The rioters were marching toward the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021; they had yet to breach the building where Congress was certifying the 2020 election, but Cassidy Hutchinson could tell they were getting close. The White House aide was growing increasingly frustrated as she tried to relay the urgency that the moment required of Mark Meadows, her boss and the then White House chief of staff, who had been sitting alone on his office couch in the West Wing, looking at his phone, for much of the afternoon. Both Meadows’s and Hutchinson’s desks were steps from the Oval Office.
“I started to get frustrated because I felt like I was watching a bad car accident that was about to happen — you can’t stop it, but you want to be able to do something,” Hutchinson, now 25, said Tuesday to the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol. “I remember thinking in that moment that Mark needs to snap out of this. I don’t know how, but he needs to care.”
Meadows was just one of several men who demanded that Hutchinson – a woman decades younger with far less power – relay their demands to one another and help solve problems. These included managing the president’s pronouncements that day and preventing his transport to the Capitol, while the advisors themselves seemed unable to stop events that had taken a dangerous turn. In revealing testimony Thursday, Hutchinson provided a moment-by-moment breakdown of January 6 from her unique vantage point within former President Donald Trump’s inner circle.
Hutchinson said the first time she remembered feeling “scared and nervous” about the potential violence was January 2 — days before the riot that left more than 100 Capitol police officers injured and led to the deaths of at least seven people. Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer at the time, was at the White House to meet with Meadows and others. Hutchinson said that while she was walking Giuliani out of the office later that evening, he mentioned his excitement for January 6. When asked why, Giuliani said it was going to be a “great day” because “we’re going to the Capitol.” When she told Meadows about her conversation with Giuliani, Hutchinson recalled Meadows responded: “There’s a lot going on, Cass. … Things might get real, real bad on January 6.”
In the morning of January 6, just before Hutchinson left for the Ellipse — a park south of the White House where Trump was scheduled to give a speech at noon — Pat Cipollone, then White House counsel, approached Hutchinson and said: “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.”
In the days leading up to January 6, Hutchinson said, she had spoken with Cipollone about concerns that such a move would look like the White House was obstructing the work of Congress and inciting a riot.
While in the off-stage tent on the Ellipse, Hutchinson said she overheard Trump demand that his supporters be allowed —with their weapons — into the event space. Hutchinson said the former president was upset that the event space did not look crowded enough in video footage and photos. At this point, Hutchinson said security had already confiscated tasers, knives, gas masks, batons, blunt weapons and mace from those voluntarily being inspected by standard metal detectors. And according to evidence from the House committee, U.S. Secret Service agents had already identified ballistic equipment, military grade backpacks and several men with AR-15 rifles in the growing crowd on the outskirts of the event space.
“I don’t care that they have weapons,” Hutchinson said she overheard Trump say repeatedly. He wanted the metal detectors taken away. “They’re not here to hurt me. Let my people in.”
When Trump took the stage, Hutchinson remained in the tent behind the stage, a location that made it difficult for her to hear what the former president was saying. It was then that she said she received a call from Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the House minority leader and longtime staunch Trump supporter.
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“He sounded rushed, but also frustrated and angry at me,” Hutchinson said in her testimony. “I was confused because I didn’t know what the president had just said. He then explained: ‘The president said he was marching to the Capitol. You told me this whole week you aren’t coming up here. Why would you lie to me?’”
Hutchinson assured McCarthy she wasn’t lying and they weren’t coming. McCarthy responded: “He just said it onstage, Cassidy. Figure it out. Don’t come up here.”
When she got back to the White House, Hutchinson testified, Anthony Ornato, the White House chief of operations, waved her into his office and shut the door. Inside, sitting in a chair looking “discombobulated and a little lost,” was one of Trump’s security detail agents. Ornato told Hutchinson that Trump had tried to take hold of the steering wheel and lunged at a Secret Service agent in anger because they would not take the president to the Capitol.
Trump was back at the White House following his speech, and those inside the West Wing that afternoon knew to steer clear of the president and his ire. Meadows, the president’s chief of staff, chose to stay alone in his office, Hutchinson said. He didn’t seem to react to reports of the rioters, despite Hutchinson’s attempts to get him to respond. A little after 2 p.m., Cipollone came “barrelling down the hallway,” opened Meadows’s office door and said the rioters had gotten to the Capitol and they needed to see the president immediately.
Meadows, still sitting with phone in hand, replied that Trump didn’t want to do anything.
“Mark, something needs to be done or people are going to die, and the blood is going to be on your fucking hands,” Cipollone responded, according to Hutchinson. Meadows stood up, gave Hutchinson both of his phones and made his way toward the Oval Office dining room.
Shortly after, Hutchinson received a phone call for Meadows. She said that when she brought him his phone, she overheard people in the dining room discussing the rioters’ “Hang Mike Pence” chant. A few moments later, Trump tweeted: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”
“As an American, I was disgusted,” Hutchinson said, recalling when she read that tweet. “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 to digest knowing what I had been hearing down the hall.”
Hutchinson described three camps of people in the West Wing that day. One group, including Ivanka Trump, was urging Trump to take immediate and swift action. A second, more neutral group of advisors, was toeing the line between remaining silent and encouraging Trump to condemn the riots. The last group, Hutchinson said, was encouraging Trump to deflect and blame antifa, trying to pin the blame on far-left militant groups often scapegoated by the right. She considered Meadows to be in the last group, she said, and he later sought a presidential pardon related to the events of January 6.
The following day, Hutchinson said, advisers had to persuade Trump to put out another statement to condemn the violence and mention prosecuting rioters. But the former president maintained that they hadn’t done “anything wrong.” It wasn’t until the 25th Amendment was brought up that the president conceded, but he wasn’t happy about it, according to Hutchinson.
The president felt stymied by his aides, and vented his frustration on January 6 by throwing his lunch against the dining rom wall. This wasn’t something new, in Hutchinson’s experience. She had seen or heard the president lash out when he was displeased during her short tenure at the White House.
Hutchinson said she recalled several times in which she was aware that Trump threw dishes or pulled tablecloths off of tables in his anger. Most notably, she said, was on December 1, 2020, when the Associated Press published an article quoting then-Attorney General William Barr saying there was no widespread election fraud in the 2020 election.
“I remember hearing noise coming from down the hallway, so I poked my head out of the office and saw the valet walking toward our office,” Hutchinson said of that day in 2020. “He had said, ‘Get the chief down to the dining room; the president wants him.’”
Meadows left and returned a few minutes later before Hutchinson said she walked toward the dining room. The door was propped open and she saw the valet was changing the tablecloth, ketchup was dripping down the wall and a shattered porcelain plate was on the floor.
Without being asked, she did what generations of women aides would have been expected to do.
“I grabbed a towel and started wiping the ketchup off the wall.”