WASHINGTON — In vivid detail, and under the bright lights of the House Jan. 6 committee’s hearing room, a former West Wing aide described the final furious — and violent — hours of President Donald Trump’s futile campaign to cling to power by all means available to him.
Cassidy Hutchinson, who served as a senior aide to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, detailed outbursts of rage from Trump the day he urged supporters to march to the Capitol, portraying him as angry and supportive of the Capitol attack — as his last, desperate grasp to overturn the will of voters failed.
“I don’t f---ing care that they have weapons,” Trump fumed in urging aides to take down magnetometers near the White House before he addressed a “Stop the Steal” rally, Hutchinson testified. “They’re not here to hurt me. Take the f---ing mags away.”
On Jan. 6, Trump planned to go to the Capitol with the mob after the rally, Hutchinson testified, citing conversations with Meadows and Trump confidant Rudy Giuliani.
In a series of posts on his platform Truth Social, Trump largely dismissed and denied Hutchinson's testimony.
Relaying what she said she was told by Secret Service official Tony Ornato, Hutchinson recounted that Trump grew livid when his bodyguards told him his limousine was headed not to the Capitol, but back to the White House, after the rally.
“I am the f---ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,” Hutchinson recounted being told of Trump's response.
Trump grabbed for the steering wheel from the back seat, wrestled with one of the bodyguards for control of the car and ultimately grabbed the bodyguard’s throat, Hutchinson said.
A source close to Ornato told NBC News that Ornato is willing to testify under oath disputing that account, while a source close to the Secret Service separately told NBC News that Engel is also willing to do the same.
NBC News has reached out to Ornato and Engel for comment.
When reached for comment, a Jan. 6 committee aide told NBC News in a statement: “The Select Committee found Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony to be credible. The committee welcomes anyone who wishes to provide additional information under oath.”
Anthony Gugliemi, a spokesman for the Secret Service, told NBC News that the agency informed the Department of Homeland Security that any and all personnel that the committee requests are available to testify under oath, responding to Tuesday's allegations. The Secret Service is part of DHS.
During her testimony, Hutchinson also recalled a conversation between Meadows and White House counsel Pat Cipollone after they had discussed the "Hang Mike Pence" chants at the Capitol.
As Cipollone tried to convince Meadows to do something to stop the riot, Hutchinson said the chief of staff replied, "You heard him [Trump], Pat. He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong."
Trump’s anger fit a pattern, the 25-year-old former aide recalled. In December 2020, after Attorney General William Barr told The Associated Press that there was no evidence of fraud in the election, Trump threw his ketchup-dressed lunch at a White House wall in a furious rage. Hutchinson cleaned up his mess.
The explosive testimony from Hutchinson, the official in closest proximity to Trump to appear at a public hearing, amounted to a stunning and strikingly detail-rich condemnation of a former president who demands absolute loyalty — and has mostly gotten it — from a close circle of aides and advisers.
“As an American, I was disgusted,” Hutchinson said Tuesday of Trump tweeting that Pence lacked courage as insurrectionists broke into the Capitol. “It was unpatriotic. It was un-American. We were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie.”
Hutchinson was referring to Trump’s false assertion that he was robbed of a second term, which culminated in efforts to enlist election and Justice Department officials to reverse the results, a scheme to certify fake electors, and ultimately the attack on the Capitol.
Meadows sought a pardon for his actions surrounding the Jan. 6 insurrection, Hutchinson testified.
‘Things might get real, real bad on Jan. 6’
The panel used a mix of Hutchinson’s live testimony Tuesday and prior recorded sessions to show that the prospect of Trump going to the Capitol was debated at the highest levels of the White House in the days preceding Jan. 6 — and that Trump wanted to go.
Giuliani had just left a meeting with Meadows. As Hutchinson walked Giuliani out of the White House, he asked if she was excited about Jan. 6, Hutchinson testified.
“We’re going to the Capitol,” Giuliani said, according to Hutchinson’s testimony. And then referring to Trump, he said: “The president is going to be there. He’s going to look powerful.”
Hutchinson said she repeated the conversation to Meadows.
“Things might get real, real bad on Jan. 6,” Hutchinson testified that Meadows told her in response.
At the time, according to prior testimony before the panel, Giuliani was at the forefront of a campaign to invalidate the 2020 election, in part by stopping the count of electoral votes at the Capitol.
