June 29, 2022

Hutchinson Testifies

“Donald Trump tried to grab the steering wheel of his presidential limousine on Jan. 6, 2021, when his security detail declined to take him to the U.S. Capitol where his supporters were rioting, a former aide testified on Tuesday

“The then-president dismissed concerns that some supporters gathered for his fiery speech outside the White House that day carried AR-15-style rifles, instead asking security to stop screening attendees with metal-detecting magnetometers so the crowd would look larger, the aide testified. ​​’Take the effing mags away; they're not here to hurt me,’ Cassidy Hutchinson, who was a top aide to Trump's then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, quoted Trump as saying that morning.…

“The New York Times and NBC, citing sources in the Secret Service, said the head of Trump's security detail, Robert Engel, and the limousine driver were prepared to testify under oath that Trump never lunged for the steering wheel. Engel was in the room when [senior Secret Service official Tony] Ornato relayed the story, Hutchinson said.” Reuters

See past issues

From the Left

The left argues the new testimony is further proof that Trump incited the violence on Jan. 6.

“On the morning of the insurrection, Hutchinson testified, Cipollone urged her to prevent Trump from going to the Capitol building with the growing, seething crowd of protesters he had assembled nearby. Hutchinson described the scene this way: Mr. Cipollone said something to the effect of, ‘Please make sure we don’t go up to the Capitol, Cassidy. Keep in touch with me. We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen.’…

“Keep in mind that one of Cipollone’s jobs as White House counsel was to keep people who work in the White House, including the president, from committing crimes — something that, according to Hutchinson, he was clearly worried about. Notably, Cipollone’s fear intensified as Jan. 6 wore on. Hutchinson testified that as the riot spun out of control, Cipollone came ‘barreling down the hallway towards our office’ to tell Meadows they had to talk to the president…

“She continued: And Mark looked up and said, ‘He doesn’t want to do anything, Pat.’ Cipollone then replied, ‘Mark, something needs to be done or people are going to die and the blood is going to be on your f---ing hands. This is getting out of control. I’m going down there.’”

Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent, Washington Post

“[Hutchinson] testified that Trump and Meadows were alerted to the threat of violence days before January 6. She testified that Trump ordered Meadows to consult with alleged co-conspirators, such as his ephemeral national security adviser Michael Flynn and longtime Republican agitator Roger Stone, who had attended events with members of the Oath Keepers and other groups that have since been tied to the deadly attack. She testified that Trump objected to the use of weapons screening for people who attended his ‘Stop the Steal’ rally and who would later storm the Capitol… It was a coup, and Trump fully intended to lead it.”

John Nichols, The Nation

“[Hutchinson’s] account establishes that Trump knew the crowd was armed and understood they were there to threaten or harm someone—specifically, his opponents—and that he wanted them to march on the Capitol with those weapons…

“Once the rioters had begun to approach the Capitol, Trump refused to lift a finger to stop the violence. When the top White House lawyer told Chief of Staff Mark Meadows that the president had to act, Meadows replied, according to Hutchinson, ‘He doesn’t want to do anything.’ Later, when rioters chanted that Pence should be hanged, Hutchinson recalled, Meadows told the same lawyer, ‘He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.’…

“Some of Trump’s defenders will, of course, seek to explain Hutchinson’s testimony away and apologize for him. They will contend that if the president wasn’t heard explicitly saying, I want a violent mob to topple Congress, harm members, and overturn the election that I lost, he cannot be held responsible for what happened that day. This is nonsense. If you pour gasoline all over a building, tell some people it is essential the building burn, and make sure they’re carrying matches and lighters, you are to blame for the arson that follows—especially if you then decline to call the fire department and condone the inferno. What Trump wanted to put up in flames on January 6 was American democracy.”

David A. Graham, The Atlantic

From the Right

The right is generally skeptical of the new testimony.

The right is generally skeptical of the new testimony.

“I was really brought up short when she related the story (heard second-hand) of President Trump attempting to grab the wheel of the presidential SUV when the driver refused to take him to the Capitol after his speech on the Mall, and then trying to choke Secret Service agent Bobby Engel after the driver or Engel supposedly swatted the President’s hand away…

“Something about this scene defies credibility. Was Trump riding shotgun in the SUV after the speech? Of course not. Surely he was sitting in the back, where reaching for the steering wheel is likely an impossibility. I believe even the presidential SUVs (he didn’t use the usual limo that day) have considerable partitions between the passenger section and the driver’s compartment at the front. Where was agent Engel sitting if Trump tried to choke him?…

“And why hasn’t this story leaked out before now if it is true (or even if—especially if—it isn’t)? Ditto for her other stories of Trump throwing plates of food on the wall at the White House. We’ve heard plenty of stories of Trump’s temper tantrums—I’ve heard a few first hand from individuals on the receiving end of them—but nothing like this. This is where the lack of an actual Republican on the January 6 committee comes into play, because any amount of cross-examination would raise these questions in public and require some kind of explanation.”

Steven Hayward, Power Line Blog

“It’s difficult to know how much this story is leaving out, since the committee isn’t releasing full transcripts of its interviews. There’s also no questioning from Republicans who boycotted the committee. But some of the testimony is firsthand, such as when Ms. Hutchinson said she saw a White House valet cleaning up food and broken dishes that Mr. Trump had thrown in a rage about the election. Ms. Hutchinson is a former intern for GOP Whip Steve Scalise and Sen. Ted Cruz. She is speaking under oath…

“Democrats want to use the Jan. 6 investigation to paint the entire Republican Party as a gang of insurrectionist nuts. The committee is steeped in partisanship. But that doesn’t mean Republicans should look away from the considerable evidence it is producing.”

Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

Some argue, “Even if [Trump] didn’t try to commandeer his vehicle, he still plainly and clearly exhorted a mob he allegedly knew was armed to march on the Capitol… Trump further inflamed the mob while the Capitol attack was underway. One of the most compelling moments in previous hearings was the video evidence that the crowd ‘surged’ immediately after Trump tweeted (during the heat of the fight) that ‘Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what was necessary.’…

“Other statements made by Trump allies before and during the January 6 rally itself [include]: Steve Bannon evoked the beaches of Normandy. Michael Flynn drew comparisons to Civil War battlefields and spoke of Americans who died for their country. Roger Stone called it a struggle ‘between the godly and the godless, between good and evil.’ Rudy Giuliani called for ‘trial by combat.’ Ali Alexander said it would be a ‘knife fight.’ These words render Trump’s admonition to ‘fight like hell’ and his warning on January 6 that ‘you will never take back our country with weakness’ even more ominous in context. Trump was not a man trying to stop a riot.”
David French, The Dispatch

On the bright side...

Get troll-free political news.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.