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CNN Live Event/Special

Attack on Democracy: The January 6 Committee Hearings. Aired 1- 1:30p ET

Aired June 28, 2022 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Again, she testified previously from the deposition about, she says, six Republican members of Congress. Six House Republicans requested pardons.

Four of them have denied that. And I'm told she has more documentation, notes and the like on that.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And to your point, I mean, this is coming after several days of other public testimony.

She was being asked questions in her private depositions. And it would not surprise me if she heard some things over the course of the testimony that we have heard that sparked more for the committee. And that's why you heard in the last week or two members of the January 6 Committee saying, this is a dynamic situation. We are getting more information by the day.

And it's because there are people who actually probably were in the White House around all of this who might be learning some things from these hearings, and it might be sparking some things. And that's changing how they proceed with these hearings.

KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes, and let's remember too, this -- we have said it over and over again, this is a surprise hearing, because we were expecting the committee to be dark for basically two weeks.

Don't forget Americans are heading out on their summer vacations, right? Quite frankly, the committee, there's a little bit of a risk that they're going to -- some people are going to start tuning this out, that they're not going to be paying as close attention.

So this is really the last -- before everyone goes out on their vacations on July 4, their -- one of their key chances to make a really, really strong impression. One thing I'm interested to see is, do we learn things from her today? Are they trying specifically to bring more people up out of the woodwork, more information up out the woodwork with today?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Here she is. Here she is.

Just to bring our viewers up to speed, on the right side of the screen is Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. She is going to testify today about what she saw of the Trump team's alleged schemes to flip the election, to steal it from Joe Biden and from the American people.

Also entering the room at the same time are members of the January 6 Committee. But -- and there you see the chairman of the committee, Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi. Liz Cheney is the vice chair, Republican from Wyoming. She is expected to take a lead role in today's hearing.

And we should underline this point. Cassidy Hutchinson is a loyal former Trump White House staffer, just like almost every single person we have heard in these hearings.

Let's listen in.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): The Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol will be in order.

Without objection, the chair is authorized to declare the committee in recess at any point. Pursuant to House Deposition Authority Regulation 10, the chair announces the committee's approval to release the deposition material presented during this hearing.

Good afternoon.

In our hearings over the previous weeks, the Select Committee has laid out the details of a multipart pressure campaign, driven by the former president aimed at overturning the results of the 2020 presidential election and blocking the transfer of power.

We have shown that this effort was based on a lie, a lie that the election was stolen, tainted by widespread fraud, Donald Trump's big lie.

In the weeks ahead, the committee will hold additional hearings about how Donald Trump summoned a mob of his supporters to Washington, spurred them to march on the Capitol and failed to take meaningful action to quell the violence as it was unfolding on January 6.

However, in recent days, the Select Committee has obtained new information dealing with what was going on in the White House on January 6 and in the days prior, specific detailed information about what the former president and his top aides were doing and saying in those critical hours, firsthand details of what transpired in the office of the White House chief of staff just steps from the Oval Office as the threats of violence became clear and, indeed, violence ultimately descended on the Capitol in the attack on American democracy.

It's an important -- it's important that the American people hear that information immediately. That's why, in consultation with the vice chair, I recalled the committee for today's hearing.

As you have seen and heard in our earlier hearings, the Select Committee has developed a massive body of evidence, thanks to the many hundreds of witnesses who have voluntarily provided information relevant to our investigation. It hasn't always been easy to get that information, because the same people who drove the former president's pressure campaign to overturn the election are now trying to cover up the truth about January 6.


But thanks to the courage of certain individuals, the truth won't be buried. The American people won't be left in the dark.

Our witness today, Ms. Cassidy Hutchinson, has embodied that courage. I won't get into a lot of detail about what Ms. Hutchinson's testimony will show. I will allow her words to speak for themselves. And I hope everyone at home will listen very closely.

First, I recognize our distinguished vice chair, Ms. Cheney of Wyoming, for any opening statement she'd care to offer.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

In our first five hearings, the committee has heard from a significant number of Republicans, including former Trump administration Justice Department officials, Trump campaign officials, several members of President Trump's White House staff, a prominent conservative judge, and several others.

