Former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s bombshell testimony before the House select committee investigating last year’s Capitol riot faced broad pushback Wednesday – but she says she stands by her stunning claims.
Hutchinson, who worked for Donald Trump’s final chief of staff Mark Meadows, told a rapt audience Tuesday that Trump attempted to overpower his Secret Service detail and command the presidential SUV in a bid to join the throng of his supporters seeking to overturn the election results, among other shocking and never-before-aired anecdotes.
Some of the most jarring accounts, however, were denied by those involved – after Trump allies initially slammed the stories as mostly “hearsay” that relied on what Hutchinson said she was told, rather than what she personally observed.
“Ms. Hutchinson stands by all of the testimony she provided yesterday, during oath, to the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, ”Hutchinson lawyers Jody Hunt and William Jordan said in a statement to CNN.
However, key areas of dispute are emerging, which may ultimately be clarified by witnesses with first-hand information at future hearings.
Claim: Trump grabbed SUV wheel, lunged for agent
The first claim to face substantial pushback also garnered the most immediate attention: that an “irate” Trump grabbed the wheel of the SUV he was riding in and then lunged at Secret Service agent Robert “Bobby” Engel when Engel told him that he could not join thousands of his fans who were marching to the Capitol.
“I’m the f — ing president! Take me up to the Capitol now! ” Trump allegedly shouted.
Hutchinson said she was told about the incident by Anthony Ornato, who was the White House’s deputy chief of staff for operations on that day. She said Engel was in the room when Ornato told her about the confrontation moments after it happened, and that the agent did not contradict the story.
But not long after her testimony, Secret Service sources on background informed most major news outlets that both Engel and the SUV driver disputed the account and would be willing to testify under oath. One unnamed official told CNN that Ornato, who still works at the Secret Service, denied even relaying the account to Hutchinson.
In response to Hutchinson’s testimony, Secret Service Chief of Communications Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement, “The Secret Service has been cooperating fully with the select committee since its inception in spring of 2021 and we will continue to do so by responding formally and on the record to the committee regarding new allegations that surfaced in yesterday’s testimony. ”
Trump claimed that Hutchinson’s Fake story that I tried to grab the steering wheel of the White House Limousine in order to steer it to the Capitol Building is ‘sick’ and fraudulent, very much like the Unselect Committee itself – Wouldn’t even have been possible to do such a ridiculous thing. ”
Claim: Trump smashed his lunch against wall
Hutchinson vividly recounted helping clean ketchup off the wall of a West Wing dining room after Trump allegedly slammed his lunch plate against it in a fit of rage over Attorney General Bill Barr’s Dec. 1, 2020 interview with the Associated Press that disputed the president’s election fraud allegations.
“There was ketchup dripping down the wall and a shattered porcelain plate on the floor,” she testified. “So I grabbed a towel and started wiping the ketchup off the wall to help the valet out.”
Hutchinson said that she was told by Trump’s valet – a military employee – that the 45th president had smashed his meal because of his frustration with Barr, and that he had previously made messes by ripping away tablecloths to cause food to fall onto the ground.
It’s unclear if the valet would be available to the committee, but Trump denied the account.
“Her story of me throwing food is also false… and why would SHE have to clean it up, I hardly knew who she was?” Trump said.
Claim: Hutchinson drafted potential Trump statement during riot
Hutchinson testified that as pro-Trump rioters pillaged the Capitol and sent officials fleeing to safety, she wrote down possible remarks during which Trump would urge the rioters to go home.
She said “that’s my handwriting” as the note was presented as evidence.
“Anyone who entered the Capitol illegally without proper authority should leave immediately,” the note said. The word “illegally” was later crossed out.
Hutchinson testified that Meadows dictated the statement to her, but that then-White House attorney Eric Herschmann told her to change “illegally” to “without proper authority.”
Herschmann claimed on Tuesday night that he actually wrote the note.
“The handwritten note that Cassidy Hutchinson testified was written by her was in fact written by Eric Herschmann on January 6, 2021, ‘a Herschmann spokesman told ABC News.
Claim: Trump wanted supporters with guns allowed into rally
Trump was allegedly infuriated when metal detectors reduced the size of his “Stop The Steal” rally crowd at the Ellipse shortly before the riot – leading him to demand that metal detectors be removed because protesters allegedly observed carrying AR-15-style semiautomatic rifles were ‘ t going to hurt him.
“I was in the vicinity of a conversation where I overheard the president say something to the effect of, ‘I do not f — ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the f — ing mags away, ‘”Hutchinson said.
Trump denied it and the allegation has yet to be corroborated by additional witnesses.
“Never complained about the crowd, it was massive. I did not want or request that we make room for people with guns to watch my speech. Who would ever want that? Not me! ” Trump wrote in a retort posted to his social network Truth Social.
“Besides, there were no guns found or brought into the Capitol Building… So where were all of these guns? But sadly, a gun was used on Ashli Babbitt, with no price to pay against the person who used it! ”
Claim: Meadows would not ‘snap out of it’ during riot
Hutchinson’s testimony depicted Meadows as oddly detached from the events of Jan. 6, often absorbed in his phone as chaos swirled around him.
As the pro-Trump rioters approached the Capitol, Hutchinson recalled asking Meadows, “Have you talked to the President?” to which Meadows allegedly responded, “No, he wants to be alone right now,” while, as Hutchinson told the committee, “still looking at his phone.”
“I remember thinking at that moment, ‘Mark needs to snap out of this and I do not know how to snap him out of this, but he needs to care,'” Hutchinson testified.
Ben Williamson, a former top aide to Meadows, responded angrily in a text message statement to NBC News, writing: “I’ve worked for Mark Meadows for 7 years – any suggestion he did not care is ludicrous. And if the committee actually wanted answers as to that question, they could’ve played my interview where I outlined to them how Meadows immediately acted when I told him of initial violence at the Capitol that day. They seem more interested in hearsay, speculation, and conjecture as a means of smearing people, and it’s obvious why. ”
Meadows has declined to answer a subpoena from the committee, citing executive privilege. However, the former North Carolina lawmaker did hand over nearly 9,000 pages of emails and text messages to the panel before abruptly cutting off contact in early December.
Earlier this month, the Justice Department told the committee it would not charge Meadows or another Trump aide, Dan Scavino, with contempt of Congress in connection with their defiance of the subpoenas.