Trump wanted to march to Capitol and lead coup attempt directly, aide testifies
Then-President Donald Trump gives a clenched-fist salute to his assembled mob on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. Moments later, he sent them off marching toward the Capitol. Testimony now reveals Trump planned to go with them and walk into the House chamber himself to overturn the 2020 election results. | Jacquelyn Martin / AP

WASHINGTON—The violence the nation saw on its television screens on Jan. 6, 2021, was enough to conclude that an attempted coup was underway that day. But the bombshell testimony of former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson before the House Select Committee on Tuesday—which revealed Donald Trump’s behavior behind the scenes—painted an even more graphic scene of a man determined to overthrow the government.

Hutchinson’s revelations showed just how far Trump was willing to go in embracing fascist-like tactics to toss out the results of the 2020 election—democracy and the Constitution be damned.

That day, the then-Oval Office occupant was not only aware that the mob he had gathered was armed, but he also tried to clear the way for it to proceed with weapons to the U.S. Capitol undetected. Backed by his ragtag army of MAGA stormtroopers, he even discussed walking onto the floor of the House chamber himself to stop the certification of his election loss.

Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, arrives to testify as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, June 28, 2022. | Jacquelyn Martin / AP

Trump blew up at his staff and security detail twice on Jan. 6. One of his explosions was sparked by the Secret Service denying his demand to go to the Capitol to again address the mob after his initial rally speech. His security team argued it would be a risk, defied his orders, and began driving him back to the White House.

Enraged, Trump ordered the vehicle to be turned around. Yelling out, “I’m the fucking president!” Trump actually lunged at his driver and wrestled for the steering wheel of the presidential limo, called “The Beast,” but lost. He was returned to the West Wing, where, between more outbursts, he watched the insurrection unfold live on television.

Before the incident in The Beast, Trump had already lashed out at security officials for not letting everyone who wanted to hear him speak before marching on the Capitol into the fenced-off area for the crowd, said Hutchinson, who served as a top aide to Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

Hutchinson’s inside-the-White-House testimony on June 28 also showed how single-minded Trump was in his tenacity to hang on to power, despite the danger in the Capitol, to the country, and to the Constitution. That dismayed and upset Hutchinson, the sole live witness at the congressional hearing.

As Trump waited to speak on Jan. 6, his team told him admitting everyone to his speech was a security risk. He profanely dismissed their concerns about insurrectionists armed with revolvers, spear-tipped flagpoles, lances, riot gear, bear spray, and—a police video showed—pistols, Glocks, and AR-15 semiautomatic rifles.

“I overheard the president say something to the effect of ‘I don’t fucking care that they have weapons,’” Hutchinson told the committee.

“They’re not here to hurt me!” a steaming Trump told aides and family members before marching out to speak to and whip up the crowd’s anger. “‘Take the fucking mags away,’” he ordered, referring to the magnetometers the Secret Service set up to detect and confiscate guns and other weapons.

“Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here. Take the fucking mags away.”

And Hutchinson added Trump’s top staffers, led by her boss, knew the day before of military warnings that chaos would hit. With few exceptions, they turned a deaf ear. One deaf ear, repeatedly, was that of her boss, Meadows.

Trump’s attitude egging on his legions and his anger at those—including top White House staffers, Cabinet members, Vice President Mike Pence, and even his own daughter—who opposed him never wavered, Hutchison told lawmakers.

“I remember feeling frustrated and disappointed” at her boss, Meadows, for not standing up for what was right, Hutchinson told committee vice-chair Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.

The Trump statement that triggered her reaction was when she overheard him agreeing with chants by the invaders—who were inside the Capitol by then—to “Hang Mike Pence!” because the vice president wouldn’t follow orders and reject key electoral votes swing states cast for his foe, Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

“As an American, I felt it was unpatriotic and un-American that we were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie,” that Trump won the 2020 election. “I still struggle with this.”

“You heard him,” one top Trump aide told Hutchison and another leading staffer. Of the invaders, “He (Trump) doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.”

It wasn’t the first time she’d seen him blow up. In December 2020, when watching Attorney General Bill Barr tell the Associated Press on television that there was no widespread voter fraud in the election, Trump responded angrily, throwing his lunch across the White House dining room and splattering the wall with ketchup. Smashed plates littered the floor, Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson is the closest Trump staffer to testify before the panel, which is probing not just Trump’s Jan. 6 attempt at a coup d’etat but the planning that went into it, Trump’s “Stop the steal!” Big Lie that produced it, and its aftermath—including continued voter suppression and election theft plotting by Trumpites to ensure their leader wins in 2024, no matter what.

She described three camps within the White House on how to deal with Jan. 6, including with advance warnings that events were about to blow up.

