Trump Ordered the Code Red

You're goddamn right he did.

I don’t know that I had ever heard of Cassidy Hutchinson before this afternoon. But her testimony before the House January 6 Committee was devastating for former President Trump, rather firmly establishing that he intended to egg on violence that day—and would have done more had the Secret Service not restrained him.

NPR (“Witness recalls Trump lunging for the wheel when told he couldn’t go to the Capitol“)

Former President Donald Trump intended to go to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, after his speech calling for his supporters to march there and became “irate” when told he couldn’t, according to testimony Tuesday from Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide.

Trump told the rally at the Ellipse that day he would go to the Capitol and Secret Service and National Security Council staff communicated about “clearing a route,” according to messages shown by the committee. In the communications, security personnel used the code name “Mogul” for Trump.

The president was under the impression that he would be taken to the Capitol following his speech, said Hutchinson, who was then a top aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

When he learned there were no security assets and Trump would have to return to the White House, the president grew “irate” and attempted to grab the steering wheel of “The Beast,” the president’s armored vehicle. Hutchinson did not witness the altercation, but heard it from others and those who were there did not dispute the account, she said.

“‘I am the effing president, take me up to the Capitol now!'” Hutchinson testified that Trump said.

Trump talked about walking to the Capitol, where he might give a speech or enter the House chamber. And when staff stopped those plans, Trump attempted to grab the steering wheel of the vehicle to direct it that way, she said.

Hutchinson also testified that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy contacted her during the rally and asked for her to make sure that Trump didn’t come to the Capitol.

Trump responded to Hutchinson’s testimony, posting on Truth Social, the social media platform he controls: “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.”

WaPo (“Trump lunged for steering wheel, Secret Service agent in bid to reach Capitol, former aide testifies“):

Cassidy Hutchinson, who was an aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, delivered explosive testimony Tuesday to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, offering startling details on the activities of President Donald Trump and those around him before the attack on the U.S. Capitol and on the deadly day itself.

They summarize the key revelations:

  • Meadows and Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s attorney, sought pardons related to their roles in the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, Hutchinson testified. She said Trump also expressed interest in pardoning the Capitol rioters.
  • Trump was so “irate” that he wasn’t being driven to the Capitol after his speech on the Ellipse on Jan. 6 that he attempted to grab the steering wheel of his limousine and lunged at a member of his Secret Service detail, Hutchinson testified, citing the account of a senior-ranking colleague.
  • Hutchinson described an outburst by Trump at his attorney general in which he threw dishes, leaving ketchup streaming down the wall.
  • Hutchinson testified that Trump was informed that attendees at a Jan. 6 rally near the White House were armed but that he still wanted security removed from the area and the crowd to march to the Capitol.
  • Hutchinson said that as violence increased at the Capitol, she witnessed White House counsel Pat Cipollone telling Meadows: “Mark, something needs to be done or people are going to die. The blood is going to be on your f—ing hands.”
  • Hutchinson recalled that Meadows told her days before insurrection that “things might get real, real bad” at the Capitol on that day.

POLITICO (“White House aide delivers shocking testimony about out-of-control Trump on Jan. 6“):

Minutes before Donald Trump took the stage at an Ellipse rally on Jan. 6, 2021, he urged the Secret Service to remove security magnetometers to let in people with weapons because “they’re not here to hurt me,” a former top White House aide told investigators on Tuesday.

Cassidy Hutchinson also testified to the Jan. 6 select panel that Trump intended to travel with his supporters at the rally to the Capitol, a progression that quickly became a violent mob. She also recalled hearing from two security officials — including Robert Engel, the head of the then-president’s Secret Service detail — that when Trump was told he’d be returning to the White House instead of going to the Capitol on Jan. 6, he lunged for the steering wheel of his vehicle and was physically restrained by Engel.

Hutchinson also said she heard firsthand worries about Trump potentially traveling to the Capitol to disrupt the certification of his loss from Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone. She testified that Cipollone warned against letting Trump travel to the Capitol that day in stark terms: If Trump did so, his White House counsel said, “we’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable,” from obstruction to fraud.

The former White House aide’s remarks portrayed Trump as spiraling into an increasingly manic rage as he continued his last-ditch effort to seize a second term he didn’t win. Hutchinson offered some of the gravest evidence yet of Trump’s awareness of the violent elements within his base that were ultimately unleashed against Congress — and his indifference to the ultimate result. And her testimony landed hard on the Hill, where some Republican lawmakers immediately pushed back.

Signs of Trump’s fury had been emerging for weeks, Hutchinson said, recalling that Trump once hurled a plate of food at the wall after his Justice Department batted down claims of widespread election fraud.

Hutchinson’s comments came in an explosive public hearing of the Jan. 6 select committee focused on her insights into the machinations by Trump, Meadows and their allies in the runup to Jan. 6. Her knowledge, informed by being present in nearly every meeting involving Meadows during the post-election period, have quickly propelled Hutchinson into a prominent role for Capitol riot investigators.

WaPo’s Amber Phillips assembles “All the bombshells Cassidy Hutchinson dropped about Trump and Jan. 6.” Here are here takeaways; the article itself explains each in some depth:

1. Trump knew his supporters had weapons — and encouraged them to march on the Capitol. And he tried to go, too.

2. Trump wrestled with Secret Security agent to go to the Capitol

3. Trump threw dishes — regularly

4. Trump didn’t want to call off the rioters

Peter Baker of the NYT provides the reasonable conclusion from all of this, citing an unlikely source:

“This is the smoking gun,” Solomon Wisenberg, a former deputy independent counsel in Ken Starr’s investigation that led to Bill Clinton’s impeachment, tells me. He says there’s no question that today’s hearing establishes a case for Trump’s criminal culpability on “seditious conspiracy charges.”

Whether Attorney General Garland concurs and will act on it are separate questions. But this is the first time that I’ve thought it remotely possible that the former president would face federal charges for his role.

FILED UNDER: US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. mistermix says:

    As Jennifer Rubin pointed out, she was the perfect witness. “you want a witness you looks almost pained to be there. who has color details that make her supremely credible. who had first hand access to events. who doesnt exaggerate her own role in the story. she checks all the boxes”

    11
  2. CSK says:

    The MAGAs are unanimous that Cassidy Hutchinson is a “scummy liar” who was bribed to say what she did.

    4
  3. James Joyner says:

    @mistermix: I pretty much reflexively disregard Rubin as an analyst but she’s right on this one.

    5
  4. CSK says:

    @Paul L.:
    He didn’t wrestle the steering wheel away from the driver, although he tried. He was restrained by another agent, whom he then attacked.

    11
  5. BugManDan says:

    This combined with the recently subpoened film by Alex Holder must be making the various players on Team Trump really sweat. Wonder if it will get Meadows, Cipollini, etc. to testify.

    One other thing of note is that a number of witnesses have been tampered with. Which was mentioned right at the end of the hearing.

    4
  6. Gustopher says:

    Trump responded to Hutchinson’s testimony, posting on Truth Social, the social media platform he controls: “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.”

    Mr. Trump is certainly welcome to testify in front of the committee.

    I am curious about the layout of the beast, and how an overweight man presumably in the back seat could get near the wheel, and wouldn’t mind hearing from the beast-driver on those matters.

    Some part of me suspects this never happened and was originally Trump’s bullshit claim to anyone who listened about how much he wanted to be at the capitol but the Secret Service prevented him. Glorifying his own story and making himself sound tough.

    5
  7. CSK says:

    @Gustopher:
    Engel confirmed to Hutchinson that it happened, according to her testimony.

    I can see Trump getting a rage-induced adrenaline rush.

    2
  8. Jc says:

    Great comparison, James. I can imagine Trump lunging for the wheel like Col. Jessup lunging at Tom Cruise lol. Would make for a great SNL bit. “Did you order the insurrection!?” “Your goddamn right I did!”

  9. Kurtz says:

    @Paul L.:

    He’s a verile man with the testosterone level
    of two 19 year olds. Little known fact: Saw Palmetto is sourced from Trump himself.

    Back in reality, nobody is saying he succeeded. We know, because he watched it unfold on TV. Trying to grab the wheel and failing doesn’t require a cape.

    Here’s a nickel’s worth of free advice: success as a contrarian requires considerable charm. There’s no shame in admitting that you don’t have enough of it, because very few people do.

    11
  10. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Paul L.:

    Paul, it is all coming apart for you, isn’t it? Are you having your Captain Queeg moment?

    7
  11. drj says:

    @Paul L.:

    Trump could testify under oath to set the record straight.

    Meadows, too!

    Until then, STFU.

    12
  12. Gustopher says:

    @Paul L.: I wouldn’t put too much faith in the steering wheel incident undermining Hutchingson’s testimony though

    Hutchinson did not witness the altercation, but heard it from others and those who were there did not dispute the account, she said.

    Presumably, whether the incident happened as dramatically described or not, the story can be confirmed to have been spread.

    Whether the committee should be taking public testimony about things that the witness did not witness is another matter, but her credibility would rest not on the steering wheel, but on whether people in the White House were sharing that story.

    3
  13. Scott says:

    @drj: This should be the standard response to all Trump’s bleatings.

    1
  14. drj says:

    @Paul L.:

    Obama ordered and authorized the IRS to target tea party groups.

    So you are saying that Trump – like Obama before him* – violated the law and is therefore unwilling to testify under oath?

    Got it.

    Lock him up!

    * Not what the Treasury Department’s inspector general actually found in 2017, i.e., during the Trump admminstration.

    12
  15. drj says:

    @Paul L.:

    I mean, if Obama didn’t want to testify because he was guilty, why, then, can’t Trump testify if he isn’t actually guilty?

    Do explain this to me, mister Big Brain.

    6
  16. Jen says:

    @Gustopher: It’s notable that Trump wasn’t in the limo version of The Beast, he was in the SUV version. Much closer proximity to the front wheel/driver in the SUV.

    8
  17. Gustopher says:

    @Jen: Good to know. Again, I’m merely curious about the logistics, rather than basing any estimate of Hutchinson’s credibility on it.

    She seemed very credible, and if someone wants to testify under oath or provide other evidence that contradicts what she testified to, that should happen. But what she testified to was not that this happened, but that she heard from Engel and others that this happened.

    I would be very amused if this became the detail that captured America’s attention to the coup attempt in all its details, and it was then discovered that it was a gross exaggeration designed to make Trump seem like a big man.

    2
  18. Jen says:

    @Gustopher: Ha, indeed. And I could see him doing that.

    I just saw it posted on Twitter that the Jan. 6 committee had already taken testimony from the Secret Service agents, and that they cannot suborn perjury, so it seems pretty likely that the committee had already heard about this incident.

  19. Gustopher says:

    @Jen: Also, I would petition that the smaller, SUV beast be referred to as la petite bête.

    3
  20. grumpy realist says:

    @Gustopher: Yes, the yammering of MAGA idiots complaining that the stories can’t possibly be used as evidence is because “it’s HEARSAY!” is delightful. Aside from the fact that there’s a lot of “hearsay” stuff that is, in fact, admittable as evidence (and a bane to everyone on that section of the Bar exam), I really really doubt that the House Committee is required to act under the standard rules of Evidence. After all, grand juries are not required to.

    1
  21. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Paul L.:
    Ha hah hah hah! This is what you’ve got left. God damn, I do love watching a MAGAt down to his last crumbs. You’re making me happy.

    10
  22. Michael Reynolds says:

    @grumpy realist:
    “Hearsay” like 100% of the claims of election fraud, each painstakingly debunked.

    4
  23. Jay L Gischer says:

    You know, a year ago, we noted that he said in his speech, “I’ll be there with you”, but he didn’t show up. A few of his supporters have expressed disappointment that he didn’t come.

    I’m a bit surprised he isn’t all “Hell yes, I fought to be there! Those are my loyal supporters, and I wanted to keep my word to them”.

    1
  24. CSK says:

    @Jay L Gischer:
    I assume you’re being sarcastic, since Trump views his fans as disposable commodities to be grifted from till they’re penniless.

    1
  25. @Paul L.:

    Whataboutism

    Yes, you are engaging in whataboutism.

    Were you looking for confirmation?

    10
  26. Jay L Gischer says:

    @CSK: Not really sarcastic. I really am a bit surprised by it. I’m a bit surprised that he hasn’t been on about this story for the last year, really. “I really wanted to be with you but SS would not allow it!” Stoke the fire.

    My guess is that he isn’t doing it because A) it makes him look weak, and B) counsel has advised him to not admit to it.

    One thing you can say about Trump is that he definitely pays attention to what lawyers say.

  27. Michael Reynolds says:

    The gun is smoking. Over to you, Merrick.

    4
  28. CSK says:

    @<a href="#comment-2707082″>Jay L Gischer:
    Trump listens to lawyers
    selectively. There were plenty telling him he lost the election, and that there wasn’t any fraud. He listened to John Eastman.

    2
  29. Kathy says:

    I seriously doubt “But I’m a lard-ass without enough strength in my tiny hands to swat a fly,” would qualify as a valid defense against assault.

    1
  30. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: Exactly! And it also explains why

    And her testimony landed hard on the Hill, where some Republican lawmakers immediately pushed back. [emphasis added]

    But who are you going to believe–a lying traitor who was there or a Congressperson hiding from the tour group in a closet?

    4
  31. grumpy realist says:

    @CSK: You’ve reminded me of one of the kerfuffles we had here in Chicago with Rod Blago and one of his initial lawyers–very elite, top-notch lawyer who finally walked off the case, saying: “I don’t insist that my clients take my advice, but I do insist that they at least listen to it!”

    (There was much chortling at my law firm when this comment showed up in the Chicago Trib article on the whole mess.)

    1
  32. Jay L Gischer says:

    @CSK: Well, you aren’t wrong. I’m trying to point out that if a lawyer says “doing X will get you charged and probably convicted” he doesn’t usually do X. I mean consider the concept of the “clean” call. Trump had memorized a bunch of rules for things he can say and not say, and didn’t break any of them, so in his mind, the call is not a problem.

    This is what I’m trying to get at.

    If Barr says, “The election wasn’t stolen, you lost” he’s not giving that kind of guidance, just relating consequential facts. Ignoring consequential facts is not something that lands you in jail, so Trump often does it.

    1
  33. gVOR08 says:

    Actually, I liked the story better when he was too chickenshit to go to the Capitol after inciting the crowd and saying he would. But I’ll take wanting to let armed people through security in exchange. If they weren’t armed*, it’s not because TFG didn’t try.

    *If you don’t count at least one pistol concealed carried and dropped, flagpoles used as clubs and sharpened as spears, bear spray, weapons stashed in nearby motels, and I have no idea what else. God bless DC gun laws, which I assume the Supremes just killed.

    1
  34. JohnSF says:

    @Gustopher:
    Also, can it please have “666” as a number plate.
    The world need this to happen!

    2
  35. JohnSF says:

    Trump:
    “I don’t f*cking care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me.”
    And Republican politicians will just look at their shoes and shuffle sideways?
    Republican voters would still vote for this man?
    Bloody hell.

    4
  36. DK says:

    @James Joyner:

    I pretty much reflexively disregard Rubin as an analyst but she’s right on this one.

    Jennifer Rubin’s analyses are on point, more often than not.

    6
  37. JohnSF says:

    @gVOR08:

    …DC gun laws, which I assume the Supremes just killed.

    In times to come, I fear some Supreme Court Justices may have sorrowful cause to reflect, briefly, upon the irony of that.
    My word, what I killed, killed me!

    3
  38. CSK says:

    @gVOR08:
    Trump probably expected to go to the Capitol and be greeted with hosannas by the adoring multitudes.

    1
  39. wr says:

    @Paul L.: Wow. This is just… sad.

  40. wr says:

    Just wondering… I seem to recall that before the hearings began there were some here who were saying they’d be useless, that no one would pay attention, that they wouldn’t make any difference, and that the Democrats were just wasting their time again.

    Can’t remember which commenters here were saying that… but I’m wondering if you still feel the same way.

    2
  41. JohnSF says:

    Oh Freud, how thou hast slipped:
    In a twitter comment thread (lost the url, sorry):

    “This evidence is just heresy.”

    2
  42. Kathy says:

    @JohnSF:

    It might be an honesty subroutine in the auto correct AI 🙂

  43. CSK says:

    Trump claims not to know Cassidy Hutchinson, but she’s a “liar and a ‘leaker’.” Also, he’s heard “bad things” about her.

    1
  44. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    You know, this makes sense from the perspective of a human baby: if he doesn’t know her, she doesn’t know him.

    If the day comes when we wake up to news that an arrest warrant has been issued for El Cheeto, well, that won’t make up for the last six years, but it might signal hope for the future.

    But best to hurry things up. If Benito isn’t convicted by January 2025, he won’t ever be.

    2
  45. Sleeping Dog says:

    @wr:

    Given the long sordid, miserable history of congressional hearings, there was no reason to be optimistic about this one. The difference is this committee up ended the typical hearing process and has conducted much more like a grand jury hearing.

    Everyone, except maybe the MAGAts and TFG is happy how this is turning out. And DeSantis is overjoyed.

    1
  46. DK says:

    @Sleeping Dog: The coming Trump-DeSantis fued is gonna be lit! You thought Bernie v Hillary 2016 was heated? Ain’t seen nothin yet.

    Zero change Trump lets DeSantis steal his thunder without a brawl. Pass the popcorn.

