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CNN Live Event/Special

Now: Key Ex-White House Aide Who Sat Doors Away From Oval Office Testifies. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired June 28, 2022 - 13:30   ET




CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER AIDE TO CHIEF OF STAFF MARK MEADOWS: 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?

And then Mark turn and was like, all right, anything else? Still looking down at his phone. And Tony looked at me, and I looked at Tony. Tony said, no, sir, do you have any questions?

He was like, what are you hearing? And I looked at Tony, and I was like, sir, he just told you what was happening down at the rally. He said, yes, yes, I know.

And then he looked up and said, have you talked to the president? Tony said, yes, sir, he's aware. And he said, all right, good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He asked Tony if Tony had informed the president?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Tony said yes he had?


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): So, Miss Hutchinson, is it your understanding that Mr. Ornato told the president about weapons at the rally on the morning of January 6th?

HUTCHINSON: That's what was relayed to me.

CHENEY: And here's how you characterized from Meadows' general response when people raised concerns about what could happen on January 6th.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So at the time in the days leading up to the 6th, there were lots of public reports about how things might go bad on the 6th and the potential for violence.

If I'm hearing you correctly, what stands out to you is that Mr. Meadows did not share or at least did not act on the concerns?

HUTCHINSON: Did not act on those concerns would be accurate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But other people raised them to him, like in this exchange you mentioned that Mr. Ornato pulled him aside?

HUTCHINSON: That's correct.


CHENEY: Miss Hutchinson, we're going to show now an exchange of texts between you and Deputy Chief of Staff Ornato. And these text messages were exchanged while you were at the Ellipse.

In one text you write, "But the crowd looks good from this vantage point as long as we get the shot. He was f*ing furious."

And the text messages also stress that President Trump kept mentioning an OTR, an off-the-record movement.

We're going to come back and ask you about that in a minute.

But could you tell us, first of all, who it is in the text, who was furious?

HUTCHINSON: The "he" in that text that I was referring to was the president.

CHENEY: And why was he furious, Miss Hutchinson?

HUTCHINSON: He was furious because he wanted the arena that we had on the Ellipse to be maxed out at capacity for all attendees.

The advanced team had relayed to him the mags were free flowing. Everybody who wanted to come in had already come in. But he still was angry about the extra space and wanted more people to come in.

CHENEY: And did you go to the rally in the presidential motorcade?

HUTCHINSON: I was there, yes. In the motorcade.

CHENEY: And were you backstage with the president and other members of his staff and family?


CHENEY: And you told us, Miss Hutchinson, about particular comments that you heard while you were in the tent area.

HUTCHINSON: When we were in the off-stage announce area tent behind the stage, he was very concerned about the shot. Meaning the photograph that we would get, because the rally space wasn't full.

One of the reasons, which I've previously stated, was because he wanted it to be full, and for people to not feel excluded because they had come far to watch him at the rally. And he felt the mags were at fault for not letting everybody in.

But another leading reason, and likely the primary reason, is because he wanted it full, and he was angry at that -- that we weren't letting people through the mags with weapons, the Secret Service deems as weapons and are weapons.

But when we were in the off-stage announce tent, I was part of a conversation -- I was in the vicinity of a conversation where I overheard the president say something to the effect of, I don't f'ing care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me.

Take the f'ing mags away. Let my people in. They can march the capitol from here. Let the people in. Take the f*ing mags away.

CHENEY: Just to be clear, Miss Hutchinson, is it your understanding that the president wanted to take the mags away and said that the armed individuals were not there to hurt him?

HUTCHINSON: That's a fair assessment.

CHENEY: The issue wasn't with the amount of space available in the official rally area only. But instead, that people did not want to have to go through the mags.

Let's listen to a portion of what you told us about that.


HUTCHINSON: And in this particular instance, it wasn't the capacity of our space. It was the mags and the people that didn't want to come through.

And that's what Tony had been trying to relay to him that morning, you know, it's not the issue that we encounter on the campaign. We have enough space, sir.

They don't want to come in right now. They have weapons that they don't want confiscated by the Secret Service. And they're fine on the Mall. They can see you on the Mall. And they want to march straight to the capitol from the Mall.



CHENEY: The president apparently wanted all attendees inside the official rally space, and repeatedly said, quote, "They're not here to hurt me."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And just to be clear, so he was told again in that conversation or was he told again in that conversation that people couldn't come through the mags because they had weapons?

