Washington — Donald Trump was aware his supporters had weapons when he urged them to storm the Capitol to overturn the 2020 election. A former Trump aide testified to the congressional committee.
Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified to the committee probing the 6 January 2021 riots that Trump and his top staff knew the potential for violence.
But a planned rally went ahead, with Trump saying the armed attendees were “not here to hurt me.”
She said the President also demanded to join the Capitol march himself.
Until now, the congressional panel was missing an inside testimony from someone, a first-hand account of the White House during the critical hours of the attack.
Now, at its sixth hearing on Tuesday – the committee hastily announced the revelation of new evidence by Ms. Hutchinson, 25, who had filled in the blanks.
As principal advisor to Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, she sat just feet from the Oval Office and spoke daily with Meadows.
She recounted several top officials repeatedly warned that Trump’s rally on 6 January could spiral out of control.
During her testimony, Ms. Cassidy said:
Meadows said that things “could get real, real bad.” This was days before the 6 January attack.
She barely looked up from his phone on 6 January when told that Mr. Trump’s supporters had brought guns, knives, and other weapons. Meadows asked, “anything else?”
Trump was angry that Secret Service agents were turning away his supporters as they were armed and were setting off security alarms.
“They are not going to hurt me,” Trump said, “let them in.”
John Ratcliffe, the Director of National Intelligence, told the President the event could be “dangerous for his legacy.”
White House counsel Pat Cipollone expressed his worries the event could look like the White House was inciting a riot.
Trump denied Ms. Cassidy’s account on his Social online platform. He said: “I didn’t want or request that we make room for people with guns. Who’d ever want that?”
Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony shows the former President reacted with anger when he was upset at certain events.
Trump smashed crockery in a rage when attorney general William Barr dismissed the President’s election fraud claims in a December 2020 interview. Ms. Hutchinson said he had done this in the past, splattering ketchup onto the walls of a White House dining room.
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Trump insisted he wanted to join his supporters as they marched to the Capitol.
Trump had lunged for the steering wheel of his presidential limo after being told he could not be taken to the Capitol. She said another aide had told her. Trump’s security detail eventually returned him to the White House.
Trump again denied the claim that he attempted to take over his limousine.
In a statement, the Secret Service said it has been cooperating with the committee and plans to respond to the allegations raised on Tuesday at a later date.
Ms. Hutchinson also said that her boss, Meadows, had sought a pardon from the President after the riot.
During her testimony, she recalled seeing Trump’s tweet condemning his vice-president, Mike Pence, for lacking the “courage” to overturn the election results.
Mike Pence had rejected suggestions that he had the power to stop the congressional certification of the election.
Hutchinson added, “I was disgusted as an American… It was un-American, unpatriotic, and you were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie.”
Her lawyers, in a statement following her testimony, said: Ms. Hutchinson’s duty compelled her to testify to the committee.
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Ms. Hutchinson is another in a series of former Republican White House staffers cooperating with the congressional probe.
Vice chairwoman Liz Cheney, one of only two Republicans on the committee, praised her cooperation with the inquiry, saying that Trump allies have pressured fellow Republicans to “continue to be a team player.”
The select committee has conducted a nearly year-long investigation into how Trump supporters invaded Congress to disrupt lawmakers as they certified Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory.