Trump tried to grab wheel of presidential car to join crowd on march to US Capitol, committee told

Aide says former president was told crowd on January 6th was armed but did not care

Former US president Donald Trump was so anxious to join his supporters at Capitol Hill on the day of the riots on January 6th last year, he lunged at the wheel of his vehicle and put his hand on the throat of his protection officer, a former White House aide has testified.

Cassidy Hutchinson on Tuesday told a congressional committee hearing into the January 6th attack on the Capitol that Mr Trump had been informed that some of those in the crowd on that day were armed before he went to address them at a rally.

She said Mr Trump did not care. She said Mr Trump had wanted metal detectors — known colloquially as “mags” — removed from the site of the rally. She said he was angry the size of the crowd was being diminished because some would not go through the detectors as they were carrying weapons.

Ms Hutchinson said she was in the vicinity of a conversation where she overheard the president say something to the effect of: “You know, 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 to the Capitol from here. Let the people in. Take the f***ing mags away.’”

Ms Hutchinson was a key aide for the former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

She said Mr Meadows had said of Mr Trump as his supporters attacked the Capitol on January 6th: “He doesn’t want to do anything,”

She said that as Trump supporters were chanting “hang Mike Pence” while they attacked the Capitol building, Mr Meadows told a top White House lawyer that the former president thought “Mike deserves it” and that the rioters had not done anything wrong.

She said Anthony Ornato, former White House chief of operations, warned Mr Meadows on January 6th that the crowd had knives, guns, bear spray, body armour, spears and flagpoles. She said Mr Meadows did not look up from his phone, but asked Mr Ornato whether he had informed the president. Mr Ornato said he had, she said.

Ms Hutchinson said White House counsel Pat Cipollone had serious legal concerns about Mr Trump marching to the Capitol on January 6th after his rally.

She said Mr Cipollone had told her: “We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable.”

Ms Hutchinson gave evidence that Mr Trump had wanted to join his supporters in marching to the Capitol where Congress was scheduled to certify that Joe Biden had won the 2020 presidential election. She said Mr Ornato had told her that when the president departed in his motorcade from his rally on January 6th, he believed he was going to the Capitol.

She said when Mr Trump learned this was not happening, he became very angry.

She said Mr Trump had said: “I’m the f***ing president; take me up to the Capitol now.”

She said he tried to grab the steering wheel of the presidential vehicle and when the leader of his secret service detail intervened, he put his other hand on the agent’s throat.

Ms Hutchinson also gave evidence that Mr Trump was furious when his former attorney general Bill Barr had given an interview saying there was no fraud in the election.

She said a White House valet had told her Mr Trump had thrown his lunch against the wall. She said she noticed there was ketchup dripping down the wall of the White House presidential dining room and there was a shattered plate on the floor.

Ms Hutchinson also said Mr Meadows had sought a presidential pardon from Mr Trump before he left office.

The vice-chairwoman of the congressional committee investigating the January 6th attack, Republican Liz Cheney, alleged that Trump allies had been intimidating witnesses as they prepared to give evidence.

Mr Trump denied the allegations made by Ms Hutchinson that he had tried to take control of the presidential limousine in a bid to join his supporters at the Capitol on January 6th.

He also rejected that he had urged security staff to remove metal detectors to allow supporters with guns to attend his rally on the day.

He said he hardly knew Ms Hutchinson but had been told “very negative things” about her.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent