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Witness says Trump demanded to go to Capitol on Jan 6

By AI HEPING in New York | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-06-29 10:52

A image of former President Donald Trump talking to his Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is displayed as Cassidy Hutchinson, a top former aide to Meadows, testifies during the sixth hearing by the House Select Committee on the January 6 insurrection in the Cannon House Office Building on June 28, 2022 in Washington, DC. [Photo/Agencies]

US President Donald Trump attempted to grab the steering wheel of his limousine and lunged at a Secret Service agent, putting his hand on the man's throat, after he was told he wouldn't be taken to the Capitol on Jan 6, 2021, as rioters stormed the building, a former top White House aide testified during Tuesday's hearing before the House select committee investigating the riot.

The head of Trump's Secret Service detail, Bobby Engle, grabbed Trump's hand from the steering wheel and told him, "'Sir, you need to take your hand off of the steering wheel, we're going back to the West Wing, we're not going to the Capitol,'" recounted Cassidy Hutchinson.

"Trump then used his free hand to lunge toward Engle, and when Anthony Ornato, Trump's chief of operations, recounted the story to me, he motioned to his clavicles," she said.

"'I'm the [expletive] president. Take me up to the Capitol now,'" Ornato told her, Hutchinson said.

She said Engle was in the room when Ornato told her the story, and he didn't correct or disagree with the story and hasn't stated it was untrue since.

In a post on his social network, Truth Social, Trump called Hutchinson's story "fake," "sick" and "fraudulent''. He said he never complained about the crowd size at his Ellipse speech. "I hardly know who this Cassidy Hutchinson person is, other than I heard very negative things about her," he said.

She also told the committee that Trump was informed that the supporters he addressed on the morning of Jan 6 at the Ellipse in front of the White House had weapons, but she said that Trump demanded that his supporters be able to move around freely, objecting to the presence of magnetometers to detect weapons.

Hutchinson said that she was "in the vicinity of a conversation where she overheard the president use a series of expletives and said something to the effect of, "'You know, I don't care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me.'"

Despite the violence at the Capitol and threats to Vice-President Mike Pence, Trump refused repeated requests from his staff to intervene in the attack on the Capitol, she said.

As rioters stormed the building chanting "Hang Mike Pence," Hutchinson said Meadows said of Trump, "'He doesn't want to do anything,'" and "'he thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn't think they're doing anything wrong.'"

She added that Meadows did little to try to manage Trump on Jan 6.

Members of the president's Cabinet were so upset by the assault on the Capitol and Trump's encouragement of the mob and refusal to intervene that they quietly discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office, Hutchinson testified.

When Trump learned on Dec 1 that Attorney General William Barr had publicly declared allegations of widespread voter fraud unfounded, Hutchinson said Trump slammed his lunch against a wall in his dining room in the White House, as she learned from the valet who cleaned up the broken china and ketchup dripping down the wall.

"There were several times throughout my tenure with the chief of staff that I was aware of him either throwing dishes or flipping the tablecloth to let all the contents of the table go on to the floor and likely break or go everywhere," she said of the president.

Meadows and Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and Trump's personal lawyer, sought pardons from Trump in case they were implicated criminally in any events leading up to Jan 6 or the assault on the Capitol, Hutchinson said. Neither was granted one.

Tuesday's hearing was unexpected because the Jan 6 panel had previously signaled it wouldn't hold any more hearings until July, after it evaluated additional testimony. But the committee held the meeting on Tuesday and called on Hutchinson to testify in person.

She recently sat for a fourth interview with the committee behind closed doors and, with new counsel advising her, informed the panel of previously unknown information that lawmakers felt needed to get out quickly, according to various media reports.

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