    4
  47. Gustopher says:

    @wr: Hearings are going better than I expected, but not as well as I hoped. Hasn’t punched through to the Fox crowd yet.

    Top stories on foxnews are:
    – defund the police leads to massive crime
    – pretending overturning Roe isn’t radically different from Europe
    – Teenagers are having wild parties and we’re not invited
    – some dead comedian
    – Trump lunged at Secret Service
    – Restrictive border policy led to smugglers and unsafe conditions where dozens died, very sad, we must restrict borders more.

    It’s getting traction, but slowly.

    1
  48. Michael Reynolds says:

    The hearings have made a difference. I no longer think Trump can win the nomination in 2024. I agree that this helps DeSantis, but I can’t believe Trump won’t go after him. And there’s Abbott.

  49. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @wr: Not really a topic of discussion in DeSantistan. Hot topic is how many babies have been saved by SCOTUS.

    As bad as Trump is—he’ll never be worse than the actual servants of Satan. This is the fundamental calculation that prevents self examination and reflection with these people.

    3
  50. gVOR08 says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I no longer think Trump can win the nomination in 2024. I agree that this helps DeSantis, but I can’t believe Trump won’t go after him.

    Which is kind of a shame. Trump did wonders for D turnout in 2020 and would again in ’24. I’d rather run against Trump than DeSantis. And if the GOP wins, DeSantis lacks Trump’s redeeming incompetence.

    But, we’re liberals, we’re supposed to do the right thing. Nailing Trump if we can is the right thing to do. And it ain’t just Trump. Nailing him puts down a marker that there are limits on what a Prez DeSantis, or Cruz, or Hawley can do.

    2
  51. DK says:

    @gVOR08: Trump can win the 2024 GOP primary and the presidency.

    He’s done worse than try to choke a Secret Service agent (mock a disabled reporter, collude with Russian cyberwar, tweet a White Power video, trash US war dead, cause mass death and record unemployment with his coronavirus lies and incompetence) and Republicans voters have stuck by him.

    Trump is more indictable after today but that’s it.

    7
  52. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @JohnSF: 😀

  53. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @wr: Don’t think I used the word useless, but I did say that they won’t make any difference and probably noted that I don’t care about Democrats wasting their time. I’ll still hold with won’t make any difference but would like to be wrong on that. And I will agree that some of what’s come up may improve the historic record, but I don’t think history was in any danger of misunderstanding what happened.

    1
  54. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: They were covering Hutchinson’s testimony live today, though, and that’s a shift from the earlier position of only carrying recaps (which I just assume would be carefully edited).

  55. James Joyner says:

    @wr:

    I seem to recall that before the hearings began there were some here who were saying they’d be useless, that no one would pay attention, that they wouldn’t make any difference, and that the Democrats were just wasting their time again.

    Can’t remember which commenters here were saying that… but I’m wondering if you still feel the same way.

    That was essentially my position 11 months ago, when it broke that Pelosi refused to sit any of the Republicans appointed by the Minority Leader. I believed that essentially nobody who voted for Trump in 2020 would see the process as legitimate and that therefore it would have very little impact on changing people’s minds about what happened. I also believed that we’d just see a bunch of witnesses taking the 5th unless broad immunity was offered.

    Well before the televised hearings started, I had come to believe that it was worth getting a very thorough account on the record for history, regardless. I’m still not sure that Trump voters are going to have their eyes opened, though.

    1
  56. Mike says:

    @drj: Totally agree every time there mouths are moving they’re lying….can’t wait until the real truth is apparent to Everyone and the seditionists can do nothing but lie…. they will have no further defense…. People on both sides! We need to vote the idiot’s out on both sides and start working together to get these people out of congress….I’m talking about BOTH sides now….always loved that tune….

    M.O.

  57. Assad K says:

    @James Joyner:

    ‘Pelosi refused to sit any of the Republicans appointed by the Minority Leader’

    Well.. 2 of the 5, anyway.

  58. James Joyner says:

    @Assad K: Yes, fair enough. I was going from memory. And, even at the time, I defended her decision—those two were insurrection-supporting clowns. Nonetheless, the ability to claim the Committee was a partisan fishing expedition is there.

  59. grumpy realist says:

    @James Joyner: Methinks that you’re awfully gullible if you think that anything the committee came up with, outside of “Lord Trump is GOD and we should all bow down and worship him”, would have been acceptable to any of the MAGAts on the right.

    1