Former President Donald Trump allegedly physically assaulted a Secret Service officer on Jan. 6 2021, when the president’s security detail refused to drive him to the Capitol to be with his supporters who planned to block the congressional certification of Joe Biden’s election victory, a former top White House aide told the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on Tuesday.
In explosive testimony, Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, told the panel that the former President desperately wanted to go to the Capitol on Jan. 6, despite dire warnings from White House lawyers.
According to Hutchinson, when Trump got in The Beast—the bullet-proof limousine that carries the president—following his infamous address whipping up his supporters, he demanded the officers take him to the seat of Congress. “I’m the effing president, take me up to the Capitol now,” Trump reportedly told his security detail.
When his lead security detail, Bobby Engel, told him they couldn’t because it was not secure, the “president had a very strong, very angry response,” Hutchinson testified that former Deputy Chief of Staff Tony Ornato told her. After Engel still refused, Trump tried to grab the steering wheel, Hutchinson said. After a Secret Service agent told him, “Sir you need to take your hand off the steering wheel,” he allegedly lunged at him and grabbed the agent’s throat.
The jaw-dropping scene was just one in a vivid portrait Hutchinson provided Tuesday of an unhinged president unwilling to relinquish power—and who had no compunction with his supporters turning violent to keep him in office.
Hutchinson testified that the president was “furious” on the morning of Jan. 6, 2021, when the rally space outside the Ellipse was not full. The Secret Service had informed the White House that many of his supporters did not want to enter because of the magnetometers—referred to as “mags”—that would detect weapons, which many of the rioters on that day had in their possession, including AR-15s and other kinds of firearms, knives, and spears.
Trump was unfazed. “I don’t f-cking care that they have weapons,” he told the Secret Service, according to Hutchinson. “They’re not here to hurt me. Take the f-cking mags away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.”
Hutchinson also testified about a moment that happened earlier, when the President heard that his Attorney General, William Barr, had told a reporter that he didn’t think there was widespread election fraud during the 2020 election. Hutchinson said she walked into the dining room outside the Oval Office and noticed ketchup dripping from the walls and broken plates on the floor.
She also shared with the panel the intense discussions inside the West Wing, trying to thwart the president or anyone on staff from going up to the Capitol building on Jan. 6. She testified that White House counsel Pat Cipollone told her, “We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable,” and told her to try to prevent Trump and her direct superior, Meadows, from traveling to the Capitol.
The criminal charges that concerned him, Hutchinson said, was obstruction of a congressional proceeding and intent to defraud the U.S. Congress.
Toward the end of the hearing, Hutchinson shared that both Meadows and Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, pursued presidential pardons for their activities leading up the Jan. 6 attack, adding to a growing list of the president’s associates who allegedly hoped he would grant them clemency after the attempted coup.
Before Tuesday, the committee had held five hearings throughout June. They have revealed how a number of White House advisers told the President that his claims of widespread voter fraud were baseless and that his attempts to overturn the election were legally unsound. One hearing highlighted Trump’s pressure campaigns on former Vice President Mike Pence to reject the congressional certification of the Electoral College. Another examined the experiences of state election officials in crucial swing states, who faced intense harassment by Trump supporters. The most recent hearing focused on efforts to pressure the Justice Department to aid in the administration’s efforts to nullify Biden’s election victory.
But since the first hearing on June 9, which garnered nearly 20 million viewers, the committee has amassed more information relevant to its findings, leading the members to plan at least one more hearing than originally planned and to consider scheduling even more to present new evidence to the public. “Every day, new stuff is coming out,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and a member of the panel, told TIME after the third hearing.
Last week, the panel announced it would take a two-week hiatus from the hearings to determine how to incorporate its newly unveiled information. But then, on Monday, the committee jolted Wasington by announcing a surprise hearing with less than 24 hours notice to “present recently obtained evidence and receive witness testimony.” By Tuesday morning, the panel announced the hearing would focus on testimony from Hutchinson, who had extensive access to Trump and his inner circle in the days and weeks leading up to the assault on the Capitol.
When the committee reconvences in July, it’s expected to pick up on a hearing led by Raskin and Rep. Stephanie Murphy, Democrat of Florida, on the extremist groups such as the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys who stormed the Capitol.
Tuesday’s hearing was one of the most incendiary thus far. “We can never let this man-child Trump ever become president again,” Rep. Ruben Gallego, Democrat of Arizona, told reporters outside the hearing.
Hutchinson’s testimony garnered a reaction that no other had received to date. As she exited the hearing room when the committee broke for a short recess, a crowd in the back applauded her.