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The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection heard public testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Donald Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, at a surprise hearing on Tuesday.
Hutchinson testified at the committee's sixth hearing on Tuesday afternoon, revealing details that include an apparent plan for Trump to go to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 to press his assertion that he had not lost the 2020 election, and the repeated warnings given to Trump's staff about the potential for violence that day.
The select committee announced Monday that it would be holding the last-minute hearing “to present recently obtained evidence and receive witness testimony,” but declined to provide any specific details. By Tuesday morning, a number of news outlets reported that at least one of the witnesses slated to appear is Hutchinson, whose closed-door testimony has already been cited as the source of multiple revelations uncovered by the select committee’s probe.
Over the past two weeks, the panel has held five public hearings during which members have been outlining the findings of their ongoing investigation into the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters. The committee had planned to take a break following the latest hearing on June 23, in order to hear more witness testimony and examine a variety of new evidence it has received since the hearings began.
Who is Cassidy Hutchinson?
Hutchinson, who served as a special assistant to the president for legislative affairs in the Trump White House, was subpoenaed back in November 2021, along with several other former Trump administration officials who, the panel believed, had relevant information regarding the former president’s activities on Jan. 6 and the role he and his aides played in efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
According to her subpoena, Hutchinson was not only at the White House on Jan. 6 but she’d been with Trump during his speech at the “Stop the Steal” rally on the Ellipse, where he urged his supporters to “fight like hell” before promising to march with them to the Capitol.
She also emailed Georgia officials directly following Meadows’s trip to attend that state’s election audit, according to the subpoena, and was present for other key meetings and conversations at the White House leading up to Jan. 6.
Unlike her former boss, whose refusal to cooperate with House investigators has earned him a Justice Department referral for criminal contempt charges, Hutchinson has appeared before the committee on four separate occasions since the beginning of this year. In fact, following her most recent deposition in May, a source reportedly told CNN that Hutchinson believes she’s being forced to testify due to Meadows’s refusal to comply with his own subpoena. The same source said at the time that Hutchinson would likely make another appearance before the committee, possibly during the public hearings.
During the hearing, Trump wrote on his new social media site: "I hardly know who this person, Cassidy Hutchinson, is, other than I heard very negative things about her," while also attacking her for being a "leaker."
A handful of key details have emerged from her closed-door depositions that have featured prominently in the case House investigators have been presenting to the American public.
Here’s a look at some of the key revelations that have already been attributed to Hutchinson.
Meadows and others pressed ahead with plans to overturn Trump’s election loss, even after White House counsel had deemed them not “legally sound.”
The select committee’s legal battle against Meadows, who has sued to block the panel’s subpoenas, may offer clues on how Hutchinson’s testimony could be used in the hearings.
In an April court filing, the select committee cited sections of Hutchinson’s testimony as proof of the former chief’s involvement in the effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election and that he had pursued unlawful plans to make that happen.
According to the filing, Hutchinson told the committee that the White House Counsel’s Office repeatedly objected on legal grounds to a plan to push Republican officials in battleground states that had voted for Biden to send alternate, pro-Trump slates of electors to Congress when lawmakers met on Jan. 6 to certify the Electoral College vote count.
Hutchinson told the committee that the counsel’s office had concluded that the alternate electors plan was not legally sound potentially as early as November 2021, and that this conclusion was raised during multiple meetings at the White House involving Meadows, other Trump associates like Trump’s former personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, and members of Congress including Reps. Scott Perry, R-Pa., Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Louie Gohmert, R-Texas.
“Despite that advice, the plan moved forward,” the committee’s filing states.
The role played by Trump and advisers like Meadows has been a key focus of the committee’s investigation, and the Guardian reported last month that the hearings are expected to highlight how the Trump White House pursued potentially illegal methods, including the plot to send fake electors to Congress, to subvert Joe Biden’s win and secure a second term for Trump.
Meadows was warned about the possibility of violence on Jan. 6
Another focus of the panel’s investigation has been the role Trump advisers played in organizing the events that took place on Jan. 6 as Congress met to certify the Electoral College results, including the rally at the Ellipse that preceded the Capitol riot, which left five people dead and more than 140 police officers injured.
