- Mariana Sanches – @mariana_sanches
- From BBC News Brazil in Washington
Donald Trump knew his supporters were armed when he urged them in a speech to march to the United States Congress on January 6, 2021, in the episode that ended with the Capitol invasion and five deaths.
And the then president, at the end of his rally, did not intend to return to the White House, but to join the protesters in Congress. For this, he even tried to take the wheel of the vehicle that was taking him back to the presidential residence.
These are the main statements of a former White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson, whose sworn testimony given to the congressional committee investigating the January 6 episode became public on Tuesday, 6/28.
According to Hutchinson, both Trump and his closest aides were aware of the violent potential of that demonstration scheduled to take place in the American capital, in which Trump intended to repeat his accusations – without proof – that the 2020 presidential elections had been rigged and that he, the Democrat Joe Biden, would be the real president-elect of the country.
That same day, January 6, 2021, in a formal rite provided for by the US Constitution, Congress was meeting, under the command of then Vice President Mike Pence, to certify Biden’s electoral victory.
According to Hutchinson, Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told her the event was intended to make Trump “look powerful.”
Presidential Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, when asked by his aide about what could happen on January 6, reportedly said: “There’s a lot going on, Cas. But, I don’t know, things can go really bad in 6 January”, according to the testimony of the former advisor.
According to her account, Trump was aware that the protesters were armed and gave explicit orders that they not be stopped for it.
“The president apparently wanted all participants within the official space (of the rally) and repeatedly said, ‘They are not here to hurt me.’ (..) He was told again in that conversation that there were guns. And his response was to say that they could march to the Capitol: ‘Take the metal detectors away, they (the protesters) are not here to hurt me. Let them in, let my people in. After the rally is over, they can march to the Capitol.'” , says the advisor.
Assault on Secret Service agent
According to Hutchinson, Trump himself intended to join the crowd marching to Capitol Hill after the end of his speech. Faced with the Secret Service’s refusal, he would have taken hold of the vehicle’s steering wheel to force it in another direction.
“(The secret service agent) said to him (Trump), ‘we’re not going (to the Capitol), it’s not safe, we’re going back to the west wing (of the White House)’. The president had a very strong and very angry reaction. Tony (another aide) described him as being irate. (Trump reportedly said) ‘I’m the p… of the president, take me to the Capitol now’. To which Bobby Engel (another agent) replied, ‘sir, We have to go back to the west wing.” The president reached out to the front of the vehicle to grab the steering wheel. Engel grabbed his arm, said, “Sir, you need to withdraw your hand. We’re heading back to the west wing. capitol’. Trump then used his free hand to lunge toward Bobby Engel, squeezing his hand toward his collarbone.”
Hutchinson’s testimony is a key piece that the parliamentary investigative team has so far lacked: a firsthand account of how January 6 played out inside the White House. The commission tries to establish Trump’s responsibility for the events. Public sessions have been able to attract the attention of at least half the American audience, according to opinion polls.
Hutchinson was the top aide to Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, with whom she spoke daily. She sat a few feet from the Oval Office and was the Presidency’s main interlocutor with Congress.
In response to Hutchinson’s testimony, Trump tried to disqualify the former aide in a post on his social media, saying he barely knew her and had fired her.
“I barely know who this person Cassidy Hutchinson is, except I’ve heard very negative things about her (totally untrue and ‘leaky’), and when she asked to go with a few others on the team to Florida after I served a term Completely, I personally declined her request. Why did she want to go with us if she thought we were so terrible? I understand she was very upset and annoyed that I didn’t want her to be on the team,” Trump wrote.
At the end of Tuesday’s session, Republican Representative Liz Cheney, a member of the commission, said lawmakers had collected what they considered to be evidence of “witness intimidation” by Trump.
The commission then released what would be messages from interlocutors of the former president to people who would give depositions to the commission to say that Trump was “thinking” of it, knew that the deponent was “loyal” and that he would “read the transcripts of the depositions”. Intimidation of witnesses is a crime.
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