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Jan. 6 Witness Says Trump Was Warned of Potential Violence, Didn’t Care: “They’re Not Here to Hurt Me”

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In explosive testimony Tuesday, Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, revealed new details to the January 6 select committee about the events leading up to the “Stop the Steal” rally. She indicated then-President Donald Trump and his inner circle, that included personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, expected the event to grow violent and did little to stop it. Hutchinson described how Trump demanded that the Secret Service allow his supporters wielding weapons to enter the Ellipse in order to make his rally seem better attended. “They’re not here to hurt me,” Trump said in dismissing safety concerns, Hutchinson testified. We feature her extended remarks.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: “Bombshell after bombshell.” That’s how Public Citizen described the dramatic testimony at Tuesday’s surprise hearing of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.

The star witness? Cassidy Hutchinson, longtime close aide of Mark Meadows, the former President Trump White House chief of staff at the time of the insurrection. Hutchinson was questioned for about two hours by the Republican vice chair of the committee, Liz Cheney. And clips from Hutchinson’s previous testimony to the committee were also featured, her deposition testimony.

Today we bring you extended highlights of the explosive revelations. This is Vice Chair Cheney.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: We will begin today with an exchange that first provided Ms. Hutchinson a tangible sense of the ongoing planning for the events of January 6th. 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. Ms. Hutchinson, do you remember Mr. Giuliani meeting with Mr. Meadows on January 2nd, 2021?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: I do. He met with Mr. Meadows in the evening of January 2nd, 2021.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: And we understand that you walked Mr. Giuliani out of the White House that night, and he talked to you about January 6th. What do you remember him saying?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: As Mr. Giuliani and I were walking to his vehicles that evening, he looked at me and said something to the effect of, “Cass, are you excited for the 6th? It’s going to be a great day.” I remember looking at him and saying, “Rudy, could you explain what’s happening on the 6th?” And he had responded something to the effect of, “We’re going to the Capitol. It’s going to be great. The president is going to be there. He’s going to look powerful. He’s going to be with the members. He’s going to be with the senators. Talk to the chief about it. Talk to the chief about it. He knows about it.”

REP. LIZ CHENEY: And did you go back then up to the West Wing and tell Mr. Meadows about your conversation with Mr. Giuliani?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: I did. After Mr. Giuliani had left the campus that evening, I went back up to our office, and I found Mr. Meadows in his office on the couch. He was scrolling through his phone. I remember leaning against the doorway and saying, “I just had an interesting conversation with Rudy, Mark. It sounds like we’re going to go to the Capitol.” He didn’t look up from his phone, and said something to the effect of, “There’s a lot going on, Cass, but I don’t know. Things might get real, real bad on January 6th.”

REP. LIZ CHENEY: Ms. Hutchinson, Mr. Meadows is engaged in litigation with the committee to try to avoid testifying here. What was your reaction when he said to you, “Things might get real, real bad”?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: In the days before January 2nd, I was apprehensive about the 6th. I had heard general plans for a rally. I had heard tentative movements to potentially go to the Capitol. But when hearing Rudy’s take on January 6th and then Mark’s response, that was the first — that evening was the first moment that I remember feeling scared and nervous for what could happen on January 6th. And I had a deeper concern for what was happening with the planning aspects of it.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: Thank you, Ms. Hutchinson. Today we’re going to be focusing primarily on the events of January 5th and 6th at the White House. But to begin and to frame the discussion, I want to talk about a conversation that you had with Mr. John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence. And you had this conversation in December of 2020. Mr. Ratcliffe was nominated by President Trump to oversee U.S. intelligence — our U.S. intelligence community. And before his appointment, Mr. Ratcliffe was a Republican member of Congress. As you will see on this clip, Director Ratcliffe’s comments in December of 2020 were prescient.

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: My understanding was Mr. — Director Ratcliffe didn’t want much to do with the post-election period. Director Ratcliffe felt that it wasn’t something that the White House should be pursuing, it felt it was dangerous for the president’s legacy. He had expressed to me that he was concerned that it could spiral out of control and potentially be dangerous, either for our democracy or the way that things were going for the 6th.