Today's witness, Ms. Cassidy Hutchinson is another Republican and another former member of President Trump's White House staff. Certain of us in the House of Representatives recall that Ms. Hutchinson once worked for House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, but she is also a familiar face on Capitol Hill, because she held a prominent role in the White House Legislative Affairs Office, and later was the principal aide to President Trump's Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

Ms. Hutchinson has spent considerable time up here on Capitol Hill representing the Trump administration. And we welcome her back.

Up until now, our hearings have each been organized to address specific elements of President Trump's plan to overturn the 2020 election.

Today, we are departing somewhat from that model, because Ms. Hutchinson's testimony touches on several important and crosscutting topics, topics that are relevant to each of our future hearings.

In her role working for the White House chief of staff, Ms. Hutchinson handled a vast number of sensitive issues. She worked in the West Wing several steps down the hall from the Oval Office. Ms. Hutchinson spoke daily with members of Congress, with high-ranking officials in the administration, with senior White House staff, including Mr. Meadows, with White House counsel lawyers, and with Mr. Tony Ornato, who served as the White House deputy chief of staff.

She also worked on a daily basis with members of the Secret Service who were posted in the White House. In short, Ms. Hutchinson was in a position to know a great deal about the happenings in the Trump White House.

Ms. Hutchinson has already sat for four videotaped interviews with committee investigators, and we thank her very much for her cooperation and for her courage.

We will cover certain, but not all relevant topics within Ms. Hutchinson's knowledge today. Again, our future hearings will supply greater detail, putting the testimony today in a broader and more complete context.

Today, you will hear Ms. Hutchinson relate certain firsthand observations of President Trump's conduct on January 6. You will also hear new information regarding the actions and statements of Mr. Trump's senior advisers that day, including his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and his White House counsel.

And we will begin to examine evidence bearing on what President Trump and members of the White House staff knew about the prospect for violence on January 6 even before that violence began.

To best communicate the information the committee has gathered, we will follow the practice of our recent hearings, playing videotape testimony from Ms. Hutchinson and others, and also posing questions to Ms. Hutchinson live.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back.

THOMPSON: Thank you very much.

Our witness today is Ms. Cassidy Hutchinson, who served in the Trump administration in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs from 2019 to 2020 and as a special assistant to the president in the White House chief of staff's office from March 2020 through January 2021.

I will now swear in our witness.

The witness will please stand and raise her right hand.

Do you swear or affirm, under penalty of perjury, that the testimony you're about to give is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

Thank you. You may be seated.

Let the record reflect the witness answered in the affirmative.

I now recognize myself for questions.

Ms. Hutchinson, I'd like to start with a few questions about your background. These are some photographs we have obtained highlighting your career. These show you with members of Congress, including Steve Scalise, as well as the White House, with Leader Kevin McCarthy and Jim Jordan.

[13:10:12] Others show you with the president and members of Congress aboard Air Force One. Before you worked in the White House, you worked on Capitol Hill for Representative Steve Scalise, the Republican whip, and Senator Ted Cruz.

And then, in 2019, you moved to the White House and served there until the end of the Trump administration in 2020. When you started at the White House, you served at -- in the Office of Legislative Affairs. We understand that you were initially hired as a staff assistant, but were soon promoted to a position of greater responsibility.

Can you explain your role for the committee?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER AIDE TO MARK MEADOWS: When I moved over to the White House chief of staff's office with Mr. Meadows when he became the fourth chief of staff, it's difficult to describe a typical day.

I was a special assistant to the president and an adviser to the chief of staff. The days depended on what the president was doing that day, and that's kind of how my portfolio was reflected.

I had a lot of outreach with members of Congress, senior Cabinet officials. We would work -- I would work on policy issues with relevant internal components and members on the Hill, as well as security protocol at the White House complex for Mr. Meadows and the president.

THOMPSON: And then you received another promotion in March of 2020. At that time, you became the principal aide to the new White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows. Is that right?

HUTCHINSON: That's correct, sir.

THOMPSON: What did a typical day look like for you in your work with Mr. Meadows?

HUTCHINSON: It varied with what was going on.

We spent a lot of time on the Hill. I spent time on the Hill independently too, as I was his liaison for Capitol Hill. We did a lot of presidential travel engagements, but, mostly, I was there to serve what the chief of staff needed. And a lot of times what the chief of staff needed was a reflection of what the president's schedule was detailed to do that day.

