Following a Jan. 6, 2021 speech to thousands of his supporters in Washington, former President Donald Trump angrily demanded that his staff take him to the U.S. Capitol to press his efforts to block the certification of his election loss to Joe Biden, a former White House aide testified Tuesday.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows, testified before the House Jan. 6 committee Tuesday that when his staff informed the then-president that they would be returning to the White House instead of driving to the Capitol, Trump grew irate, and lunged for the steering wheel to the presidential limousine, which was commonly referred to as "The Beast."
Hutchinson, who was traveling in a separate vehicle in the motorcade, said she found Robert Engel, the head of Trump's security detail, "looking a little lost" back at the White House. Anthony M. Ornato, the former White House chief of operations, was also there, and told Hutchinson what had transpired on the drive back from the rally to the White House.
"He'd said, 'Did you effing hear what happened in the Beast?'" Hutchinson said. "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 as the president had gotten into the vehicle with Bobby, he thought that they were going up to the Capitol, and when Bobby had relayed to him that '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 [a] very strong, very angry response to that. Tony described him as being irate. The president said something to the effect of 'I'm the effing president. Take me up to the Capitol now!' To which Bobby responded, 'Sir, we have to go back to the West Wing.'"
Earlier in her testimony, Hutchinson described how White House lawyers had refused to sign off on a plan for Trump to travel "off-the-record," and drive from the rally to the Capitol, saying that this departure from the president's official schedule would result in them getting "charged with every crime imaginable.”
Trump, however, was undeterred, and escalated the situation inside the limousine, Hutchinson testified.
"The president reached up to the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel. Mr. Engel grabbed his arm, 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 toward Bobby Engel, and when Mr. Ornato had recounted this story to me, he motioned to his clavicles."
Engel, who had been listening to Ornato's retelling of events, did not correct any part of the account, Hutchinson said.
In a statement posted Tuesday to social media, Trump said he "hardly" knew "who this person, Cassidy Hutchinson" was, adding that she was "bad news!"
After Hutchinson detailed the scene in the limousine, Trump posted a second message on social media.
"Her Fake story that I tried to grab the steering wheel of the White House Limousine in order to steer it to the Capitol Building is 'sick' and fraudulent, very much like the Unselect Committee itself - Wouldn’t even have been possible to do such a ridiculous thing," Trump wrote. "Her story of me throwing food is also false…and why would SHE have to clean it up, I hardly knew who she was?"