HUTCHINSON: Correct. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that people -- and his response was to say

they can march to the capitol from the Ellipse?

HUTCHINSON: Something to the effect of, take the F-ing mags away. They're not here to hurt me. Let them in. Let my people in.

They can march to the capitol after the rally is over. They can march from the Ellipse. Take the f-ing mags away. Then they can march to the capitol.


CHENEY: Miss Hutchinson, what we saw when those clips were playing were photos provided by the National Archives showing the president in the off-stage tent before his speech on the Ellipse. You were in some of those photos as well.

And I just want to confirm that that is when you heard the president say the people with weapons weren't there to hurt him and he wanted the Secret Service to remove the magnetometers?

HUTCHINSON: That's correct. In the photos that you displayed, we were standing toward the front of the tent with the TVs really close to where he would walk out to go on to the stage.

These conversations happened two or three minutes before he took the stage that morning.

CHENEY: Let's reflect on that for a moment. President Trump was aware that a number of the individuals in the crowd had weapons and were wearing body armor.

And here's what President Trump instructed the crowd to do.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to walk -- and I'll be there with you. We're going to walk down.


TRUMP: We're going to walk down. Anyone you want, but I think right here, we're going to walk down to the capitol.



CHENEY: And the crowd, as we know, did proceed to the capitol. It soon became apparent to the Secret Service, including the Secret Service teams in the crowd, along with White House staff, that security at the capitol would not be sufficient.


HUTCHINSON: I had two or three phone conversations with Mr. Ornato when we were at the Ellipse. And then I had four men on Mr. Meadows detail with me in-between those individuals.

And then a few other bodies on the ground, just the Secret Service team advance. They were getting notifications through their radios.

And Mr. Ornato, in one phone conversation, had called me and said, make sure the chief knows that they're getting close to the capitol. They're having trouble stacking bodies.


CHENEY: Miss Hutchinson, when you say, "they were having trouble stacking bodies," did you mean that law enforcement at the capitol needed more people to defend the capitol from the rioters?

HUTCHINSON: It was becoming clear to us, and to the Secret Service, that Capitol Police officers were getting overrun at the security barricades outside of the capitol building. And they were having -- they were short people to defend the building against the rioters.

CHENEY: And you mentioned that Mr. Ornato was conveying this to you because he wanted you to tell Mr. Meadows. So did you tell Mr. Meadows that people were getting closer to the capitol and that Capitol Police was having difficulty?

HUTCHINSON: After I had the conversation with Mr. Meadows, Mr. -- after I had the conversation with Mr. Ornato, I went to have the discussion with Mr. Meadows. He was in a secure vehicle at the time making a call.

So when I went over to the car, I had went to open the door to let him know, he had immediately shut it. I don't know who he was speaking with.

It wasn't something that he regularly did, especially when I would go over to give him information. So I was a bit taken aback.

But I didn't think much of it. And thinking that I was -- would be able to have the conversation with him a few moments later.

CHENEY: And were you able to have that conversation a few moments later?

HUTCHINSON: Probably about 20 to 25 minutes later.

There was another period between where he shut the door again. And then when he finally got out of the vehicle, we had the conversation. At that point, there was a backlog of information that he should have been made aware of.

CHENEY: And so you opened the door to the control car and Mr. Meadows pulled it shut?

HUTCHINSON: That's correct.

CHENEY: And he did that two times?

HUTCHINSON: That's correct.

CHENEY: And when you finally were able to give Mr. Meadows the information about the violence at the capitol, what was his reaction?


HUTCHINSON: He almost had a lack of reaction. I remember him saying, all right. And something to the effect of, how much longer does the president have left in his speech?

CHENEY: Again, much of this information about the potential for violence was known or learned before the onset of the violence. Early enough for President Trump to take steps to prevent it.

He could, for example, have urged the crowd at the Ellipse not to march to the capitol. He could have condemned the violence immediately once it began, or he could have taken multiple other steps.

But as we will see today, and in later hearings, President Trump had something else in mind.

One other question, at this point, Miss Hutchinson. Were you aware of concerns that White House Counsel Pat Cipollone or Eric Herschmann had about the language President Trump used in his Ellipse speech?

HUTCHINSON: There were many discussions the morning of the 6th about the rhetoric of the speech that day.

