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CNN Live Event/Special

Former White House Aide Testifies At The January 6th Hearing. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired June 28, 2022 - 14:30   ET



REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): We're not doing anything wrong, and that, quote, "Mike deserved it," helps us to understand why the president did not ask the rioters to leave the Capitol for multiple hours. In fact, he put this tweet out at 2:24 p.m.

Miss Hutchinson, do you recall seeing this tweet, in which the president said the vice president did not have the courage to do what needed to be done?


CHENEY: Miss Hutchinson, what was your reaction when you saw this tweet?

HUTCHINSON: As a staffer that worked to always represent the administration to the best of my ability and to showcase the good things that he had done for the country, I remember feeling frustrated, disappointed, and really it felt personal. I was really sad.

As an American, I was disgusted. It was unpatriotic. It was un- American. We were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie, and it was something that was really hard in that moment to digest, knowing what I've been hearing down the hall and the conversations that were happening. Seeing that tweet come up and knowing what was happening on the Hill, and it's something that I -- it's still -- I still struggle to work through the emotions of that.

CHENEY: Miss Hutchinson, we have also spoken to multiple other White House staff about their reaction to Donald Trump's 2:24 tweet condemning Mike Pence for not having the courage to refuse to count electoral votes, an act that would have been illegal.

Matthew Pottinger, a former Marine intelligence officer who served in the White House for four years, including as deputy national security adviser, was in the vicinity of the Oval Office at various points throughout the day. When he saw that tweet, he immediately decided to resign his position.

Let's watch him describe his reaction to the president's tweet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEW POTTINGER, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: One of my staff brought me a printout of a tweet by the president, and the tweet said something to the effect that Mike Pence, the vice president, didn't have the courage to do what he -- what should have been done. I read that tweet and made a decision at that moment to resign. That's where I knew that I was leaving that day once I read that tweet.


CHENEY: Ultimately, members of the White House staff, Sarah Matthews, Cabinet members Secretary Chao and Secretary DeVos resigned as well. Here is Secretary DeVos's resignation letter. As you can see, in resigning on January 6th, Secretary DeVos said to the president, quote, "There's no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me."

Let's also look at Secretary Chao's resignation statement. When Secretary Chao resigned, she spoke of the January 6th attack and she said, quote, "As I am sure is the case with many of you, this has deeply troubled me in a way I simply cannot set aside."

Miss Hutchinson, in our prior interviews, we've asked you about what the president's advisers were urging him to do during the attack. You've described roughly three different camps of thought inside the White House that day. Can you tell us about those?

HUTCHINSON: There was a group of individuals that were strongly urging him to take immediate and swift action. I would classify the White House Counsel's Office, Mr. Herschmann, Miss Ivanka Trump in that category of really working to get him to take action and pleading with him to take action. There was a more neutral group where advisers were trying to toe the line, knowing that Mr. Trump didn't necessarily want to take immediate action and condemn the riots, but knowing something needed to be done. And then there was the last group, which was deflect and blame. Let's blame Antifa. These aren't our people.


It's my understanding that Mr. Meadows was in the deflect and blame category, but he did end up taking a more neutral route, knowing that there were several advisers in the president's circle urging him to take more action, which I think was reflected in the rhetoric released later that day in the videos.

CHENEY: You told us that the White House Counsel's Office was in the camp encouraging the president to tell the rioters to stop the attack and to leave the Capitol. Let's listen.


HUTCHINSON: White House Counsel's Office wanted there to be a strong statement out to condemn the rioters. I'm confident in that.


CHENEY: Now let's look at just one example of what some senior advisers to the president were urging.

Miss Hutchinson, could you look at the exhibit that we're showing on the screen now? Have you seen this note before?

HUTCHINSON: That's a note that I wrote at the direction of the chief of staff on January 6th, likely around 3:00.

CHENEY: And it's written on a chief of staff note card, but that's your handwriting, Miss Hutchinson?

HUTCHINSON: That's my handwriting.

CHENEY: And why did you write this note?

HUTCHINSON: The chief of staff was in a meeting with Eric Herschmann and potentially Mr. Philbin, and they had rushed out of the office fairly quickly. Mark had handed me the note card with one of his pens, and sort of dictating a statement for the president to potentially put out.

CHENEY: And -- no, I'm sorry. Go ahead.

HUTCHINSON: That's OK. There are two phrases on there, one illegal and then one without proper authority. The illegal phrase was the one that Mr. Meadows had dictated to me. Mr. Herschmann had chimed in and said also put without legal authority. There should have been a slash between the two phrases. It was an or if the president had opted to put one of those statements out. Evidently he didn't.

Later that afternoon, Mark came back from the Oval dining room and put the palm card on my desk with illegally crossed out, but said we didn't need to take further action on that statement.

CHENEY: So, to your knowledge, this statement was never issued.

HUTCHINSON: It was -- to my knowledge, it was never issued.

CHENEY: And Miss Hutchinson, did you understand that Ivanka Trump wanted her father to send people home?

HUTCHINSON: That's my understanding, yes.

CHENEY: Let's play a clip of you addressing that issue.


HUTCHINSON: I remember her saying at various points, you know, she wants him -- she wanted her dad to send them home. She wanted her dad to tell them to go home peacefully, and she wanted to include language that he necessarily wasn't on board with at the time.


CHENEY: You will hear more about this at our later hearings, but we have evidence of many others imploring Donald Trump and Mark Meadows to take action. Here is some of that evidence, text messages sent to Mark Meadows during the attack.

This is a text message at 2:32 from Laura Ingraham, "Hey, Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home." In the next message, "This is hurting all of us." And then, "He's destroying his legacy and playing into every stereotype. We lose all credibility against the BLM-Antifa crowd if things go south."

The president's son, Don Jr., also urgently contacted Mark Meadows at 2:53. He wrote, "He's got to condemn this shit ASAP. The Capitol Police tweet is not enough."

As you will see, these are just two of the numerous examples of Trump supporters and allies urging the president to tell his supporters to leave the Capitol. It would not have been hard for the president to simply walk down to the briefing room a few feet down the hall from the Oval Office, as Norah O'Donnell noted during an interview with House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, where Leader McCarthy said he believed the attack was un-American.


NORAH O'DONNELL, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: I want to quickly bring in Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader.

Leader McCarthy, do you condemn this violence?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I completely condemn the violence in the Capitol. What we're currently watching unfold is un-American. I am -- I'm disappointed. I'm sad. This is not what our country should look like. This is not who we are. This is not the First Amendment. This has to stop and this has to stop now.

O'DONNELL: Leader McCarthy, the president of the United States has a briefing room steps from the Oval Office. It is -- the cameras are hot 24/7, as you know. Why hasn't he walked down and said that now?


MCCARTHY: I conveyed to the president what I think is best to do, and I'm hopeful the president will do it.


CHENEY: Republican House member Mike Gallagher also implored the president to call off the attack.


REP. MIKE GALLAGHER (R-WI): Mr. President, you have got to stop this. You are the only person who can call this off. Call it off. The election is over. Call it off. This is bigger than you. It's bigger than any member of Congress. It is about the United States of America, which is more important than any politician. Call it off. It's over.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHENEY: Despite the fact that many people close to Donald Trump were urging him to send people home, he did not do so until later, much later. At 4:17 pm., Donald Trump finally told the rioters to go home and that he loved them. Here's a portion of the video President Trump recorded from the White House.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: We have to have peace, so go home. We love you. You're very special. You've seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel, but go home and go home in peace.


CHENEY: But as we will show in even greater detail in future hearings, Donald Trump was reluctant to put this message out and he still could not bring himself to condemn the attack.

Miss Hutchinson has told us that, too.


CHENEY: The one that he put out at 4:17?

HUTCHINSON: I'm sure you've discussed it. And just to elaborate if I hadn't already, at that point I recall him being reluctant to film the video on the 6th. I was not involved in any of the logistics or the planning for that video. I just remember seeing the video go out and feeling a little shocked after it went out.


