Posts tagged with "Cassidy Hutchinson"

How the January 6 panel’s star witness drew a roadmap for Trump’s culpability

CasJune 30, 2022

Cassidy Hutchinson wasn’t a household name before her testimony at the January 6 select committee’s hearing on Tuesday, June 28, but it seems unlikely she’ll remain in obscurity now, reports Politico.

With what may prove the most damning testimony about a sitting president’s actions in American history, the former right hand of ex-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows stitched together every element of the panel’s case against former President Donald Trump, Politico says.

The Capitol riot committee has painted the former president’s potential criminal culpability for his effort to overturn the election in stark hues: investigators have portrayed Trump fuming atop an increasingly conspiracy-addled West Wing and working to corrupt the peaceful transfer of power at any cost.

Yet it was their sixth hearing that most clearly cast Trump as a uniquely pernicious force, thanks to a soft-spoken but bell-clear witness.

“I was disgusted,” Hutchinson said of Trump’s behavior on January 6, particularly after he tweeted an attack on Mike Pence as the then-vice president was fleeing rioters who’d called for his execution. “It was unpatriotic. It was un-American. We were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie.”

And, while Trump and his allies rejected her assertions as “hearsay”—or, in Trump’s case, simply false—the former president’s allies have offered limited pushback so far to any of the specific evidence and recollections she presented. In fact, much of what she described has been corroborated by others.

Among her recollections, part of a succession of shocking details from inside the White House:

  • Trump was informed that members of the crowd during the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6, 2021, carried weapons. He asked the Secret Service to dismantle metal detectors to let them into the Ellipse,  so that his audience would appear larger on TV. Those rallygoers would later march to the Capitol and mount a violent siege aimed at disrupting Congress’ certification of Trump’s loss.
  • Trump lunged at the steering wheel of his presidential vehicle after he was informed that the Secret Service would not permit him to travel to the Capitol following his speech at that Ellipse rally.
  • Trump told aides that he agreed with those who had stormed the Capitol and thought they were “right” to call for Pence’s hanging.
  • Meadows and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani sought pardons from the then-president for their actions on that date related to challenging the election.

Hutchinson shared her sworn narrative just as federal prosecutors appear to be closing in on several of Trump’s top supporters/aides in his effort to stay in power. FBI agents last week seized the cell phone of attorney John Eastman, who devised a January 6 strategy to pressure Pence to overturn the election; they also searched the Lorton, Virginia, residence of Jeffery Clark, a former Justice Department official whom Trump nearly appointed acting attorney general to aid his election subversion push.

Meanwhile, Trump was also watching. The former president uncorked an 11-post tirade against Hutchinson on the Truth Social platform he created after getting booted from Twitter post-Capitol riot. He called her a “third-rate social climber,” denying her accounts of his comments about Pence as well as his apparent physical confrontation with his Secret Service leader—and even suggested her handwriting was indicative of a “whacko.”

Some Trump allies sought to puncture Hutchinson’s credibility by casting doubt on the notion that Trump could have lunged at the wheel of his car, given the layout of the presidential limousine known as “The Beast.” However, he was not riding in the beast; but in an SUV he often used.

Former security aide Tony Ornato relayed to her the details of what took place in Trump’s Secret Service vehicle, as she explained to the select panel.

Yet Hutchinson laid out a road map for the committee to test her own credibility. She showed that, time and again, she was a go-to for Trump backers looking to connect with Meadows and, ultimately, the former president himself.

McCarthy called her to vent about Trump’s rally speech on January 6, she recalled. Cipollone complained to her that White House aides could be on the hook for crimes if Trump traveled to the Capitol on Jan. 6, she said. And former national intelligence director John Ratcliffe told Hutchinson he was concerned about Trump’s effort to overturn the election, she testified.

Even when Hutchinson wasn’t dropping bombshells, she was helping paint a granular picture of Trump’s West Wing and how it operated. She described top officials as falling into three camps during the riot: those who pleaded with Trump to call off the rioters; those who stayed “neutral,” knowing that Trump didn’t want to act; and those who wanted to “deflect” blame for the violence away from Trump supporters.

