In one of the most dramatic revelations at Tuesday’s hearing of the House committee investigating the January 6 attack, star witness Cassidy Hutchinson described how then-President Trump intended to join his supporters in the march to the Capitol and lunged at his Secret Service agent, who tried to prevent him from doing so, and grabbed the steering wheel of the presidential limousine, before he was driven back to the White House. Hutchinson was aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows at the time. She also describes another temper tantrum by the president weeks earlier, after Attorney General Bill Barr said publicly there was no election fraud, saying Trump threw a plate of food, leaving “ketchup dripping down the wall.”
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report, as we bring you highlights of Tuesday’s surprise hearing of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol. We return to Cassidy Hutchinson, the former close aide to Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, questioned by Republican committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney about what happened January 6th when then-President Trump’s motorcade left the so-called Stop the Steal rally, where Trump had encouraged his armed supporters to march on the Capitol.
REP. LIZ CHENEY: Ms. Hutchinson, when you returned to the White House in the motorcade after the president’s speech, where did you go?
CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: When I returned to the White House, I walked upstairs towards the chief of staff’s office, and I noticed Mr. Ornato lingering outside of the office. Once we had made eye contact, he quickly waved me to go into his office, which was just across the hall from mine. When I went in, he shut the door, and I noticed Bobby Engel, who was the head of Mr. Trump’s security detail, sitting in a chair, just looking somewhat discombobulated and a little lost. And I looked at Tony, and he had said, “Did you effing hear what happened in the Beast?” I said, “No, Tony, I — I just got back. What happened?”
Tony proceeded to tell me that when the president got in the Beast, he was under the impression from Mr. Meadows that the off-the-record movement to the Capitol was still possible and likely to happen, but that Bobby had more information. So, once the president had gotten into the vehicle with Bobby, he thought that they were going up to the Capitol. And when Bobby had relayed to him, “We’re not. We don’t have the assets to do it. It’s not secure. We’re going back to the West Wing,” the president had very strong — a very angry response to that. Tony described him as being “irate.” The president said something to the effect of “I’m the effing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,” to which Bobby responded, “Sir, we have to go back to the West Wing.”
The president reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel. Mr. Engel grabbed his arm, said, “Sir, you need to take your hand off the steering wheel. We’re going back to the West Wing. We’re not going to the Capitol.” Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge towards Bobby Engel. And when Mr. Ornato had recounted this story to me, he had motioned towards his clavicles.
REP. LIZ CHENEY: And was Mr. Engel in the room as Mr. Ornato told you this story?
CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: He was.
REP. LIZ CHENEY: Did Mr. Engel correct or disagree with any part of this story from Mr. Ornato?
CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: Mr. Engel did not correct or disagree with any part of the story.
REP. LIZ CHENEY: Did Mr. Engel or Mr. Ornato ever after that tell you that what Mr. Ornato had just said was untrue?
CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: Neither Mr. Ornato nor Mr. Engel told me ever that it was untrue.
REP. LIZ CHENEY: And despite this altercation, this physical altercation, during the ride back to the White House, President Trump still demanded to go to the Capitol. Here’s what Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary at the time, wrote in her personal notes and told the committee about President Trump’s desire to go to the Capitol after returning to the White House.
INVESTIGATOR: When you wrote, ”POTUS wanted to walk to the Capitol,” was that based solely on what the president said during his speech or anything that he or anybody else said afterwards?
KAYLEIGH McENANY: So, to the best of my recollection, I believe when we got back to the White House, he said he wanted to physically walk with the marchers. And according to my notes, he then said he would be fine with just riding the Beast, but — so that’s my recollection. He wanted to be a part of the march in some fashion.
INVESTIGATOR: OK. And just for the record, “the Beast” refers to the presidential limousine?
KAYLEIGH McENANY: Yes.
REP. LIZ CHENEY: President Trump did not go to the Capitol that day. We understand that he blamed Mark Meadows for that.
CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: So, prior to leaving the rally site, when he got off the stage and everybody was making the movement back to the motorcade, I had overheard Mr. Meadows say to him then, as I had prior to Mr. Trump taking the stage that morning, that he was still working on getting an off-the-record movement to the Capitol. So, when Mr. Trump took the stage, he was under the impression by Mr. Meadows that it was still possible.
So, when he got off the stage, I had relayed to Mr. Meadows that I had another conversation with Tony. The movement was still not possible. Mr. Meadows said, “OK.” And then, as they proceeded to go to the motorcade and Mr. Meadows had reiterated, “We’re going to work on it, sir. Talk to Bobby. Bobby has more information,” Mark got into his vehicle, to my understanding. Trump got into the Beast.
And after we had all arrived back at the White House later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby didn’t pull it off for him and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books.
REP. LIZ CHENEY: The physical altercation that Ms. Hutchinson described in the presidential vehicle was not the first time that the president had become very angry about issues relating to the election. On December 1, 2020, Attorney General Barr said in an interview that the Department of Justice had not found evidence of widespread election fraud sufficient to change the outcome of the election. Ms. Hutchinson, how did the president react to hearing that news?
CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: Around the time that I understand the AP article went live, I remember hearing noise coming from down the hallway. So I poked my head out of the office, and I saw the valet walking towards our office. He had said, “Get the chief down to the dining room. The president wants him.” So Mark went down to the dining room, came back to the office a few minutes later.
After Mark had returned, I left the office and went down to the dining room, and I noticed that the door was propped open, and the valet was inside the dining room changing the tablecloth off of the dining room table. He motioned for me to come in and then pointed towards the front of the room near the fireplace mantel and the TV, where I first noticed there was ketchup dripping down the wall and there was a shattered porcelain plate on the floor.
The valet had articulated that the president was extremely angry at the attorney general’s AP interview and had thrown his lunch against the wall, which was causing them to have to clean up. So I grabbed a towel and started wiping the ketchup off of the wall to help the valet out. And he said something to the effect of “He’s really ticked off about this. I would stay clear of him for right now. He’s really, really ticked off about this right now.”
REP. LIZ CHENEY: And, Ms. Hutchinson, was this the only instance that you are aware of where the president threw dishes?
CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: It’s not.
REP. LIZ CHENEY: And are there other instances in the dining room that you recall where he expressed his anger?
CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: There were several times throughout my tenure with the chief of staff that I was aware of him either throwing dishes or flipping the tablecloth to let all the contents of the table go onto the floor and likely break or go everywhere.
REP. LIZ CHENEY: And, Ms. Hutchinson, Attorney General Barr described to the committee the president’s angry reaction when he finally met with President Trump. Let’s listen.
WILLIAM BARR: And I said, “Look, I — I know that you’re dissatisfied with me, and I’m glad to offer my resignation.” And he pounded the table very hard. Everyone sort of jumped. And he said, “Accepted.”
AMY GOODMAN: The last voice you heard was Trump’s Attorney General William Barr. We’ll have more of Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony in 30 seconds.