Insurrections loyal to Trump try to break through a police barrier at the Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. | John Minchillo / AP

One group, led by Trump General Counsel Pat Cipollone and later including Hutchinson, wanted to stop the chaos.  Cipollone was warning Trump, “People are going to die, and blood is going to be on your fucking hands.” Trump didn’t care and refused to listen

A second group was neutral. A third, including her boss, Meadows, wanted to blame so-called “antifa” protesters and the left. Hutchinson testified that he “almost had a lack of reaction” when he saw the mob storming into the Capitol.

At one point, Meadows planned to go over to the Willard Hotel, where a “war room” of top Trumpites, led by lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was crafting another alternative plan to keep Trump in the Oval Office. Meadows was talked out of it on the basis of optics, but joined that discussion by phone, Hutchinson testified. But he and Giuliani were both aware enough of their criminal actions in the coup attempt that they asked Trump for preemptive presidential pardons.

Throughout the insurrection, she said, Trump isolated himself, watching the invasion on TV and resisting all demands that he answer frantic phone calls from embattled lawmakers—and others—forced to run for their lives when the invasion occurred. Staffers pled with Trump to go to the White House press room, a few steps away, stand at the podium, and order the invaders to stop. He ignored them, Hutchinson said.

When staffers urged Meadows to go tell Trump to stop the insurrection, the chief of staff replied: “No, he wants to be alone right now,” Hutchinson said. And Meadows kept ignoring both Hutchinson and other staffers trying to give him information about what one called a threat to the Constitution, the country, and Trump’s legacy, too.

Other Trump staffers and Justice Department officials, up to and including former Attorney General Bill Barr and his successor, Acting A.G. Jeffrey Rosen, have come forward, quit, or both.

Cheney showed excerpts of resignation letters from Trump Education Secretary Elizabeth “Betsy” DeVos—a major Republican who hates unions and teachers—and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. Both quit after the invasion, citing his reaction.

In another video, Trump Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger told committee probers that when he learned on Jan. 6 of Trump’s anger and refusal to admit responsibility for the insurrection, he quit on the spot.

While Hutchinson is the top Trump insider—so far—to come forward, others, notably Giuliani, Hutchinson’s boss Meadows, and Trump consigliere Steve Bannon, have refused to testify. So has former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Giuliani and he were part of the “war room.”

Flynn repeatedly took the Fifth Amendment on the grounds that by doing so could incriminate himself. He did so even when Cheney asked the former military man if he believes the Constitution mandates a peaceful transfer of power.

Flynn had suggested another way Trump could retain power: Impose martial law and use the military to seize voting machines, then force a “recount,” especially in the key swing states, such as Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia.

Trump stayed angry, all day and the next day, at his staff, Pence, and the Secret Service, Hutchinson testified.

Even when staffers and family members bluntly said he should speak to the country the next day, and condemn the insurrectionists, Trump refused. Instead, said Hutchinson, Trump again wanted to condemn Pence for refusing to follow his orders about the electoral votes.

Police with guns drawn watch as rioters try to break into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. | J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Responding to Hutchinson’s testimony, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., chair of the House Progressive Caucus, was blunt on Tuesday evening. “Trump didn’t care if people died; he didn’t care if our democracy died,” she said. “All he cared about was stealing the election.”

Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisc., tweeted that Trump “knew dangerous weapons were headed to the Capitol. He knew Congress was the target. He said the VP deserved to be hung for upholding the Constitution. He attacked a member of the Secret Service. He incited an insurrection.”

Karen Hobert Flynn, president of the progressive group Common Cause, said attention must turn toward criminal charges. “The former president and his co-conspirators must be held accountable by the Justice Department and any other authority with jurisdiction, including by state or local officials where parts of this scheme were plotted and carried out.”

Lisa Gilbert of the advocacy organization Public Citizen said Hutchinson’s testimony “makes it absolutely clear that Donald Trump remains a danger to our democracy and to our nation.”

“What we said all along—that Trump represents a fascist danger—is being revealed live and in color,” Joe Sims, co-chair of the Communist Party USA, told People’s World. “And many with doubts are being convinced, including Hutchison, whose truth-telling has put her in mortal danger.” Sims warned that “recognizing the danger is not enough,” however, and said the country needs “concrete specific measures to combat the threat.”

With all the revelations that have come from the House investigation in Washington, Sims said that a political response to the ongoing danger is what’s been missing so far. “Action will speak louder than words. Demonstrate, strike, occupy! And the most important action is voting in November,” he said.

The committee will continue its hearings in July. Cheney said the next hearing will delve into pressure put on former top Trumpites not to testify or otherwise cooperate with Trump and against the investigation of the insurrection.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

C.J. Atkins
C.J. Atkins

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People's World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People's World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.