In that same April court filing, the select committee also cited Hutchinson’s testimony as evidence that Meadows went ahead with plans for Trump’s Jan. 6 rally in Washington despite receiving direct warnings of potential violence that day.
The filing includes quotes from Hutchinson’s March 7 deposition, in which she told investigators, “I know that there were concerns brought forward to Mr. Meadows,” and, “I know that people had brought information forward to him that had indicated that there could be violence on the 6th. But, again, I’m not sure if he — what he did with that information.”
Specifically, Hutchinson told the committee that in early January, Meadows had discussed the potential for violence on Jan. 6 with Anthony Ornato, a senior Secret Service agent who also served as Trump’s White House chief of operations.
“I just remember Mr. Ornato coming in and saying that we had intel reports saying that there could be violence on the 6th,” Hutchinson said. “And Mr. Meadows said: All right. Let’s talk about it.”
Hutchinson said Ornato had raised the subject with Meadows on his way out of the office one evening and that the two discussed it briefly.
“I believe they went to the office for maybe five minutes,” she said. “It was very quick.”
Based on the sections of Hutchinson’s testimony that have been released by the select committee, it’s not clear whether she offered any further details about the warnings Meadows received, or whether he was warned specifically about the possibility that Trump supporters protesting the former president’s loss in D.C. on Jan. 6 could turn violent. Shortly after the rally at the Ellipse, a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol.
Meadows reportedly burned papers after Scott Perry meeting
Recent reports suggest Hutchinson has continued to provide the select committee with other relevant details about the former chief of staff’s behavior in the lead-up to Jan. 6.
According to Politico, Hutchinson told the panel during her latest deposition last month that she saw Meadows burn documents in his office following a meeting with Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., in the weeks after the 2020 election.
Perry has emerged as another key player in the select panel’s investigation into Trump’s efforts to overturn his election defeat and the events leading up to Jan. 6. Testimony and documents obtained by the committee have identified Perry as the first link between the former president and Jeffrey Clark, then a little known senior official at the Justice Department.
During his final weeks in the White House, Trump reportedly conspired with Clark to try to use the DOJ to sow doubt about the election results — even after the FBI failed to find evidence of widespread voter fraud — and even came close to installing Clark as acting attorney general, before several top aides threatened to resign in protest.
It’s not clear whether Hutchinson told investigators which specific papers Meadows had reportedly incinerated or if they should have been preserved under federal records laws. The select committee has uncovered other efforts by Meadows and Perry to conceal their communications in the wake of the 2020 election, including one text message exchange in which Perry told Meadows he’d “just sent you something on Signal,” an encrypted messaging app.
Trump reportedly expressed support for hanging Mike Pence
Another key line of inquiry for the select committee has been what, exactly, the president was doing while an angry mob of his supporters violently ransacked the Capitol, and why it took 187 minutes before National Guard troops and additional police were sent to the Capitol to stop them.
Investigators may seek to answer those questions by sharing one witness’s account, which has been reportedly confirmed by Hutchinson, of a telling scene that took place at the White House on Jan. 6.
According to the account, which was provided to the Jan. 6 committee, not long after rioters began chanting “hang Mike Pence!” outside the Capitol, Meadows told colleagues in his office that Trump was complaining about his vice president being evacuated to safety. According to the New York Times, which was first to report the account, Meadows “then told the colleagues that Mr. Trump had said something to the effect of, maybe Mr. Pence should be hanged.”
The Times reported that the select committee first heard about Trump’s comment from at least one witness, and then confirmed it with Hutchinson, who was present in Meadows’s office when he relayed what Trump had said. Meadows’s lawyer denied the account to the Times.
The Times report notes that it’s unclear what the tone of Trump’s comment was, but that it underscores his frustration with Pence, who had refused to succumb to the president’s pressure campaign to get him to block Congress’s certification of the Electoral College results that day.
The anecdote also seems to shed light on Trump’s initial reaction to the riot, and why he did not immediately act to call off the mob despite repeated pleas from members of his family and Republicans in Congress to do so.
The rioters got within two doors of Vice President Mike Pence’s office. See how in this 3D explainer from Yahoo Immersive.