When asked about Hutchinson's testimony that Giuliani had requested a presidential pardon and spoke to her about Jan. 6 a few days before the rally at the Ellipse, Giuliani's attorney Robert Costello told NBC News in an email, “I am sure he didn’t see the testimony and I haven’t talked to him yet,” adding that Giuliani was "doing last minute campaigning with his son Andrew who is running for Governor" of New York, where voters are selecting nominees for governor and lieutenant governor on Tuesday.
Hutchinson’s testimony represents the committee’s strongest argument yet about whether Trump intended to incite an insurrection. Though just 25 years old, Hutchinson worked in the West Wing, just a few feet from the Oval Office, and spent much of her time with Meadows, for whom she worked on legislative affairs and as an executive assistant.
"I don’t f---ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the f---ing mags away."
Hutchinson testified Trump said on Jan. 6
But Trump’s plan to follow his supporters to the Capitol was a point of controversy inside the White House. Cipollone repeatedly pressed Hutchinson to try to intervene with Meadows, she testified.
“We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if Trump goes to the Capitol,” she said Cipollone warned her at one point. Cipollone said he was concerned about the possibility of obstructing the count of electoral votes that day and “that it would look like we were inciting a riot or encouraging a riot.”
Cipollone has so far refused to testify before the committee.
Trump and Meadows ignored warnings about potential violence on Jan. 6 — in the days and hours leading up to the attack — Hutchinson testified.
On the morning of Jan. 6, police radio conversations played at the hearing revealed Secret Service and Washington, D.C., police officers had observed people outside the rally perimeter with AR-15 semi-automatic rifles and other weapons.
Aides attempted to explain to Trump that because they had weapons, those individuals didn't want to pass through Secret Service magnetometers, or metal detectors. But Trump remained concerned about the appearance that the crowd was small, she testified.
“I don’t f---ing care that they have weapons,” Hutchinson testified that Trump said. “They’re not here to hurt me. Take the f---ing mags away.”
Then during his speech, knowing some of them were armed, Trump urged his supporters to march to the Capitol, where he planned to meet them.
‘You need this for cover’
As insurrectionists stormed the Capitol, lawmakers placed urgent calls to White House officials, including Hutchinson, who fielded one from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, she testified.
McCarthy was concerned that Trump would come to the Capitol and add fuel to a rising inferno. A McCarthy spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
It would be hours before Trump released a video urging the rioters to disperse from the Capitol. Committee members say that Trump’s silence during that period enabled and encouraged the insurrectionists to continue their assault.
It was only after aides advised Trump that he risked being removed from office that he agreed to give a statement condemning the attack on Jan. 7, Hutchinson testified.
“You need this for cover,” he was told, she said.
The star witness
Hutchinson presented the committee’s strongest evidence yet about Trump’s intentions on the day of the insurrection.
The committee members praised her for volunteering testimony in four recorded sessions and at Tuesday’s hearing, portraying her as anomalously brave amid Trump administration officials who have been less forthcoming.
“The same people who drove the former president’s pressure campaign to overturn the election are now trying to cover up the truth about Jan. 6,” Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said at the hearing. “But thanks to the courage of certain individuals, the truth won’t be buried. The American people won’t be left in the dark. Our witness today, Ms. Cassidy Hutchinson, has embodied that courage.”
At the end of the hearing, the committee showed partial text messages that it portrayed as demonstrating that Trump is trying to influence witnesses behind the scenes.
“[A person] let me know you have your deposition tomorrow. He wants me to let you know that he’s thinking about you,” said one text message for which the sender, recipient and the “person” referred to were not disclosed. “He knows you’re loyal, and you’re going to do the right thing when you go in for your deposition.”
Committee members see Hutchinson as a pivotal figure because of her proximity to Meadows, the former congressman and Trump gatekeeper who was in frequent communication with the then-president and his allies who worked to reverse the outcome of the 2020 election. Lawmakers say Trump acted illegally in that effort, which included a plan to certify fake electors and resulted in the storming of the Capitol.
Alyssa Farah Griffin, a former Trump White House official who resigned after the election and before Jan. 6, tweeted Tuesday that she was impressed by the evidence presented by Hutchinson, whom she described as a friend.
“I knew her testimony would be damning,” Griffin tweeted. “I had no idea it’d be THIS damning.”