THOMPSON: So, is it fair to say that you spoke regularly in your position both with members of Congress and with senior members of the Trump administration?

HUTCHINSON: That's correct. That's a fair assessment, sir.

THOMPSON: And would you say that, in your work with Mr. Meadows, you were typically in contact with him and others in the White House throughout the day?

HUTCHINSON: That's correct, sir. Mr. Meadows and I were in contact almost pretty much throughout every day consistently.

THOMPSON: Although so much of grave importance happens in the West Wing of the White House, it's quite a small building.

Above me on the screen, you can see a map of the first floor of the West Wing of the White House. On the right, you can see the president's Oval Office, on the left, the chief of staff's office suite. Within the chief of staff's office suite, as the heart of the West Wing, was your desk, which was between the vice president's office, Mr. Kushner's office, and the Oval Office.

Ms. Hutchinson, is this an accurate depiction of where you were located?

HUTCHINSON: It's accurate. It's a lot smaller than it looks.


THOMPSON: Absolutely.

Ms. Hutchinson, this is a photo that shows the short distance between your office and the president's Oval Office. And it only takes five to 10 seconds or so to walk down the hall from your office to the Oval Office. Is that right?

HUTCHINSON: That's correct.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

Pursuant to the Section 5(c)(8) of House Resolution 503, the chair recognizes the gentlewoman from Wyoming, Ms. Cheney, for questions.

CHENEY: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Chairman, we will begin today with an exchange that first provided Ms. Hutchinson a tangible sense for the ongoing planning for the events of January 6.

On January 2, four days before the attack on our Capitol, President Trump's lead lawyer, Mr. Giuliani, was meeting with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and others.

Ms. Hutchinson, do you remember Mr. Giuliani meeting with Mr. Meadows on January 2, 2021?

HUTCHINSON: I do. He met with Mr. Meadows in the evening of January 2, 2021.

CHENEY: And we understand that you walked Mr. Giuliani out of the White House that night, and he talked to you about January 6.


What do you remember him saying?

HUTCHINSON: As Mr. Giuliani and I were walking to his vehicles that evening, he looked at me and said something to the effect of: "Cass, are you excited for the 6th? It's going to be a great day."

I remember looking at him and saying: "Rudy, could you explain what's what's happening on the 6th?"

He -- and he had responded something to the effect of: "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. He's -- he's going to be with the members. He's going to be with the senators. Talk to the chief about it. Talk to the chief about it. He knows about it."

CHENEY: And did you go back then up to the West Wing and tell Mr. Meadows about your conversations with Mr. Giuliani?


After Mr. Giuliani had left the campus that evening, I went back up to our office. And I found Mr. Meadows in his office on the couch. He was scrolling through his phone. I remember leaning against the doorway and saying: "I just had an interesting conversation with Rudy, Mark. It sounds like we are going to go to the Capitol."

He didn't look up from his phone and said something to the effect of: "There's a lot going on, Cass, but I don't know. Things might get real, real bad on January 6."

CHENEY: Ms. Hutchinson, Mr. Meadows is engaged in litigation with the committee to try to avoid testifying here.

What was your reaction when he said to you things might get real, real bad?

HUTCHINSON: In the days before January 2, I was apprehensive about the 6th. I had heard general plans for a rally. I'd heard tentative movements to potentially go to the Capitol.

But when hearing Rudy's take on January 6, and then Mark's response, that was the first -- that evening was the first moment that I remember feeling scared and nervous for what could happen on January 6.

And I had a deeper concern for what was happening with the planning aspects of it.

CHENEY: Thank you, Ms. Hutchinson.

Today, we're going to be focusing primarily on the events of January 5 and 6 at the White House. But to begin and to frame the discussion, I want to talk about a conversation that you had with Mr. John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence.

And you had this conversation in December of 2020. Mr. Ratcliffe was nominated by President Trump to oversee U.S. intelligence, our U.S. intelligence community. And before his appointment, Mr. Ratcliffe was a Republican member of Congress.

As you will see on this clip, Director Ratcliffe's comments in December of 2020 were prescient.


HUTCHINSON: My understanding was, Mr. Rat -- Director Ratcliffe didn't want much to do with the post-election period.