CHENEY: On the evening of January 6th and the day after the president's family and his senior staff and others tried to encourage the president to condemn the violence and commit to the peaceful transition of power. At 3:31 p.m. on January 6th, Sean Hannity of FOX News texted Mark Meadows. Mr. Hannity said, quote, "Can he make a statement? I saw the tweet. Ask people to leave the Capitol."

Later that evening Mr. Hannity sent another text message to Mark Meadows. This time he shared a link to a tweet. That tweet reported that President Trump's Cabinet secretaries were considering invoking the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from office.

As you can see on the screen, the 25th Amendment to the Constitution creates a process for the transition of power if a president is unfit or unable to serve. The 25th Amendment has never been used to remove a president. But the committee has learned that after the attack on the U.S. Capitol this was being discussed by members of President Trump's Cabinet as a way of stripping the full power of the presidency from Donald Trump.

President Trump's supporters were worried. In addition to the tweet that he sent Mark Meadows after the attack, Sean Hannity apparently spoke with President Trump and warned him about what could happen. We understand that this text message that Sean Hannity sent to Kayleigh McEnany on January 7th shows what Mr. Hannity said to the president. First, no more stolen election talk. Second, impeachment and 25th Amendment are real. Many people will quit.

Miss Hutchinson, you told us that you were hearing about discussions related to the 25th Amendment. Here's part of what you said.


HUTCHINSON: Mr. Pompeo reached out to have the conversation with Mr. Meadows in case he hadn't heard the discussions amongst Cabinet secretaries. And from what I understand it was more of, this is what I'm hearing, I want you to be aware of it, but I also think it's worth putting on your radar because you are the chief of staff. You're technically the boss of all the Cabinet secretaries.

And, you know, if the conversations progressed you should be ready to take action on this. Like I'm concerned for you and your positioning with this. Reach out to me if you have any questions or, like, if I can be helpful with you at all.



CHENEY: Inside the White House the president's advisers, including members of his family, wanted him to deliver a speech to the country. Deputy White House counsel Pat Philbin prepared the first draft of what would be the president's remarks on national healing, delivered via pre-taped video on January 7th. When he arrived at the White House on the 7th, Mr. Philbin believed that more needed to be said. So he sat down and started writing.

He shared the draft with Pat Cipollone, who also believed the president needed to say more. Mr. Cipollone agreed with the content as did Eric Herschmann, who reviewed the draft. The committee has learned that the president did not agree with the substance as drafted and resisted giving a speech at all.

Miss Hutchinson, do you recall discussions about the president's speech on January 7th?


CHENEY: Let's listen, Miss Hutchison, to what you told us about that and about the process of crafting those remarks.


HUTCHINSON: I learned from a conversation with Mark and overhearing between him and the White House Counsel and Eric Herschmann as well that Trump didn't necessarily think he needed to do anything more on the 7th than what he had already done on the 6th. When he was convinced to put out a video on the 7th he -- I understand that he had a lot of opinions about what the context of that announcement were to entail. I had original drafts of the speech where, you know, there were --

several lines didn't make it in there about prosecuting the rioters or calling them violent. He didn't want that in there. He wanted to put in there that he wanted to potentially pardon them. And this is just with the increased emphasis of his mindset at the time which was he didn't think that they did anything wrong. He -- the people who did something wrong that day or the person who did something wrong that day was Mike Pence by not standing with him.


CHENEY: But the president's advisers urged him to give the speech.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who convinced him to do the video on the 7th?

HUTCHINSON: I'm not sure who convinced him or if it was a group of people that convinced him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who was in the group that you're aware of?

HUTCHINSON: That I'm aware of, Mark, Ivanka, Jared Kushner, Eric Herschmann, Pat Cipollone, Pat Philbin. Those are the people that I'm aware of.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know why that group of people thought it was necessary for him to release a statement?

HUTCHINSON: I believe Kayleigh McEnany as well. From what I understood at the time and from what the reports were coming in there was a large concern of the 25th Amendment potentially being invoked and there were concerns about what would happen in the Senate if it was -- if the 25th was invoked. So the primary reason that I had heard other than, you know, we did not do enough on the 6th, we need to get a stronger message out there and condemn this. Otherwise this will be your legacy.

