On Tuesday, the Jan. 6 committee held a surprise hearing featuring Cassidy Hutchinson, the former executive assistant to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. Announced just one day before, the last-minute nature of the hearing suggested that Hutchinson would be providing blockbuster testimony. She did not disappoint, revealing that she heard President Donald Trump say on the morning of Jan. 6 that he knew his supporters had weapons and he didn’t care because “they’re not here to hurt me,” and that he immediately proceeded to use his speech to encourage his weapons-wielding supporters to descend upon the Capitol.
Here’s video of the key moment, captured in a prerecorded video of an earlier deposition and then confirmed on Tuesday by Hutchinson in live testimony.
As Hutchinson testified, Trump requested that the magnetometers be removed from the entrance to his rally, even though the president was told his supporters had been found carrying weapons, such as flagpoles being fastened with spears.
Here’s what Hutchinson said in her taped testimony:
I overheard the president say something to the effect of, you know, “I don’t even 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 to the Capitol from here. Let the people in. Take the f-ing mags away.”
Hutchinson further explained that Trump was “fucking furious”—as she put it in a text at the time—because he wanted the space for his rally “to be maxed out at capacity for all attendees.” In tape from her previous deposition, she said he was concerned about “the photograph that we would get because the rally space wasn’t full,” and that “he was angry that we weren’t letting people through the mags with weapons.”
The committee aired testimony from several other White House aides that Trump was insistent in the days leading up to Jan. 6 that he would be leading his marchers to the Capitol. Hutchinson also testified that there was a plan to do so that was supported by Meadows.
However, some White House officials were apprehensive about the idea. Hutchinson testified that White House counsel Pat Cipollone told her on the morning of Jan. 6 that if Trump marched on the Capitol with his supporters “we’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen.” She then said: “In the days leading up to the sixth, we had conversations about potentially obstructing justice or defrauding the electoral count.”
In another shocking moment, Hutchinson told the committee that she was told by people with firsthand knowledge immediately after Trump got into his motorcade to return to the White House that he still demanded to be taken to the Capitol because he was the president. She said deputy chief of staff Anthony Ornato told her that Trump believed he was going to the Capitol, and when he was told he would not be allowed to go because they didn’t have proper security, he said, “I’m the effin’ president, take me to the Capitol now.” According to Hutchinson’s recounting of the conversation, at that point “the president reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel” and the president then used his free hand to lunge towards “the clavicles” of his secret service agent. This all sounds pretty terrible!
So, to review: Trump knew his supporters were on the scene with weapons and wanted to allow them into his rally, from which he planned to lead them to the Capitol—a possibility that many of his advisers were concerned was in fact a crime. Again, sounds bad, legally speaking. (Hutchinson also testified that her boss, Mark Meadows, sought a pardon for his activities related to Jan. 6.)
Anyway, aside from corroborating that Trump knew of the potential for violence at his rally and, at best, simply didn’t care—Hutchinson’s testimony also suggests that part of his motivation had to do with his desire for a bigger crowd photo (assuming that wasn’t simply a cover to excuse amassing a large, armed mob that could then march on the Capitol). That is more than a little ironic given how Trump’s administration started. It may be the worst bookend in American history.