‘Things might get real, real bad’: key takeaways from latest January 6 hearing

·6 min read

The sixth hearing into the attack on the Capitol on Tuesday heard from just one witness but presented a series of explosive revelations about Donald Trump and the events of January 6.

Here are the key points from an extraordinary two hours on Capitol Hill.

Related: Ex-White House aide delivers explosive public testimony to January 6 panel

Key aides warned of violence

The sole witness was Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Trump and his chief of staff, Mark Meadows. She described how in December 2020, a month after election day, the director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe, told her Trump’s refusal to accept defeat by Joe Biden “could spiral out of control and be dangerous for our democracy”.

On 2 January 2021, four days before electoral college results would be certified, Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s attorney, told Hutchinson: “The 6th is going to be a great day … we’re going to the Capitol. It’s going to be great. The president is going to be there. He’s going to look powerful.”

Meadows then told Hutchinson: “Things might get real, real bad on January 6.”

Trump knew protesters were armed – and didn’t care

The committee played recordings from 6 January of law enforcement reporting protesters armed with AR-15 rifles and pistols. Waiting to speak at a rally near the White House, Trump was told protesters also had bear spray and flags to use as spears, and that some wore body armour.

Demanding such people be let past security measures in order to fill the area in front of his stage, Trump said: “I don’t fucking care that they have weapons, they’re not here to hurt me. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the fucking mags [magnetometers] away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here, let the people in and take the mags away.”

He then told a crowd he knew to contain armed elements to march on the Capitol, and said he would go with them.

Trump threatened his security chief

Hutchinson relayed a story told by Tony Ornato, a secret service official and deputy chief of staff. Ornato, she said, told her that when Trump was in his armoured limousine after his speech, he was told he could not go to the Capitol.

Trump had “a very strong, very angry response to that … something to the effect of, ‘I’m the fucking president. Take me up to the Capitol now.’ To which Bobby [Engel, chief of Trump’s secret service detail] responded, ‘Sir, you have to go back to the West Wing.’

Trump then “reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel. Mr Engel grabbed his arm, said, ‘Sir, you need to take your hand off the steering wheel. We’re going back to the West Wing. We’re not going to the Capitol.’ Mr Trump then used his free hand to lunge towards Bobby Engel and when Mr Ornato recounted the story to me he motioned towards his clavicles.”

The committee heard of Trump’s fury at other moments, including when his attorney general, Bill Barr, told the Associated Press there was no widespread electoral fraud. Trump “had thrown his lunch against the wall”, Hutchinson said, also describing how she helped the president’s valet mop up the spilled ketchup.

Meadows was too attached to his phone …

Hutchinson repeatedly described the chief of staff not looking up from his phone when being told urgent news, including on January 6.

“I remember him being alone in his office for most of the afternoon,” she said. “Around 2pm to 2.05pm we were watching the TV and I could see that the rioters were getting closer and closer to the Capitol. Mark still hadn’t popped out of his office or said anything about it.”

Meadows was “sitting on his couch on his cellphone, same as the morning where he was just kind of scrolling and typing. I said, ‘Hey, are you watching the TV, Chief? … I didn’t know if he was really paying attention. He was like, ‘Yeah.’ [I said] ‘The rioters are getting really close, so if you talk to the president…’ He said, ‘No, he wants to be alone right now.’

“Still looking at his phone. So I started to get frustrated.”

… except when he wanted to go to Bannon’s ‘war room’

Hutchinson described how on 5 January she stopped Meadows attending a meeting at the Willard Hotel held by Giuliani, the former White House strategist Steve Bannon, the law professor John Eastman and other pro-Trump extremists.

Meadows, she said, “wanted me to work with secret service on a movement from the White House to the Willard Hotel so he could attend the meeting with Mr Giuliani and his associates in the ‘war room’.

“I made it clear to Mr Meadows that I didn’t believe it was a smart idea … I knew enough about what Mr Giuliani and his associates were pushing that I didn’t think that it was something appropriate for the White House chief of staff to attend or to consider involvement.”

Meadows “mentioned a few more times going up the Willard that evening, then eventually … said he would dial in instead”.

Trump said Pence deserved to hang

Hutchinson’s description of the president’s response to the mob calling for the vice-president to be hanged was included in an earlier hearing but was stunning in repeat.

She said: “I remember Pat [Cipollone, the White House counsel] saying something to the effect of, ‘Mark, we need to do something more. They’re literally calling for the vice-president to be fucking hung.’

“And Mark had responded something to the effect of, ‘You heard him, Pat, he thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.’

“To which Pat said something like, “This is fucking crazy. We need to be doing something more.”

Meadows and Giuliani sought pardons

When Trump finally recorded a speech asking the mob to leave the Capitol, Meadows pushed for a promise of presidential pardons. Asked if Giuliani and Meadows sought their own pardons related to January 6, Hutchinson said that they did.

Trump’s circle has pressured witnesses

The committee vice-chair, Liz Cheney, saved one of the most chilling revelations for her closing statement. The committee, she said, had asked witnesses if former colleagues in Trump circles had attempted to influence testimony.

Related: Angry, violent, reckless: testimony paints shocking portrait of Trump

“One witness described phone calls from people interested in that witness’s testimony. ‘Well, what they said to me is, as long as I continue to be a team player, they know I’m on the right team, I’m doing the right thing, I’m protecting who I need to protect. I’ll continue to stay in good graces in Trump world. They reminded me a couple of times that Trump does read transcripts, and just keep that in mind.’”

Another witness reported a call in which they were told Trump “wants me to let you know he’s thinking about you. You know, you’re loyal. And you’re going to do the right thing when you go in for your deposition.”

Debate continues about whether Trump will be charged with criminal conduct.

Cheney said: “I think most Americans know that attempting to influence witnesses to testify untruthfully presents very serious concerns. We will be discussing these issues as a committee and carefully considering our next steps.”

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