INVESTIGATOR: When you say “it” wasn’t something the White House should be pursuing, what’s the “it”?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: Trying to fight the results of the election, finding missing ballots, pressuring — filing lawsuits in certain states where there didn’t seem to be significant evidence, and reaching out to state legislatures about that. So, pretty much the way that the White House was handling the post-election period, he felt that there could be dangerous repercussions in terms of precedent set for elections, for our democracy, for the 6th. You know, he was hoping that we would concede.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: So, Ms. Hutchinson, now we’re going to turn to certain information that was available before January 4th and what the Trump administration and the president knew about the potential for violence before January 6th. On the screen, you will see an email received by acting Deputy Attorney General Donoghue on January 4th from the National Security Division of the Department of Justice. Mr. Donoghue testified in our hearings last week. The email identifies apparent planning by those coming to Washington on January 6th to, quote, “occupy federal buildings” and discussions of, quote, “invading the Capitol building.” Here’s what Mr. Donoghue said to us.

RICHARD DONOGHUE: And we knew that if you have tens of thousands of very obsessive people showing up in Washington, D.C., that there was potential for violence.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: The U.S. Secret Service was looking at similar information and watching the planned demonstrations. In fact, their intelligence division sent several emails to White House personnel like Deputy Chief of Staff Tony Ornato and the head of the president’s protective detail, Robert Engel, including certain materials listing events like those on the screen.

The White House continued to receive updates about planned demonstrations, including information regarding the Proud Boys organizing and planning to attend events on January 6th. Although Ms. Hutchinson has no detailed knowledge of any planning involving the Proud Boys for January 6th, she did note this.

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: I recall hearing the word “Oath Keeper” and hearing the word “Proud Boys” closer to the planning of the January 6th rally, when Mr. Giuliani would be around.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: On January 3rd, the Capitol Police issued a special event assessment. In that document, the Capitol Police noted that the Proud Boys and other groups planned to be in Washington, D.C., on January 6th, and indicated that, quote, “Unlike previous post-election protests, the targets of the pro-Trump supporters are not necessarily the counter-protesters as they were previously, but rather Congress itself is the target on the 6th.”

Of course, we all know now that the Proud Boys showed up on January 6th, marched from the Washington Monument to the Capitol that day and led the riotous mob to invade and occupy our Capitol.

Ms. Hutchinson, I want to play you a clip of one of our meetings when you described a call on January 4th that you received from national security adviser Robert O’Brien on the same topic, potential violence on January 6th.

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: I received a call from Robert O’Brien, the national security adviser. He had asked if he could speak with Mr. Meadows about potential violent — words of violence that he was hearing that were potentially going to happen on the Hill on January 6th. I had asked if he had connected with Tony Ornato, because Tony Ornato had a conversation with him, with Mark, about that topic. Robert had said, “I’ll talk to Tony.” And then I don’t know if Robert ever connected with Mark about the issue.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: Ms. Hutchinson, can you describe for us Mr. Ornato’s responsibilities as deputy chief of staff?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: The deputy chief of staff position at the White House for operations 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 presidential 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 adviser, as well as the vice president’s team, too, Tony would oversee all of that. And he was the conduit for security protocol between White House staff and the United States Secret Service.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: Thank you. And you also described a brief meeting between Mr. Ornato and Mr. Meadows on the potential for violence. The meeting was on January 4th. They were talking about the potential for violence on January 6th. Let’s listen to a clip of that testimony.

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: I remember Mr. Ornato had talked to him about intelligence reports. I just remember Mr. Ornato coming in and saying that we had intel reports saying that there could potentially be violence on the 6th.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: You also told us about reports of violence and weapons that the Secret Service were receiving on the night of January 5th and throughout the day on January 6th. Is that correct?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: That’s correct.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: There are reports that police in Washington, D.C., had arrested several people with firearms or ammunition following a separate pro-Trump rally in Freedom Plaza on the evening of January 5th. Are those some of the reports that you recall hearing about?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: They are.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: Of course, the world now knows that the people who 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, known as magnetometers, or “mags,” for short.

The select committee has learned that people who willingly entered the enclosed area for President Trump’s speech were screened so they could attend the rally at the Ellipse. They had weapons and other items that were confiscated: pepper spray, knives, brass knuckles, Tasers, body armor, gas masks, batons, blunt weapons. And those were just from the people who chose to go through the security for the president’s event on the Ellipse, not the several thousand members of the crowd who refused to go through the mags and watched from the lawn near the Washington Monument.

