Mark Meadows, former chief of staff to President Donald Trump, sought a pardon for his actions on Jan. 6, 2021, his top aide, Cassidy Hutchinson, testified Tuesday.
In a surprise hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Jan. 6 committee, Hutchinson spent two hours giving the most in-depth view yet seen of Meadows’ and Trump’s actions on Jan. 6 as rioters raided the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of President Joe Biden.
Hutchinson said watching her boss’s lack of concern on the rioters’ actions was like watching a bad car wreck about to happen and not being able to do anything about it.
Meadows, she said, kept his head in his cell phone, rarely looking up, not responding, and when he did he would tell people that Trump wanted to be left alone.
“He needed to care,” Hutchinson said of Meadows.
Hutchinson confirmed to the committee that Meadows had requested a pardon. He is the latest name added to a list of people including members of Congress said to have sought Trump’s pardon for their connection to Jan. 6. Many of them went through Meadows to make that request. Hutchinson did not say when Meadows made the request.
Meadows, the former representative of North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District, has cooperated on-and-off with the committee before invoking the president’s executive privilege. The House chose to hold Meadows in contempt of Congress, but the U.S. Department of Justice said it would not prosecute him, the committee announced earlier this month.
Cassidy Hutchinson cooperating with Jan 6 committee
Hutchinson was with Meadows throughout Jan. 6 and the days before and after. She is considered one of the committee’s best means to get information about the Trump administration’s actions that day.
Hutchinson has been cooperating with the committee while being represented by an attorney from Trump’s inner circle, but the Washington Post reported that she recently changed representation.
The committee announced last week it would not hold another hearing until July after the Independence Day break, but announced late Monday night a change in plans.
Hutchinson’s testimony came during the committee’s sixth hearing, though she had been seen in taped depositions throughout the previous five, where she revealed that Trump agreed with rioters’ calls to “Hang Mike Pence” and that Republicans had gone to Meadows and others within Trump’s orbit asking for a pardon before he left the White House.
When she walked into the hearing room in the Cannon Building at the Capitol complex Tuesday afternoon her hands were visibly shaking.
Hutchinson said she had heard mentions of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers and there had been intelligence about safety concerns for Jan. 6, but she never truly felt concerned until she ran into attorney Rudy Giuliani at the White House days prior.
He asked her if she was excited to go to the Capitol on Jan. 6, she testified, and when she asked what he was talking about, he said it would be a great day and to “ask the chief about it.”
She went to Meadows’s office, leaned on the doorframe and asked what Giuliani was talking about. He sat on the couch, staring at his phone, and said, “There’s a lot going on, Cass. Things might get real bad on the 6th.”
Weapons at rally
On Jan. 6, things began to unravel quickly.
Meadows sat on a couch in his office, his eyes focused on his phone, when a voice interrupted him.
White House aide Tony Ornato arrived with Hutchinson to Meadows’s office and informed him that Trump supporters were at the president’s speech armed with weapons.
Meadows didn’t look up.
“Mark, did you hear him?” Hutchinson testified she asked Meadows.
Meadows continued looking at his phone and asked, “Anything else?”
Outside the White House, under the shadow of the Washington Monument, Trump looked at the size of the crowd and complained. Hutchinson testified that he wanted to make sure people could hear his speech, even if they were armed.
“They’re not here to hurt me,” Hutchinson testified Trump said. He told them to take down metal detectors and let “his people” come to the rally and then march to the Capitol.
During Trump’s speech he announced he would march to the Capitol with the crowd.
At the same time, Hutchinson was learning that Capitol police were having trouble keeping the crowd under control outside the Capitol where members of Congress were working to certify Biden’s election.
Hutchinson said Meadows needed to know this information, so she walked over to a secured vehicle where he was on the phone, but he shut the door on her.
About 20 minutes later, Hutchinson said she opened the door to the vehicle to tell him and he twice shut the door again on her.
When they finally had the conversations, Meadows’s reaction was only to ask how much longer Trump had left to speak. Meanwhile, Secret Service was scrambling because of Trump’s announcement that he would be marching to the Capitol.
March to the Capitol
Hutchinson testified that previous suggestions of Trump speaking again in front of the Capitol or in the House chamber had been ruled out. White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said if that were to happen the Trump administration could be looking at charges like inciting a riot, obstructing justice or obstructing the Electoral College. He told Hutchinson to ensure that Trump did not go to the Capitol.
When Hutchinson returned to the White House following the rally she learned that Trump had been in an altercation inside the president’s limo because Meadows had left him with the impression it was still possible to go to the Capitol. When he learned Secret Service could not make that happen, Hutchinson testified she was told he got very angry.
She said he grabbed the wheel of the vehicle, and said, “I’m the effing president, take me to the Capitol.” Trump’s arm was grabbed and he tried to use his free arm to grab toward Secret Service.
Trump blamed Meadows for not letting him go to the Capitol, Hutchinson said.
Riot at the Capitol
Hutchinson testified that at 2 p.m. on Jan. 6, Meadows hadn’t come out of his office and she could see on TV that protesters were getting closer and closer to the Capitol. She decided to go inside his office to talk with him.
She saw him sitting on his couch, the television on. He was looking at his cell phone. She asked if he was watching the riot and if he had talked to the president. “He said, ‘No, he wants to be alone right now,’” Hutchinson testified.
Cipollone then came down the hallway to talk with Meadows.
Cipollone looked at Meadows and said, “The rioters got into the Capitol, Mark, we need to go down and see the president,” Hutchinson testified.
He got the same response, that Trump wanted to be alone.
“Mark, something needs to be done,” Hutchinson testified Cipollone said. “People are going to die, blood is going to be on your hand.”
Hutchinson watched the two of them walk down the hall toward the Oval Office.
Hutchinson said she later saw a group of Trump’s inner circle moving down the hallway discussing rioters’ call to “hang Mike Pence” and telling Meadows that Trump needs to do something.
“Mark responded with something to the effect of, ‘You heard him ... he thinks he deserves it. He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong,’” Hutchinson testified.
Daniel Desrochers of McClatchy DC contributed to this report.