great day!” she remembers him saying. “We’re going to the Capitol. It’s going to be great. The president’s going to be there. He’s going to look powerful!” he reportedly said. “Talk to the Chief about it.
Hutchinson relayed the information to Meadows in his office. But he didn’t look up from his phone. “I don’t know; things might get real, real bad on January 6th,” she recals.
In the days. before January 2nd I was apprehensive about the sixth; I had heard general plans for a rally, had heard tentative movements to potentially go to the capitol. but when hearing Rudy’s take on January 6th and Mark’s response that was the first — that evening was the first moment I remember feeling scared and nervous for what could happen on January 6th.”
John Ratcliffe, the Director of National Intelligence, “didn’t want much to do with the post-election period. Director Ratcliffe felt it wasn’t something that the White House should be pursuing; he felt it was dangerous for the person legacy; he’d expressed to me that he was concerned it could spiral out of control and potentially be dangerous either for our democracy by the way they things were going for the sixth,” Hutchinson says in previously recorded testimony. “He thought that there could be dangerous repercussions,” she added, “and he was hoping that we would concede.”
An email received by Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue on January 4th from the National Security division of the Department of Justice. Mr. Donoghue testified last week that the email identifies apparent planning by those coming to Washington on January 6th to “Occupy Federal buildings” and discussions of “invading the Capitol building” He said that “we knew that if you have tens of thousands of very upset people showing up in Washington DC that there was potential for violence.
The US Secret Service was looking at similar information, Cheney said. In fact, they sent several emails to White House personnel including to the head of the person’s security detail. The White House continued to receive emails about information including the proud boys organizing and attempting to attend on Jan. 6th. The US Capitol Police noted: “Unlike previous post-selection protests[…]Congress itself is the target on the 6th.”
Hutchinson testified that she got a call on January 5th from Robert O’Brien, the National Security Advisor, asking to speak with Meadows about reports of violence on the 6th. She asked if he’d talked to Tony Ornato.
“Ms. Hutchinson, can you describe for us Mr. Ornato’s responsibilities as Deputy Chief of Staff?” Cheney asked.
“The Deputy Chief of Staff position at the White House,” she said, “is arguably one of the most important positions that somebody can hold. They’re in charge of all security protocol for the campus and all the central protectees, primarily the president and the first family. But anything that requires security for any individual that has presidential protection so the Chief of Staff or the National Security advisor as well as the Vice President’s team — Tony would oversee all of that. And he’s the conduit for security protocol between White House staff and the United States Secret Service.”
Clip: “I remember Mr. Ornato had talked to him about intelligence reports; I remember Ornato coming in and saying that we had until reports saying that there could potentially be violence on the 6th.”
“You also told us about reports of violence and weapons that the Secret Service were receiving on the night of January 5th throughout the day and January 6th,” Cheney said. “Is that correct?”
“There are reports that police in Washington DC had arrested several people firearms or ammunition following a separate pro-Trump rally in Freedom Plaza on January 5th. Are those some of the reports that you recall hearing about?”
“Of course, the world now knows that the people attacked the Capitol on January 6th had many different types of weapons. When a president speaks, the Secret Service typically requires those attending to pass through metal detectors magnetometers — or mags for short,” Cheney said. “The Select Committee has learned that people who willingly entered the enclosed area for President Trump’s speech were screened so that they could attend the valley the Ellipse. They had weapons and other items that were confiscated: pepper spray, knives, brass kuncles, tasers, body armor, gas masks, batons, blunt weapons. And those were just from the people who chose to go through security for the presidential event on the Ellipse — not the several thousand members of the crowd who refused to go through the mags and watch from the lawn near the Washington Monument.
The Select Committee has learned of reports outside the magnetometers and has obtained police radio transmissions identifying individuals with firearms including AR-15s near the Ellipse on the morning of January 6th. Let’s listen.”
“There’s an individual that’s in a tree… going to be a white male, about 6 ft. tall, thin build, brown cowboy boots; he’s got blue jeans and a blue jean jacket and underneath the blue jean jacket, complainants both saw stock of an AR-15. he’s going to be with a group of individuals about five to eight, 5 to eight other individuals; two of the individuals in that group at the base of the tree near the porta potties, were wearing green fatigues, green olive drab-style fatigues about 5’8 5’9 skinny white males, brown cowboy boots. They had Glock style pistols in their waistbands.”
“8736 with a message that subject, weapon on his right hip — that’s a negative he is in the tree,” adds another officer. Still another says: “Motor One, make sure PPD knows they have an elevated threat in the trees, south side of Constitution avenue. Look for the ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flag, American flag face mask, cowboy boots, weapon on the right side hip.”
“I got three men walking down the street in fatigues, carrying AR-15s. Copy at 14th and Independence.”
– sent in the 8:00 hour on Jan. 6.
Cheney said that one email report was sent at 8 am on Jan. 6. It talked about people wearing body armor carrying radio equipment and backpacks. The second report, sent in the 11 am hour, discussed reports of a man with a rifle near the Ellipse.
In a clip from previous testimony, Hutchinson is heard saying that she was in a meeting with Ornato and Meadows that morning around 10 am: “I remember Tony mentioning knives, guns in the form of pistols and rifles, bear spray, body armor, spears, and flagpoles.” Tony Ornato relayed to her that the people were affixing spears to the flagpoles.
What was Meadows’ reaction?
Meadows never looked up from his phone, Hutchinson said. He asked if Ornato had informed the president, and Ornato said that yes, he had.
“Ms. Hutchinson, is it your understanding that Ornato told the president about weapons at the rally on Jan. 6th?” Cheney asked. Hutchinson answered yes: “That’s what Mr. Ornato relayed to me.”
In a text message, Hutchinson told Ornato that “he was f–king furious”. Who is the “he” being referred to?
Hutchinson: “The ‘he’ in that text that I was referring to was the President.”
Cheney: “Why was he furious, Ms. Hutchinson?”
Hutchinson: “He was furious because he wanted the arena that we had on the Ellipse to be maxed out of capacity for all intendees. The advance team had relayed to him that the mags were free flowing; everybody who wanted to come in had already come in, but he still was angry about the extra space and wanted more people to come in.”
“Did you go to the rally and the presidential motorcade?
“I was there, yes, in the motorcade.”
“Were you backstage with the president and the other members of the staff and family?
And you told us, Ms. Hutchinson, about particular comments that you heard while you were in the tent area.
In the recorded clip, Hutchinson dropped a bombshell: “He was angry that we weren’t letting people through the mags with weapons.”
According to Hutchinson, Trump was concerned about the photographs of the rally because the rally space wasn’t full. One reason was that he wanted it to be full and for people to not be excluded; another leading reason was that he wanted it full, and was upset that people with weapons weren’t being let through the magnometers. She heard the president say: “I don’t f–king care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the f–king mags away.”