The select committee has learned about reports from 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.

MPD OFFICER 1: There’s an individual who is in a tree. It’s gonna be a white male, about six feet 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 a stock of an AR-15. He’s going to be with a group of individuals, about five to eight — five 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 dress style fatigues, about 5’8”, 5’9”, skinny — skinny white males, brown cowboy boots. They had Glock-style pistols in their waistband.

MPD OFFICER 2: 8736 with the message, that subject’s weapon on his right hip. That’s a negative. He is in the tree.

MPD OFFICER 3: 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.

MPD OFFICER 4: I got three men walking down the street in fatigues carrying AR-15s. Copy at 14th and Independence.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: AR-15s at 14th and Independence. As you saw in those emails, the first report that we showed, we now know, was sent in the 8:00 hour on January 6th. This talked about people in the crowd wearing ballistic helmets and body armor, carrying radio equipment and military-grade backpacks. The second report we showed you on the screen was sent by the Secret Service in the 11 a.m. hour, and it addressed reports of a man with a rifle near the Ellipse.

Ms. Hutchinson, in prior testimony you described for us a meeting in the White House around 10 a.m. in the morning of January 6th involving Chief of Staff Meadows and Tony Ornato. Were you in that meeting?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: I was.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: Let’s listen to your testimony about that meeting, and then we’ll have some questions.

INVESTIGATOR: I think the last time we talked, you mentioned that some of the weapons that people had at the rally included flagpoles, oversized sticks or flagpoles, bear spray. Is there anything else that you recall hearing about that the people who had gathered on the Ellipse had?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: I recall Tony and I having a conversation with Mark probably around 10 a.m., 10:15 a.m., where I remember Tony mentioning knives, guns in the form of pistols and rifles, bear spray, body armor, spears and flagpoles. Spears were one item. Flagpoles were one item. But then Tony had related to me something to the effect of “And these effing people are fastening spears onto the ends of flagpoles.”

REP. LIZ CHENEY: Ms. Hutchinson, here’s a clip of your testimony regarding Mr. Meadows’ response to learning that the rally attendees were armed that day.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: What was Mark’s reaction, Mr. Meadows’ reaction, to this list of weapons that people had in the crowd?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: When Tony and I went in to talk to Mark that morning, Mark was sitting on his couch and on his phone, which was something typical. And I remember Tony just got right into it, was like, “Sir, I just want to let you know,” and informed him, like, this is how many people we have outside the mags right now, these are the weapons that we’re going to have — it’s possible he listed more weapons off that I just don’t recall — and gave him a brief but — and concise explanation, but also fairly, fairly thorough.

And I remember distinctly Mark not looking up from his phone, right? I remember Tony finishing his explanation and it taking a few seconds for Mark to say his name, to the point where I almost said, “Mark, did you hear him?” And then Mark chimed in, was like, “All right, anything else?” still looking down at his phone.

And Tony looked at me, and I looked at Tony. And he — Tony said, “No, sir. Do you have any questions?” He’s like, “What are you hearing?” And I looked at Tony, and I was like, “Sir, he just told you about what was happening down at the rallies.” And he was like, “Yeah, yeah, I know.” And then he looked up and said, “Have you talked to the president?” And Tony said, “Yes, sir. He’s aware, too.” He said, “All right. Good.”

REP. LIZ CHENEY: He asked Tony if Tony had informed the president?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: Yes.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: And Tony said, yes, he had.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: So, Ms. Hutchinson, is it your understanding that Mr. Ornato told the president about weapons at the rally on the morning of January 6th?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: That’s what Mr. Ornato relayed to me.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: And here’s how you characterized Mr. Meadows’ general response when people raised concerns about what could happen on January 6th.

INVESTIGATOR: So, at the time in the days leading up to the 6th, there were lots of public reports about how things might go bad on the 6th, even the potential for violence. If I’m hearing you correctly, what stands out to you is that Mr. Meadows did not share those concerns, or at least did not act on those concerns.

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: Did not act on those concerns would be accurate.

INVESTIGATOR: But other people raised them to him. Like in this exchange, you mentioned that Mr. Ornato pulled him aside.

