Secret Service: Jan. 6 panel didn’t reach out before Hutchinson’s explosive Trump testimony
The Jan. 6 committee didn’t reach out to the Secret Service in the days before it aired explosive testimony about an alleged physical altercation between Donald Trump and his security detail on the day of the riot, according to an agency spokesperson.
In a blockbuster Tuesday hearing, former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson described being told that the “irate” then-president was so furious agents wouldn’t drive him to the Capitol on Jan. 6 that he “lunge[d]” toward the head of his detail.
Anthony Guglielmi, the service’s chief of communications, told POLITICO that select committee investigators did not ask Secret Service personnel to reappear or answer questions in writing in the 10 days before asking Hutchinson about the matter at the hearing.
“[W]e were not asked to reappear before the Committee in response to yesterday’s new information and we plan on formally responding on the record,” he wrote in an email. “We have and will continue to make any member of the Secret Service available.”
During her testimony, Hutchinson also described an explosive account in which White House Counsel Pat Cipollone warned of legal culpability if Trump followed his supporters on a march to the White House. After weeks of publicly calling on Cipollone to cooperate with the investigation, on Wednesday evening, the select committee subpoenaed him for a deposition scheduled for July 6.
Hutchinson has also testified to the committee that Cipollone repeatedly expressed legal misgivings about Trump’s efforts to send false presidential electors to Congress and various other aspects of his bid to stay in power on Jan. 6, when Congress met to count electoral votes.
Cipollone sat for an informal interview with investigators on April 13, 2022, along with his deputy Patrick Philbin.
Hutchinson’s attorneys, Jody Hunt and William Jordan of Alston Bird, issued a statement on Hutchinson’s behalf Wednesday defending her testimony.
“Ms. Hutchinson stands by all of the testimony she provided yesterday, under oath, to the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol,” they said.
Jan. 6 committee members have praised Hutchinson for coming forward, highlighting their confidence in her testimony. At the close of the hearing, select panel chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) addressed Trump World alumni who haven’t been forthcoming.
“Because of this courageous woman and others like her, your attempt to hide the truth from the American people will fail,” he said.
The Secret Service statement comes amid questions about two aspects of Hutchinson’s testimony: the story about Trump’s behavior in his presidential vehicle, which Hutchinson said was relayed to her by top White House security aide Tony Ornato; and her claim to have written a note about a potential Trump statement that would’ve aimed to quell the Jan. 6 violence.
And the committee’s lack of outreach in the days before Hutchinson’s hearing is notable because the Secret Service has said Jan. 6 investigators can access any documents or witnesses they deem relevant.
Earlier this year, the committee already asked the head of Trump’s detail on Jan. 6 — who was with Trump riding from the “Stop the Steal” rally to the White House that day — about that car trip. That agent, Robert Engel, gave testimony at the time that appears to be consistent with Hutchinson’s story but is not known to include the stunning details Hutchinson described.
The totality of Engel’s earlier testimony, however, is not fully known.
It’s not clear why the select panel didn’t seek further corroboration from the Secret Service as it planned Hutchinson’s hearing. Members of the select committee have said they welcome any more information about the Secret Service altercation that witnesses would provide under oath.
The committee’s abrupt decision to expedite a hearing with Hutchinson may have factored in; after initially planning for a two-week hiatus, the panel only gave 24 hours’ public notice that the hearing was happening.
Hutchinson has sat for four videotaped interviews with the select committee this year, including one earlier this month after she switched attorneys and adopted a more cooperative posture with the panel. Select committee vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) described those four interviews during remarks Tuesday, splicing in footage from them throughout the two-hour public hearing.
With respect to the handwritten note’s authorship, a spokesperson for Trump White House attorney Eric Herschmann has disputed part of Hutchinson’s Tuesday testimony. She told the select panel that she wrote the note about a statement for Trump to give on Jan. 6 calling for rioters to leave the Capitol, at the direction of then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows after he met with Herschmann. (The statement in question was never issued.)
“The handwritten note that Cassidy Hutchinson testified was written by her was in fact written by Eric Herschmann on January 6, 2021,” said a spokesperson for Herschmann. “All sources with direct knowledge and law enforcement have and will confirm that it was written by Mr. Herschmann.”
A Jan. 6 committee spokesperson said it had already done its diligence on the note and “found Ms. Hutchinson’s account of this matter credible.” The spokesperson also downplayed the significance of the note’s authorship.
“While we understand that she and Mr. Herschmann may have differing recollections of who wrote the note, what’s ultimately important is that both White House officials believed that the President should have immediately instructed his supporters to leave the Capitol building,” the spokesperson said.
“The note memorialized this. But Mr. Trump did not take that action at the time.”
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