Cassidy Hutchinson’s recent testimony to the Jan. 6 committee covered a lot of ground, but there was one story that generated a lot of conversation. The former West Wing staffer described a scene, which had been described to her by Tony Ornato, a senior Secret Service official at the time, in which Donald Trump went a little berserk after his Secret Service agents told him he was being taken back to the White House after his speech at the Ellipse, instead of being taken to the Capitol.
The comments drew plenty of pushback from the right, but nearly a month later, as The New York Times noted, the basic elements of the anecdote appear sound.
One of the most significant disclosures from Ms. Hutchinson was that there was an angry dispute between Mr. Trump and his security detail in his car when the detail refused to drive him to the Capitol to join his supporters. Testimony played on Thursday from an anonymous White House security official and a sergeant in the Metropolitan Police Department who was driving in Mr. Trump’s motorcade corroborated that claim.
“The only description I received was that the president was upset and was adamant about going to the Capitol,” Sergeant Mark Robinson said in deposition testimony. “And there was a heated discussion about that.”
Politico noted a second witness — a person with a national security background given anonymity because of “fear of retribution” — who told the committee that Ornato said the president was “irate” at not being able to the go to the Capitol.
Rep. Elaine Luria, a Democratic member of the committee, said investigators also have “evidence from multiple sources regarding an angry exchange in the presidential SUV.”
This came on the heels of a recent CNN report that quoted two Secret Service sources who confirmed that Trump “demanded to go to the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, and berated his protective detail when he didn’t get his way.”
To be sure, some of the provocative details have not yet been definitively proven. Hutchinson, for example, was told about a moment in which Trump allegedly tried to grab the steering wheel of the Suburban he was riding in, and others have not confirmed that aspect of the story.
But there’s nevertheless ample evidence to suggest the then-president, after whipping armed followers into a frenzy with ridiculous lies, desperately wanted to join his mob as it descended on the Capitol — and had a meltdown when that didn’t happen.
As for what Trump intended to do if he got his way, as we recently discussed, it’s probably safe to say that once he was inside, presidential oratory wasn’t the plan. It’s not like Trump intended to use his powers of persuasion to convince members of Congress to ignore the election results and give him illegitimate power he hadn’t earned.
It’s more likely he had a different kind of confrontation in mind.
After Hutchinson’s testimony, there were multiple reports about Secret Service agents preparing to contradict her under oath. But Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican member of the committee, explained this week, “Nobody has come in to refute her.... Nobody has come in from the Secret Service on the record under oath, and refuted what she has said.”