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: That’s correct.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: Ms. Hutchinson, we’re going to show now an exchange of texts between you and Deputy Chief of Staff Ornato. And these text messages were exchanged while you were at the Ellipse. In one text, you write, “But the crowd looks good from this [vantage] point. As long as we get the shot. He was f—ing furious.” And the text messages also stress that President Trump kept mentioning the OTR, an off-the-record movement. We’re going to come back and ask you about that in a minute. But could you tell us, first of all, who it is in the text who was furious?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: The “he” in that text that I was referring to was the president.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: And why was he furious, Ms. Hutchinson?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: He was furious because he wanted the arena that we had on the Ellipse to be maxed out at capacity for all attendees. 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.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: And did you go to the rally in the presidential motorcade?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: I was there, yes, in the motorcade.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: And were you backstage with the president and other members of his staff and family?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: I was.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: And you told us, Ms. Hutchinson, about particular comments that you heard while you were in the tent area.

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: When we were in the offstage announce area tent behind the stage, he was very concerned about the shot, meaning the photograph that we would get, because the rally space wasn’t full. One of the reasons, which I’ve previously stated, was because he wanted it to be full and for people to not feel excluded, because they had come far to watch him at the rally. And he felt the mags were at fault for not letting everybody in. But another leading reason, and likely the primary reason, is because he wanted it full, and he was angry that we weren’t letting people through the mags with weapons, what the Secret Service deemed as weapons and are — are weapons.

But when we were in the offstage announce tent, I was part of a conversation — I was in the — I was in the vicinity of a conversation where I overheard the president say something to the effect of, you know, “I don’t effing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the effing mags away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here. Let the people in. Take the effing mags away.”

REP. LIZ CHENEY: Just to be clear, Ms. Hutchinson, is it your understanding that the president wanted to take the mags away and said that the armed individuals were not there to hurt him?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: That’s a fair assessment.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: The issue wasn’t with the amount of space available in the official rally area only, but instead that people did not want to have to go through the mags. Let’s listen to a portion of what you told us about that.

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: In this particular instance, it wasn’t the capacity of our space. It was the mags and the people that didn’t want to come through. And that’s what Tony had been trying to relay to him that morning: you know, “It’s not the issues that we encountered on the campaign. We have enough space, sir. They don’t want to come in right now. They have weapons that they don’t want confiscated by the Secret Service. And they’re fine on the Mall. They can see you on the Mall. And they’re — they want to march straight to the Capitol from the Mall.”

REP. LIZ CHENEY: The president apparently wanted all attendees inside the official rally space and repeatedly said, quote, “They’re not here to hurt me.”

REP. LIZ CHENEY: And just to be clear, so, he was told again in that conversation — or was he told again in that conversation that people couldn’t come through the mags because they had weapons?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: Correct.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: And that people — and his response was to say they can march to the Capitol from — is it from the Ellipse?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: Something to the effect of “Take the effing mags away. They’re not here to hurt me. Let them in. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol after the rally is over. They can march from — they can march from the Ellipse. Take the effing mags away. Then they can march to the Capitol.”

REP. LIZ CHENEY: Ms. Hutchinson, what we saw when those clips were playing were photos provided by the National Archives showing the president in the offstage tent before his speech on the Ellipse. You were in some of those photos, as well. And I just want to confirm that that is when you heard the president say the people with weapons weren’t there to hurt him and that he wanted the Secret Service to remove the magnetometers.

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: That’s correct. In the photos that you displayed, we were standing towards the front of the tent with the TVs, really close to where he would walk out to go onto the stage. These conversations happened two to three minutes before he took the stage that morning.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: Let’s reflect on that for a moment. President Trump was aware that a number of the individuals in the crowd had weapons and were wearing body armor. And here’s what President Trump instructed the crowd to do.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you. We’re going to walk down. We’re going to walk down any one you want, but I think right here. We’re going to walk down to the Capitol!

REP. LIZ CHENEY: And the crowd, as we know, did proceed to the Capitol. It soon became apparent to the Secret Service, including the Secret Service teams in the crowd, along with White House staff, that security at the Capitol would not be sufficient.

AMY GOODMAN: Vice chair of the committee, Liz Cheney, questioning Cassidy Hutchinson, the close aide to Mark Meadows, President Trump’s White House chief of staff.

When we come back, Cassidy Hutchinson accuses Donald Trump of attacking his own presidential Secret Service agent January 6th after the agent refused to drive Trump to the Capitol to join the armed mob gathering outside Congress. Stay with us.

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