Trump Wanted to Join Capitol Riot, Tried to Grab Limo Steering Wheel, Aide Says

WASHINGTON, June 28 (Reuters) – Donald Trump tried to grab the wheel of his presidential limousine on January 6, 2021, when his security team refused to take him to the U.S. Capitol, where his supporters were rioting, a witness testified. former assistant on Tuesday.

The then-president dismissed concerns that some supporters gathered for his fiery speech outside the White House that day carrying AR-15-style rifles, instead asking security to stop screening attendees with metal-detecting magnetometers so that the crowd seemed larger, the attendee testified. .

“Take the damn magazines away; they’re not here to hurt me,” Cassidy Hutchinson, who was a top aid to then-Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, quoted Trump that morning.

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Hutchinson, testifying on the sixth day of House hearings into the deadly Jan. 6 assault on Capitol Hill by Trump supporters, said the conversation was relayed to him by Tony Ornato, a senior Trump official. Secret Service who was Trump’s deputy chief of staff for operations. .

The New York Times and NBC, citing Secret Service sources, said Trump’s chief of security, Robert Engel, and the driver of the limousine were prepared to testify under oath that Trump never lunged at the wheel. Engel was in the room when Ornato told the story, Hutchinson said.

The New York Times and CNN, citing anonymous sources, said Ornato also denied the story and was willing to testify.

Citing his conversation with Ornato, Hutchinson testified that Trump fought Secret Service agents who insisted he return to the White House rather than join supporters who stormed the Capitol where Congress was meeting to certify the victory of Democrat Joe Biden over him in the presidential election.

Trump supporters were woken up by his false claims that his 2020 election loss was the result of fraud.

“‘I’m the fucking president. Take me to the Capitol now,'” Hutchinson quoted an enraged Trump as saying. He said Trump tried to grab the steering wheel of the heavily armored presidential vehicle from the back seat and lunged angrily at a Secret Service official.

Trump, a Republican, denied his version of his actions.

“Your false story that I tried to grab the steering wheel of the White House limousine to direct it to the Capitol building is ‘sick’ and fraudulent,” Trump wrote on Truth Social, his social media app.

In a statement, the Secret Service said it was fully cooperating with the committee and would continue to do so.

“We learned of the new information shared at today’s hearing and plan to respond formally and on record as soon as they can accommodate us,” he added.

Hutchinson’s attorney, Jody Hunt, wrote on Twitter that she had “testified, under oath, and recounted what she was told. Those with knowledge of the episode should also testify under oath.”

Dozens of courts, election officials and reviews of the Trump administration itself have rejected his claims of fraud, including outlandish stories about an Italian security company and the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s tampering with American ballots.

Four people died the day of the attack, one fatally from police shooting and the others from natural causes. More than 100 policemen were injured and one died the next day. Four officers later died by suicide.

WITNESS TAMPERING?

At the end of about two hours of testimony, Rep. Liz Cheney, one of two Republicans on the nine-member House panel, presented possible evidence of witness tampering and obstruction of justice.

Cheney showed messages to unidentified witnesses advising them that an unidentified person would be watching their testimony closely and expecting loyalty.

Republican Mick Mulvaney, who served as Trump’s chief of staff before Meadows, tweeted: “There’s an old maxim: It’s never the crime, it’s always the cover-up. Things went very badly for the former president today. It’s going to get worse from here.”

Hutchinson told the committee that Meadows and former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani had sought a pardon from Trump.

Giuliani told WSYR radio in Syracuse, New York, on Tuesday that he had not sought clemency.

Tuesday’s hastily convened hearing marked the first time this month, in six hearings, that a former White House official has appeared to give live testimony.

Speaking in a soft but confident tone, Hutchinson, 26, painted a picture of White House officials panicking at the prospect of Trump joining what would become a violent mob making its way onto Capitol Hill, looking for his vice president, Mike Pence. President Nancy Pelosi and other legislators who certified Biden’s victory over Trump.

‘EVERY CRIME IMAGINABLE’

White House officials’ concerns centered on potential criminal charges Trump and others could face.

“We are going to be charged with every crime imaginable,” Hutchinson told White House counsel Pat Cipollone if Trump went to Capitol Hill on January 6.

“‘We need to make sure this doesn’t happen, it would be a really terrible idea for us. We have serious legal concerns if we go up to the Capitol that day,'” Cipollone said, Hutchinson testified.

Hutchinson, who sat outside Trump’s Oval Office, testified that days before the attack on the US Capitol, Meadows knew of the violence to come.

“‘Things could get very, very bad on January 6,'” he was quoted as saying inside the White House on January 2 with his boss.

She testified that Giuliani had said on January 6, “‘We’re going to the Capitol, it’s going to be great. The president will be there; he’s going to look powerful.'”

At the time, she told the committee of seven Democrats and two Republicans: “It was the first moment I remembered feeling scared and nervous about what might happen on January 6.”

This month’s hearings included videotaped testimony from figures including Trump’s eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, and his former attorney general Bill Barr. They and other witnesses testified that they did not believe Trump’s false claims about widespread fraud and tried to talk him out of them.

Before resigning, Barr told the Associated Press in an interview that there was no evidence of fraud. That angered Trump so much that he threw his lunch at a White House wall, smashing a china plate and leaving ketchup dripping down the wall, according to video testimony before the committee by Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary. of Trump at the time.

Hutchinson told the committee that it was not unusual for Trump to throw food when he was angry: “There were several times during my tenure with the chief of staff that I noticed him knocking plates over or flipping the tablecloth to let everything on the table fall.” to the ground and it’s likely to break or go everywhere.

(This story corrects paragraph 12 to remove the typo)

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Information from Richard Cowan and Moira Warburton; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu, Rose Horowitch, Costas Pitas, Rami Ayyub, and Shivam Patel; Edited by Scott Malone, Howard Goller, Leslie Adler, and Tim Ahmann

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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