In my conversations with Mr. Herschmann, he had relayed that it would be foolish to include language that had been included at the president's request.

Which headlines along to the effect of, fight for Trump, we're going to march the capitol. I'll be there with you. Fight for me. Fight for what we're doing. Fight for the movement. Things about the vice president at the time, too.

Both Mr. Herschmann and White House counsel's office were urging the speech writers not to include that language for legal concerns and also for the optics of what it could portray the president wanting to do that day.

CHENEY: And we just heard the president say that he would be with his supporters as they marched to the capitol. Even though he did not end up going, he certainly wanted to.

Some have questioned whether President Trump genuinely planned to come here to the capitol on January 6th.

In his book, Mark Meadows falsely wrote that after President Trump gave his speech on January 6th, he told Mr. Meadows that he was, quote, "speaking metaphorically" about the walk to the capitol. As you will see, Donald Trump was not speaking metaphorically.

As we heard earlier, Rudy Giuliani told Miss Hutchinson, that Mr. Trump planned to travel to the capitol on January 6th. I want to pause for just a moment to ask you, Miss Hutchinson, to

explain some of the terminology you'll hear today.

We've heard you use two different terms to describe plans for the president's movement to the capitol or anywhere else.

One of those is a "scheduled movement," and another one is "OTR." Could you describe for us what each of those mean?

HUTCHINSON: A scheduled presidential movement is on his official schedule. It's notified to the press and to a wide range of staff that will be traveling with him.

It's known to the public, known to the Secret Service. And they're able to coordinate the movement days in advance.

An off-the-record movement is confined to the knowledge of a very, very small group of advisers and staff. Typically, a very small group of staff would travel with him. Mostly that are just included in the national security package.

You can pull an off-the-record movement together in less than an hour. It's a way to kind of circumvent having to release it to the press, if that's the goal of it, or to not have to have as many security parameters put in place ahead of time to make the movement happen.

CHENEY: Thank you.

And let's turn back now to the president's plans to travel to the capitol on January 6th.

We know that White House Counsel Pat Cipollone was concerned about the legal implications of such a trip. And he agreed with the Secret Service that it shouldn't happen.

Miss Hutchinson, did you have any conversations with Pat Cipollone about his concerns about the president going to the capitol on January 6th?

HUTCHINSON: On January 3rd, Mr. Cipollone approached me, knowing that Mark had raised the prospect of going up to the capitol on January 6th.

Mr. Cipollone and I had a brief private conversation where he said to me, we need to make sure that this doesn't happen. This would be legally a terrible idea for us. We have serious legal concerns if we go up to the capitol that day.

And he then urged me to continue relaying that to Mr. Meadows. Because it's my understanding that Mr. Cipollone thought that Mr. Meadows was, indeed, pushing this along with the president.


CHENEY: And we understand, Miss Hutchinson, that you also spoke to Mr. Cipollone on the morning of the 6th, as you were about to go to the rally on the Ellipse.

And Mr. Cipollone said something to you like, make sure the movement to the capitol does not happen. Is that correct?

HUTCHINSON: That's correct. I saw Mr. Cipollone right before I walked out onto West Exec that morning.

And Mr. Cipollone said something to the effect of, please make sure we don't go up to the capitol, Cassidy. Keep in touch with me. We're going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen.

CHENEY: And do you remember which crimes Mr. Cipollone was concerned with?

HUTCHINSON: In the days leading up to the 6th, we had conversations about potentially obstructing justice or defrauding the electoral count.

CHENEY: Let's hear about some of those concerns that you mentioned earlier in one of your interviews with us.


HUTCHINSON: Having a private conversation with Pat late in the afternoon of the 3rd or the 4th.

That Pat was concerned it would look like we were obstructing justice or obstructing the Electoral College count. And I apologize for not being probably very firm with my legal terms here.

But -- that it would look like we were obstructing what was happening on Capitol Hill.

And he was also worried that it would look like we were inciting a riot or encouraging a riot to erupt on the capitol, at the capitol.


CHENEY: In fact, in the days before January 6th, and on January 6th itself, President Trump expressed to multiple White House aides that he wanted to go to the capitol after his speech.