The secondary reasons to that was, you know, think about what might happen in the final 15 days of your presidency if we don't do this. There's already talks about invoking the 25th Amendment. You need this as cover.


CHENEY: The president ultimately delivered the remarks. Unlike many of his other speeches, he did not adlib much. He recited them without significant alteration except one. Even then on January 7th, 2021, the day after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, the president still could not bring himself to say, quote, "But this election is now over."

One other point about the speech, Miss Hutchinson, did you hear that Mr. Trump at one point wanted to add language about pardoning those who took part in the January 6th riot?

HUTCHINSON: I did hear that, and I understand that Mr. Meadows was encouraging that language as well.

CHENEY: Thank you. And here's what you told us previously about that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said he's instructed not to include it. Who was instructing him not to include language about the pardon in that January 7th speech?

HUTCHINSON: I understood from White House Counsel's Office coming to our office that morning that they didn't think that it was a good idea to include that in the speech.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That being Pat Cipollone?

HUTCHINSON: That's correct. And Eric Herschmann.


CHENEY: Miss Hutchinson, did Rudy Giuliani ever suggest that he was interested in receiving a presidential pardon related to January 6th?


CHENEY: Miss Hutchinson, did White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows ever indicate that he was interested in receiving a presidential pardon related to January 6th?


HUTCHINSON: Mr. Meadows did seek that pardon. Yes, ma'am.

CHENEY: Thank you, Miss Hutchinson. Mr. Chairman, I yield back.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): I want to thank our witness for joining us today. The members of the Select Committee may have additional questions for today's witness and we ask that you respond expeditiously in writing to those questions.

Without objections, members will be permitted 10 business days to submit statements for the record, including opening remarks and additional questions for the witness.

Without objection the chair recognizes the vice chair for a closing statement.

CHENEY: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I want to begin by thanking Miss Hutchinson for her testimony today. We are all in her debt. Our nation is preserved by those who abide by their oaths to our Constitution. Our nation is preserved by those who know the fundamental difference between right and wrong. And I want all Americans to know that what Miss Hutchinson has done today is not easy. The easy course is to hide from the spotlight, to refuse to come forward, to attempt to downplay or deny what happened. That brings me to a different topic. While our committee has seen many

witnesses, including many Republicans, testify fully and forthrightly this has not been true of every witness. And we have received evidence of one particular practice that raises significant concern. Our committee commonly asks witnesses connected to Mr. Trump's administration or campaign whether they've been contacted by any of their former colleagues or anyone else who attempted to influence or impact their testimony.

Without identifying any of the individuals involved, let me show you a couple of samples of answers we received to this question.

First, here is how one witness described phone calls from people interested in that witness' testimony. Quote, "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, you know, I'll continue to stay in good graces in Trump world. And they have reminded me a couple of times that Trump does read transcripts. And just keep that in mind as I proceed through my interviews with the committee."

Here's another sample in a different context. This is a call received by one of our witnesses. Quote, "A person let me know you have your deposition tomorrow. He wants me to let you know he's thinking about you. He knows you're loyal and you're going to do the right thing when you go in for your deposition."

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, carefully considering our next steps.

Mr. Chairman, thank you. I yield back.

THOMPSON: Gentlewoman yields back.

Miss Hutchinson, thank you. Thank you for doing your patriotic duty and helping the American people get a complete understanding of January 6th and its causes. Thank you for your courage in testifying here today. You have the gratitude of this committee and your country. I know it wasn't easy to sit here today and answer these questions.

But after hearing your testimony in all its candor and detail, I want to speak directly to the handful of witnesses who have been outliers in our investigation. The small number who have defied us outright, those whose memories have failed them again and again on the most important details, and to those who fear Donald Trump and his enablers.