Hutchinson described the layout of the West Wing, the way information flowed among officials in Trump’s chaotic offices, and the way Meadows was the connective tissue for Trump among a slew of disparate factions within his orbit.

Where the select committee goes from here is a bigger question now, Politico notes. Its chair, Representative Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi), floated the possibility of calling then-White House Counsel Pat Cipollone in for a transcribed hearing. The former top Trump White House lawyer already has met informally with the panel but has not sat for the type of on-camera interview that many other former aides have.

The panel also plans to highlight the nexus between Trump’s orbit and the domestic extremist groups that seeded the Capitol riot—including the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. And there’s likely to be a further public effort to reconstruct Trump’s movements on January 6, as he watched the violence unfold on TV, but took no actions to help quell the mob.

Research contact: @politico

Testimony to January 6 panel: Mark Meadows burned papers after WH meeting with Scott Perry

May 31, 2022

Weeks after Election Day 2020, then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows burned papers in his office after meeting with a House Republican who was working to challenge Joe Biden’s win, according to testimony that the January 6 select committee has heard from one of Meadows’ former aides, reports Politico.

Cassidy Hutchinson, who worked for Meadows at that time, told the panel investigating the Capitol attack that she saw Meadows incinerate documents after a meeting in his office with Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pennsylvania). A person familiar with the testimony described it on condition of anonymity.

The Meadows-Perry meeting came in the weeks after Election Day 2020, as Trump and his allies searched for ways to reverse the election results.

It’s unclear whether Hutchinson told the committee which specific papers were burnt, and if federal records laws required the materials’ preservation. Meadows’ destruction of papers is a key focus for the select committee, and the person familiar with the testimony said investigators pressed Hutchinson for details about the issue for more than 90 minutes during a recent deposition.

Politico could not independently confirm that Meadows burned papers after a meeting with Perry.

A lawyer for Meadows declined to comment, as did a spokesperson for the January 6 committee. A lawyer for Hutchinson did not respond to requests for comment, and neither did a spokesperson for Perry.

Before the 2020 election, Perry—who represents the Harrisburg, Pennyslvania, region — had a relatively low national profile. But testimony and documents obtained by congressional investigators show he was the first person to connect Trump with Jeffrey Clark, a top Justice Department official who sympathized with the then-president’s efforts to overturn his loss to Joe Biden.

Senior Trump DOJ officials have testified that the former president came close to appointing Clark as acting attorney general in order to use the department’s extraordinary powers to sow doubt about the election results and urge state legislatures to consider overriding Biden’s victory.

Perry, now chair of the pro-Trump House Freedom Caucus, spent weeks pressing Meadows to implement the plan.

Mark, just checking in as time continues to count down,” Perry texted Meadows on December 26, 2020, according to messages released by the select panel. “11 days to 1/6 and 25 days to inauguration. We gotta get going!”

But the effort didn’t come to fruition. Instead, in an Oval Office meeting, the rest of DOJ leadership threatened to quit if Trump made Clark attorney general.

The select committee has also revealed that Meadows and Perry took steps to conceal some of their communications after the election. For example, in a December 2020 text message exchange the committee included in an April court filing, Perry told Meadows he had “just sent you something on Signal,” referring to the encrypted messaging app popular with journalists and government officials.

An investigation by Democrats on the  Senate Judiciary Committee  last year delved further into Perry’s involvement in the attempt to overturn the election and urged the January. 6 select panel to look into the Pennsylvanian further.

The New York Times first reported that the committee heard testimony indicating that Meadows had  burned White House papers. The Trump White House’s unorthodox approach to document management has drawn significant media scrutiny in recent weeks—and has also caught the attention of DOJ.

During his presidency, Trump was known to tear up papers and throw them in the trash. Aides would scurry to reassemble those papers for archiving, as federal record-keeping laws require.

After leaving the White House, Trump had 15 boxes of documents shipped to Mar-a-Lago. Some of those boxes were marked as classified, according to The Washington Post, and the Justice Department is now investigating the matter. Mishandling classified material is illegal.

Research contact: @politico