Here's what various White House aides have told the committee about the president's desire to go to the capitol.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the president tell you this, that he wanted to speak at the capitol?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: During the meeting in the dining room, did the idea of the president proceeding or walking to the capitol on the 6th after his speech come up? MAX MILLER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE: Walking to the capitol? No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Driving to the capitol?

MILLER: It came up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. How did it come up and what was discussed?

MILLER: He brought it up. He said I want to go down to the capitol.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about him marching to the capitol on the 6th?

LUNA: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell us about that.

LUNA: So, it's kind of a general thing. I mean, to get into the specifics of it, I -- I was aware of a desire of the president to potentially march to the -- or accompany the rally attendees to the capitol.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When did you first hear about this idea of the president accompanying rallying attendees to the 6th?

LUNA: This was at the 6th. This was during the -- after he finished his remarks.


CHENEY: When the president said that he would be going to the capitol during his speech on the Ellipse. The Secret Service scrambled to find a way for him to go.

We know this from witnesses and the Secret Service. Also from messages among staff on the president's National Security Council.

The NSC staff were monitoring the situation in real time. And you can see how the situation evolved in the following chat log that the committee has obtained.

As you can see, NSC staff believed that "Mogul," the president, was, quote, "going to the capitol." And, quote, "They are finding the best route now."

From these chats, we also know the staff learned of the attack on the capitol in real time.

When President Trump left the Ellipse stage at 1:10, the staff knew that rioters had invaded the inaugural stage and Capitol Police were calling for all available officers to respond.

When Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy heard the president say he was going to the capitol, he called you, Miss Hutchinson. Isn't that right?

HUTCHINSON: That's correct. CHENEY: And in this text message, you told Tony Ornato, quote,

"McCarthy just called me, too, and do you guys think you're coming to my office?"

Tell us about the call that day with Leader McCarthy during the president's speech on the Ellipse.

HUTCHINSON: I was still in the tent behind the stage. And when you're behind the stage, you can't really hear what's going on in front of you.

So when Mr. McCarthy called me with this information, I answered the call, and he sounded rushed but also frustrated and angry at me. I was confused because I didn't know what the president had just said.


He then explained the president just said he's marching to the capitol. You told me this whole week you aren't coming up here. Why would you lie to me?

And I said, I'm not lying, I wasn't lying to you, sir. We're not going to the capitol.

And he said, well, he just said it on stage, Cassidy. Figure it out. Don't come up here.

I said, I'll run the traps on this and shoot you a text. I can assure you we're not coming up to the capitol. We've already made that decision.

He pressed a little bit more, believing me, but I think frustrated that the president had said that. And we ended the phone conversation after that.

I called Mr. Ornato to reconfirm that we weren't going to the capitol, which is also in our text messages.

And I sent Mr. McCarthy another text telling him the affirmative, that we were not going up to the capitol, and he didn't respond after that.

CHENEY: And we understand, Ms. Hutchinson, that the plans for the president to come up to the capitol had included discussions at some point about what the president would do when he came up to the capitol on January 6th.

Let's look at a clip of one of your interviews discussing that issue with the committee.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you were talking about a scheduled movement, did anyone say what the president wanted to do when he got here?

HUTCHINSON: No. Not that I can specifically remember. I remember -- I remember hearing a few different ideas discussed

between the Mark and Scott Perry, Mark and Rudy Giuliani. I don't know which conversations were elevated to the president. I don't know what he personally wanted to do when he went up to the capitol that day.

You know, I know that there were discussions about him having another speech outside of the capitol before going in. I know that there was a conversation about him going into the House chamber at one point.


CHENEY: As we've all just heard, in the days leading up to January 6th, on the day of the speech, both before and during and after the rally speech, President Trump was pushing his staff to arrange for him to come up here to the capitol during the electoral vote count.

Let's turn now to what happened in the president's vehicle when the Secret Service told him he would not be going to the capitol after his speech.

First, here is the president's motorcade leaving the Ellipse after his speech on January 6th.


CHENEY: Ms. Hutchinson, when you returned to the White House in the motorcade after the president's speech, where did you go?

HUTCHINSON: When I returned to the White House, I walked upstairs toward the chief of staff's office. And I noticed Mr. Ornato lingering outside of the office.

And once we made eye contact, he quickly waved me to go into his office, which was just across the hall from mine.

When I went in, he shut the door, and I noticed Bobby Engel, the head of Mr. Trump's security detail, sitting in a chair just looking somewhat discombobulated and a little lost.

