ASHEVILLE — Bombshell testimony from a former special assistant to Mark Meadows said the former White House chief of staff was aware of the possibility of the Capitol being attacked on Jan. 6 and that the marchers were armed, including with military grade rifles.
Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson told the House special committee on Jan. 6 on June 28 that her boss had been warned there could be violence in the legislative complex after President Donald Trump’s speech. Once the crowd had gathered, Meadows, a former congressman from western North Carolina who represented part of Asheville, was also informed that some of those gathered had firearms, such as AR- 15, although he showed little concern, Hutchinson said.
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Trump was also aware of the guns, but said those who brought guns were “not here to hurt me,” Hutchinson said at a public committee hearing originally scheduled not to meet in again before July, but hastily convened a sixth session to present it. new evidence.
Hutchinson was the only witness in the session, which also included video clips of previously undisclosed testimony she had given to committee investigators. The 25-year-old was the first White House employee to testify in person and said she and then-deputy chief of staff Tony Ornato went to talk to Meadows in his office on the morning of 6 January over serious weapons concerns.
Spears, knives, AR-15
Ornato, now assistant director of Secret Service training, listed bear bombs, oversized batons, flag poles, spears, knives, pistols, AR-15s and possibly other weapons , she said.
Meadows was sitting on her couch, looking at her phone, she said.
“I remember Mark hadn’t looked up from his phone,” Hutchinson said in a pre-recorded video played at the reunion.
“I said, ‘Mark, can you hear it?’ then Mark replied, “Okay, anything else?” Still looking at his phone.
Hutchinson said she and Ornato looked at each other. When he finally looked up, Meadows said, “Have you spoken to the president? And Tony said, ‘Yes, sir. He knows too. “”
Meadows then said, “‘Okay, fine,'” according to Hutchinson.
Meadows spokesman Ben Williamson did not respond to a June 28 message seeking comment.
Elected in 2012 from the 11th District, Meadows represented WNC and part of Asheville until resigning in 2020 to work as Trump’s top aide. During and after the last election, he frequently raised the prospect of voter fraud, casting doubt on Joe Biden’s victory.
But Meadows is now facing a Bureau of State Investigation investigation into possible fraud after records showed him voting using a Macon County cellphone address, though he never seemed to live there.
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After:Mark Meadows removed from North Carolina voters roll in voter fraud probe
Trump fought with his security chief
Here are some of the other startling revelations from Hutchinson’s testimony about his former boss and his role in the deadly attack on the Capitol:
– That Meadows has asked for a pardon, one of a growing list of officials named as asking the president to shield them from potential lawsuits.
– After Trump, in his rally speech Jan. 6, told his supporters he was going to the Capitol with them, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy reached out to Hutchinson, confronting her and saying that Trump should not come.
– Meadows told the president he would work to get him to the Capitol with marchers after his Jan. 6 speech. When a security official told Trump he should return to the White House instead, the president fought with the security official over the wheel, then grabbed him by the throat.
– After the attack and Trump’s reluctance to intervene and refusal to convict it, cabinet secretaries considered invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office, declaring him unfit. CIA Director Mike Pompeo informed Meadows of this possibility.
– When White House President Pat Cipollone’s attorney said Meadows needed to get Trump to do something immediately to stop the Capitol invasion, Meadows replied, “He doesn’t want to do anything, Pat.” Meadows didn’t get up from his couch until Cipollone walked into the Oval Office.
– Meadows wanted to go to a Jan. 5 “war room” meeting at a hotel with Rudy Giuliani, attorney John Eastman and other Trump loyalists and key supporters of false claims that Joe Biden won the 2020 elections by fraud. He decided not to go after Hutchinson told him she didn’t think it was appropriate as chief of staff, despite calling a meeting, she said.
— When Cipollone pointed to the Capitol invaders’ chants of “hang Mike Pence,” saying the president needed to do more to defuse the situation and protect the vice president, Meadows responded that Trump thought Pence deserved it and that the insurgents didn’t do anything wrong.
– Those close to Trump fell into three groups: those who called for swift action to stop the invasion, those who took a neutral stance, and those who sought to deflect attention, blaming left-leaning groups . Meadows was among those calling for the diversion, though he ultimately acted more neutrally, Hutchinson said.
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‘The blood is gonna be on your effing hands’
Around 2 p.m. on Jan. 6, after Hutchinson said she saw on television that Trump supporters had fought with police and were near the Capitol gates, she returned to her boss. She said she found him sitting on his couch staring at his phone, as he had been during the morning, “just scrolling and typing.”
“I said, ‘Hey, are you watching TV, boss?’ He was like, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘The rioters are really closing in. Have you spoken to the president?'”
But Meadows said no, saying Trump “wanted to be alone right now.”
Hutchinson said she grew frustrated and felt like she was watching something that looked like “a serious car accident about to happen.”
“I remember thinking at that time, Mark has to get out of this and I don’t know how to get him out of this, but he has to care.”
She asked him if he knew the whereabouts of Ohio Representative Jim Jordan, a Trump supporter who had given a speech that day supporting the president’s election fraud allegations. Hutchinson urged Meadows to contact him and verify his safety.
Meadows said something to the effect of, “Okay, I’ll call him.”
It was less than two minutes later that Cipollone “ran down the hall,” asking if Meadows was in his office and saying the Capitol had been breached. It was then that White House counsel urged Meadows to contact the president and he refused.
Hutchinson recalled the conversation, saying Cipollone said something like “Mark, something has to be done or people are going to die and blood is going to be on your scared hands.”
He told Meadows the situation was “out of control” and he was going to talk to the president.
Meadows then got up, gave his two phones to Hutchinson, and walked with Cipollone. As he left, he told her, “Let me know if Jim calls.”
The possible consequences that Meadows could face are unclear. Although the House voted to hold him in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify before the select committee, the Justice Department did not decide to indict him because he has former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro and uncooperative Trump ally Steve Bannon. .
But after new evidence from the hearings, the department took further action, seizing Eastman’s phone and raiding the home of former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark. Federal agents also subpoenaed the Trump campaign from Georgia, Arizona and Michigan and Republican Party officials who, like Eastman, worked to supplant official voters in their states for Biden in a plot to change the electoral college tally in favor of Trump.
Joel Burgess has lived at the WNC for over 20 years, covering politics, government and other news. He has written award-winning stories on topics ranging from gerrymandering to police use of force. Do you have any advice? Contact Burgess at [email protected], 828-713-1095 or on Twitter @AVLreporter. Help support this type of journalism by subscribing to the Citizen Times.