Director Ratcliffe felt that it wasn't something that the White House should be pursuing. It -- felt it was dangerous for the president's legacy. He had expressed to me that he was concerned that it could spiral out of control and potentially be dangerous, either for our democracy or the way that things were going for the 6th.

QUESTION: When you say it wasn't something the White House should be pursuing, what's the "it"?

HUTCHINSON: Trying to fight the results of the election, finding missing ballots, pressuring, filing lawsuits in certain states where there didn't seem to be significant evidence, and reaching out to state legislatures about that.

So, pretty much the way that the White House was handling the post- election period, he felt that there could be dangerous repercussions in terms of precedents set for elections, for our democracy, for the 6th. He was hoping that we would concede.


CHENEY: So, Ms. Hutchinson, now we're going to turn to certain information that was available before January 4 and what the Trump administration and the president knew about the potential for violence before January 6.

On the screen, you will see an e-mail received by acting Deputy Attorney General Donoghue on January 4 from the National Security Division Of the Department of Justice. Mr. Donoghue testified in our hearings last week.

The e-mail identifies apparent planning by those coming to Washington on January 6 to -- quote -- "occupy federal buildings" and discussions of -- quote -- "invading the Capitol Building."


Here's what Mr. Donoghue said to us.


RICHARD DONOGHUE, FORMER ACTING DEPUTY GENERAL ATTORNEY: And we knew that, if you have tens of thousands of very upset people showing up in Washington, D.C., that there was potential for violence.


CHENEY: U.S. Secret Service was looking at similar information and watching the planned demonstrations. In fact, their Intelligence Division sent several e-mails to White

House personnel, like Deputy Chief of Staff Tony Ornato and the head of the president's protective detail, Robert Engel, including certain materials listing events like those on the screen.

The White House continued to receive updates about planned demonstrations, including information regarding the Proud Boys organizing and planning to attend events on January 6. Although Ms. Hutchinson has no detailed knowledge of any planning involving the Proud Boys for January 6, she did note this:


HUTCHINSON: I recall hearing the word Oath Keeper and hearing the word Proud Boys closer to the planning of the January 6 rally when Mr. Giuliani would be around.


CHENEY: On January 3, the Capitol Police issued a special event assessment.

The police noted that the Proud Boys and other groups planned to be in Washington, D.C., on January 6 and indicated that -- quote -- "Unlike previous post-election protests, the targets of the pro-Trump supporters are not necessarily the counterprotesters, as they were previously, but, rather, Congress itself is the target on the 6th."

(OFF-MIKE) showed up on January 6, marched from the Washington Monument to the Capitol that day, and led the riotous mob to invade and occupy our Capitol.

Ms. Hutchinson, I want to play you a clip of one of our meetings, when you described a call on January 4 that you received from National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien on the same topic, potential violence on January 6.


HUTCHINSON: I received a call from Robert O'Brien, the national security adviser.

He had asked if he could speak with Mr. Meadows about potential violence -- words of violence that he was hearing that were potentially going to happen on the Hill on January 6. I had asked if he had connected with Tony Ornato, because Tony Ornato had a conversation with him -- with Mark about that topic.

Robert had said: "I will talk to Tony."

And then I don't know if Robert ever connected with Mark about the issue.


CHENEY: Ms. Hutchinson, can you describe for us Mr. Ornato's responsibilities as deputy chief of staff?

HUTCHINSON: The deputy chief of staff position at the White House for operations is arguably one of the most important positions that somebody can hold.

They're in charge of all security protocol for the campus and all presidential protectees, primarily the president and the first family, but anything that requires security for any individual that has presidential protection, so the chief of staff or the national security adviser, as well as the vice president's team too.

Tony would oversee all of that. And he was the conduit for security protocol between White House staff and the United States Secret Service.

CHENEY: Thank you.

And you also described a brief meeting between Mr. Ornato and Mr. Meadows on the potential for violence. The meeting was on January 4. They were talking about the potential for violence on January 6. Let's listen to a clip of that testimony.


HUTCHINSON: I remember Mr. Ornato had talked to him about intelligence reports.

I just remember Mr. Ornato coming in and saying that we had intel reports saying that there could potentially be violence on the 6th.


CHENEY: You also told us about reports of violence and weapons that the Secret Service were receiving on the night of January 5 and throughout the day on January 6. Is that correct?