I looked at Tony, and he had said, did you f'ing hear what happened in the Beast? I said, no, Tony, I just got back. What happened?

Tony proceeded to tell me that when the president got in the Beast, he was under the impression from Mr. Meadows that the off-the-record movement to the capitol was still possible and likely to happen, but that Bobby had more information.

So once the president had gotten into the vehicle with Bobby, he thought they were going up to the capitol.

And when Bobby had relayed to him, we're not, we don't have the assets to do it, it's not secure, we're going back to the West Wing, the president had very strong, very angry response to that. Tony described him as being irate.

The president said something to the effect of, I'm the f'ing president, take me up to the capitol now. To which Bobby responded, sir, we have to go back to the West Wing.

The president reached up toward the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel. Mr. Engel grabbed his arm and 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 had recounted the story to me, he had motioned towards his clavicles.

CHENEY: And was Mr. Engel in the room as Mr. Ornato told you this story?


CHENEY: Did Mr. Engel correct or disagree with any part of the story from Mr. Ornato?

HUTCHINSON: Mr. Engel did not correct or disagree with any part of the story.

CHENEY: Did Mr. Engel or Mr. Ornato ever after that tell you that what Mr. Ornato had just said was untrue?

HUTCHINSON: Neither Mr. Ornato nor Mr. Engel told me ever that it was untrue.

CHENEY: And despite this altercation, this physical altercation, during the ride back to the White House, President Trump still demanded to go to the capitol.

Here's what Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary at the time, wrote in her personal notes and told the committee about President Trump's desire to go to the capitol after returning to the White House.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you wrote, "POTUS wanted to walk to the capitol," was that based solely on what the president said during his speech? Or anything that he or anybody else said afterwards?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: So, to the best of my recollection, I believe when we got back to the White House, he said he wanted to physically walk with the marchers.

And according to my notes, he then said, you'd be fine with just riding the Beast. But to the best of my recollection, he wanted to be a part of the march in some fashion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. And just for the record, the Beast refers to the presidential limousine?


CHENEY: President Trump did not go to the capitol that day. We understand that he blamed Mark Meadows for that.

HUTCHINSON: So, prior to leaving the rally site, when he got off the stage, and everybody was making the movement back to the motorcade, I had overheard Mr. Meadows say to him then, as I had prior to Mr. Trump taking the stage that morning, that he was still working on getting an off-the-record movement to the capitol.

So when Mr. Trump took the stage, he was under the impression, via Mr. Meadows, that it was still possible.

So when he got off the stage, I had relayed to Mr. Meadows that I had another conversation with Tony, the movement was still not possible. Mr. Meadows said, OK. And then as they proceeded to go to the motorcade.

And Mr. Meadows had reiterated, we're going to work on it, sir. Talk to Bobby. Bobby has more information.

Mark got into his vehicle, to my understanding, Trump got into the Beast. And after we had all arrived back at the White House, later in the day, it had been relayed to me by Mark that the president wasn't happy that Bobby didn't pull it off for him. And that Mark didn't work hard enough to get the movement on the books.

CHENEY: The physical altercation that Ms. Hutchinson described in the presidential vehicle was not the first time that the president had become very angry about issues relating to the election.

On December 1, 2020, Attorney General Barr said in an interview that the Department of Justice had not found evidence of widespread election fraud sufficient to change the outcome of the election.

Miss Hutchinson, how did the president react to hearing that news?

HUTCHINSON: Around the time that I understand the A.P. article went live, I remember hearing noise coming from down the hallway, so I poked my head out of the office, and I saw the valet walking towards our office.

He had said, get the chief down to the dining room. The president wants him. So, Mark went down to the dining room, came back to the office a few minutes later.

After Mark had returned, I left the office and went down to the dining room and I noticed that the door was propped open and the valet was inside the dining room changing the tablecloth off of the dining room table.

He motioned for me to come in and then pointed towards the front of the room near the fireplace mantle and the TV where I first noticed there was ketchup dripping down the wall and there's a shattered porcelain plate on the floor. [13:59:46]

The valet had articulated that the president was extremely angry at the attorney general's A.P. interview and had thrown his lunch against the wall. Which was causing them to have to clean up.

So, I grabbed a towel and started wiping the ketchup off the wall to help the valet out.