Trump Knew Jan. 6 Crowd Had Weapons but Wanted Security to Back Off Anyway, White House Aide Says

Trump Knew Jan. 6 Crowd Had Weapons but Wanted Security to Back Off Anyway, White House Aide Says
Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, listens as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, June 28, 2022. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite, AP)

Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to President Donald Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, dropped a series of bombshells Tuesday during an impromptu hearing of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. She said the former president and his chief of staff knew of the threat of violence in advance and that Trump at one point attempted to hijack his own limo and steer it towards the ongoing riot.

Describing warnings from, among others, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien regarding the potential for violence at the Capitol, Hutchinson testified that, even though President Trump had been briefed that his supporters were armed, he wanted metal detectors and other security measures removed from his rally that preceded of the attack.

Hutchinson, who served as Meadow’s principal aide for roughly 10 months after a stint in the White House legislative affairs office, testified under oath that the possibility of violence on Jan. 6 was well known and widely discussed by the most senior members of Trump’s staff in the days before the event; that Secret Service officials had received reports of rallygoers arming themselves the evening before; and that the National Security Advisor had, in the days prior to Jan. 6, warned the White House of growing concerns about violence at the Capitol.

In a video deposition played back by the committee, Hutchinson also described a meeting ahead of the rally involving Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, in which she recalled mentions of both the OathKeepers militia and Proud Boys. A grand jury has charged members of both groups with committing seditious conspiracy. Prosecutors alleged that messages show the milita’s leader, Stewart Rhodes, believed that Trump might call the group up to “assist him inside DC.”

Hutchinson went on to testify that on the day of the insurrection, by 10:15 am, White House chief of operations Tony Ornato said he had briefed Trump about weapons found on rallygoers. Hutchinson said that during a 10 a.m. meeting that morning, she and Ornato briefed Meadows on the threat, describing weapons including “knives, guns — in the form of pistols and rifles — bear spray, body armour, spears, and flags.” Seated on a couch in his office, Meadows rarely looked up from his phone, she said.

Meadows then asked Ornato if he had briefed the president about the weapons. Ornato responded that he had, Hutchinson said.

“Is it your understanding that Mr. Ornato told the president about weapons at the rally on the morning of Jan. 6?” Vice Chairwoman Liz Cheney asked Hutchinson. “That’s what Mr. Ornato relayed to me,” Hutchinson said.

Cheney played audio of police radio transmissions obtained by the committee, which included various officers in the vicinity reporting weapon sightings in the crowd. Weapons described by the officers included an AR-15 and others with “Glock-style” pistols.

“AR-15s and 14th and Independence,” Cheney said, echoing one of the officers on the tapes.

Thousands of rallygoers refused to submit to security screenings, Chene said. Those who passed through a metal detected and were checked for weapons were found with with pepperspray, knives, brass knuckles, tasers, body armour, gas masks, batons, and other blunt weapons, she said.

Hutchinson later said that Ornato described the scene in Trump’s limousine following the rally, as Trump was first informed by his security detail that he could not join the crowd at the Capitol. According to Hutchinson, Ornato said Trump lunged for the steering wheel, yelling “I’m the [fucking] president. Take me up to the Capitol now.” Ornato said the head of Trump’s detail, Robert Engel, grabbed the president’s arm, telling him that was not going to happen.

This is a developing story.