Because of this courageous woman and others like her, your attempt to hide the truth from the American people will fail. And to that group of witnesses, if you've heard this testimony today and suddenly you remember things you couldn't previously recall, or there are some details you'd like to clarify, or you discovered some courage you had hidden away somewhere, our doors remain open. [14:55:02]

The Select Committee will reconvene in the weeks ahead as we continue to lay out our findings to the American people. The chair requests those in the hearing room to remain seated until the Capitol Police have escorted the witness and members from the room.

Without objection, the committee stands adjourned.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Only 25 or 26 years old, Cassidy Hutchinson exploded the lies and the myths that the Trump team have been perpetuating for more than a year now about what they knew, when they knew it and how significant January 6th actually was.

Today in her testimony, this former loyal Trump White House official made it very clear that, if you believe her testimony, many people in the White House thought that what Donald Trump was conspiring to do on that day was criminal and that what he attempted to do in terms of lunging at his own Secret Service agents to have forced them to drive him to Capitol Hill to impede the electoral vote count was unhinged.

This is an individual who had control of the nation's nuclear weapons for four years, and possibly could again.

Abby Phillip, it was very interesting there, the chairman of the committee, Bennie Thompson, saying, basically to anybody who had not participated yet as a witness, the train of history and decency is leaving the station right now, time to get on board.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's the whole point of what Cassidy Hutchinson was doing today. It wasn't just about Trump but it was all the many people who enabled him and she really -- I mean, her former boss who she worked for loyally was kind of at the heart of the corruption here, the people who watched Trump do unethical, criminal, in her words, un-American things and did absolutely nothing, and where this hearing ended I think is really important.

People seeking pardons. We heard about members of Congress but we also heard today about Mark Meadows and about Giuliani wanting pardons because they knew they were willing to do anything, even to the point of criminality because they worked for the one guy who could get them out of it with a presidential pardon. And that is really I think what is going on with all of these people. They were willing to do anything because they thought that Trump would bail them out.

TAPPER: The only issue I would take with what you said is you said they were willing. And if you --

PHILLIP: They are --

TAPPER: They are willing because, Jamie Gangel, one of the things that the vice chair of the committee, Liz Cheney, noted was alleged witness tampering, the kind of messages you might expect from Don Vito Corleone in the "Godfather," not necessarily from a former president of the United States. Hey, we're keeping an eye on you, we know you're going to be loyal.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So this is something that I know the committee has been targeting over and over, and that is obstruction of justice, witness tampering. Laura will be able to talk more about it, but I know from talking to Vice Chair Cheney for months and months now, that they have had evidence that Trump was pressuring witnesses. They brought it out today in the committee.

I just want to say one last thing, big picture. Liz Cheney began her final comments by saying that we are in debt to Cassidy Hutchinson. I think America and democracy is in debt to this young woman.

TAPPER: So let me ask you a question because those alleged examples of witness tampering were phrased the way -- look, I grew up in a certain section of Philadelphia where I've heard things like this reported in the newspaper. It's a nice restaurant you have here, it'd be a shame if anything happened to it, kind of thing. No direct threat, an implicit threat reminded me very much of Donald Trump reads transcripts, he knows you're going to be loyal. Is that actual proof?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it is circumstantially part of the whole thing of the idea of a conspiracy. There are other people who were involved, it's being directed by Donald Trump, for example. Remember, we heard Michael Cohen who said that he essentially does things, it's intimated by the president. It's not actually said outright about these things.

But what's shocking to me about is that she's willing to make these statements but people like Michael Flynn are pleading the Fifth for things like, do you believe in the peaceful transition of power? Now how is the answer to that question going to incriminate you? Which is what the Fifth is supposed to be for. Do you believe that it's morally or legally justified to have attacked the Capitol? A minute 36 seconds go by, I guess he has that moment of who's watching, who's listening, who's reading these transcripts. And even then --

PHILLIP: And he's under oath.

COATES: Yes, under oath.

PHILLIP: I mean, he can't really lie.

COATES: And saying these things -- well, he could lie. In the past, you're absolutely right. But you look at this and say, how much more proof and evidence does one need to suggest and confirm that the official proceeding was not just electoral account, they tried to obstruct multiple times, including the January 6th Committee hearings themselves.