HUTCHINSON: That's correct.

CHENEY: There are reports that police in Washington, D.C., had arrested several people with firearms or ammunition following a separate pro-Trump rally in Freedom Plaza on the evening of January 5. Are those some of the reports that you recall hearing about?


CHENEY: Of course, the world now knows that the people who attacked the Capitol on January 6 had many different types of weapons.

When a president speaks, the Secret Service typically requires those attending to pass through metal detectors known as magnetometers, or mags for short.


The Select Committee has learned that people who willingly entered the enclosed area for President Trump's speech were screened, so they could attend the rally at the Ellipse. They had weapons and other items that were confiscated, pepper spray, knives, brass knuckles, Tasers, body armor, gas masks, batons, blunt weapons.

And those were just from the people who chose to go through the security for the president's event on the Ellipse, not the several thousand members of the crowd who refused to go through the mags and watched from the lawn near the Washington Monument.

The Select Committee has learned about reports from outside the magnetometers and has obtained police radio transmissions identifying individuals with firearms, including AR-15s, near the Ellipse on the morning of January 6.

Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's an individual who is in a tree, going to be a white male, about 6 feet tall, thin build, brown cowboy boots. He's got blue jeans and a blue jean jacket, and underneath the blue jean jacket, the complainants both saw stock of an AR-15.

He's going to be with a group of individuals about five to eight -- five to eight other individuals. Two of the individuals in that group at the base of the tree near the port-a-potties were wearing green fatigues, green olive dress-style fatigues, about 5'8'', 5'9'', skinny -- skinny white males, brown cowboy boots.

They had Glock-style pistols in their waistbands.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 8736 with a message, that subject's weapon on his right hip.

That's a negative. He's in the tree.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Motor One, make sure PPD knows they have an elevated threat in the tree south side of Constitution Avenue. Look for the "Don't Tread on Me" flag, American flag face mask, cowboy boots, weapon on the right-side hip.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have got three men walking down the street in fatigues while carrying AR-15s. Copy at 14th and Independence.


CHENEY: AR-15s at 14th and Independence.

As you saw in those e-mails, the first report that we showed, we now know was sent in the 8:00 hour on January 6. This talked about people in the crowd wearing ballistic helmets and body armor, carrying radio equipment and military-grade backpacks.

The second report we showed you on the screen was sent by the Secret Service in the 11:00 a.m. hour, and it addressed reports of a man with a rifle near the Ellipse. Ms. Hutchinson, in prior testimony, you described for us a meeting in

the White House around 10:00 a.m. in the morning of January 6 involving Chief of Staff Meadows and Tony Ornato. Were you in that meeting?


CHENEY: Let's listen to your testimony about that meeting, and then we will have some questions.


QUESTION: I think the last time we talked, you mentioned that some of the weapons that people had at the rally included flagpoles, oversized sticks or flagpoles, bear spray.

Is there anything else that you recall hearing about that the people who had gathered on the Ellipse had?

HUTCHINSON: I recall Tony and I having a conversation with Mark probably around 10:00 a.m., 10:15 a.m., where I remember Tony mentioning knives, guns, in the form of pistols and rifles, bear spray, body armor, spears and flagpoles.

Spears were one item. Flagpoles were one item. And then Tony had relayed to me something to the effect of: "And these effing people are fastening spears onto the ends of flagpoles."


CHENEY: Ms. Hutchinson, here's a clip of your testimony regarding Mr. Meadows' response to learning that the rally attendees were armed that day.


QUESTION: What was Mark's reaction, Mr. Meadows' reaction to this list of weapons that people had in the crowd?

HUTCHINSON: When Tony and I went in to talk to Mark that morning, Mark was sitting on his couch and on his phone, which was something typical.

And I remember Tony just got right into it, was like, "Sorry, I just want to let you know" and informed him like, this is how many people we have outside the mags right now. These are the weapons that were -- known to have. It's possible he listed more weapons off that I just don't recall, and gave him a brief, but -- and concise explanation, but also fairly, fairly thorough.

And I remember distinctly Mark not looking up from his phone. And I remember Tony finishing his explanation, and it taking a few seconds for Mark to say something, to the point where I almost said: "Mark, did you hear him?"