For two hours on Tuesday, Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide, laid out a devastating account of former President Donald J. Trump’s actions and state of mind on January 6, 2021 and in the days leading up to it.
Her testimony to the selected House committee and a nationally televised audience raised a series of questions that are sure to be the focus of the continued investigation by the committee, federal prosecutors and others trying to flesh out Mr. Trump’s efforts to reverse his election loss. undo and stay. to power.
Here are some of the key issues presented by her testimony.
What does this mean for a possible criminal prosecution?
Ms. Hutchinson told the panel that just before Mr. Trump took the stage to deliver his speech at the Ellipse on the morning of Jan. 6, he was informed that people in the crowd were armed with a variety of weapons.
According to her story, he responded by pushing for security measures to be taken so that his supporters could fill the area around the stage. And she testified that Mr. Trump said he was in no danger because the crowd supported him and the people there could proceed to the Capitol.
Legal experts said the testimony provided more evidence in support of a possible criminal charge as it suggested that Mr. Trump was aware of the potential for violence but further urged his supporters to head to the Capitol. During the speech, Mr. Trump encouraged the crowd to “fight like hell” and march to where Congress was certifying the results of the electoral college — even promising that he would join them.
The Justice Department has said nothing explicit about any investigative focus on Mr Trump. But lawyers have pointed to a number of potential charges against him, including obstruction of Congress, conspiracy and sedition.
The Justice Department has been documenting in court documents for months how rioters accused of the attack claimed they were following Mr. Trump’s orders as they entered and breached the Capitol. Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony could put Mr Trump in a conspiratorial relationship with members of the mafia, lawyers said, suggesting he prodded them into action, even though he was aware they posed an immediate threat.
How the Justice Department will move forward is perhaps the biggest question.
What happened in the presidential vehicle?
No piece of Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony energized the hearing like her detailed account of a story she told about Mr. Trump demanding to be taken to the Capitol in his armored vehicle as his Ellipse speech ended.
Ms. Hutchinson recalled that Anthony Ornato, a deputy White House chief of staff, told him that after Mr. Trump’s security services told him he couldn’t go to the Capitol, the president “lunged” at the wheel and then on his chief agent, Robert Engel. Mr. Trump was not in the armored limousine known as “the beast,” as Ms. Hutchinson suggested, but in an SUV that presidents sometimes drive.
Secret Service officials said, on condition of anonymity, that both Mr Engel and Mr Ornato would dispute that Mr Trump tried to grab the wheel of the car or whether Mr Engel was hit. They said the two men would not dispute that Mr. Trump wanted to be driven to the Capitol when the angry pro-Trump protesters, some of them armed, headed in that direction and Congress gathered to ratify that he had the election. lost and that Joseph R. Biden Jr. would be the next president.
Both Mr Engel and Mr Ornato appeared before the Committee in private. It is not clear when they will appear again to answer questions about Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony. It’s also unclear when the commission first learned the story about Mr. Trump’s actions in the vehicle from Ms. Hutchinson.
Ms. Hutchinson made it clear in her public testimony that she had no direct knowledge of the incident, and it remains unclear what the commission did to confirm it. Yet Mr Trump’s allies are now pointing out that it was a misstep on the part of the commission and using it to undermine the credibility of her testimony.
Have Trump’s allies tried to intimidate witnesses?
For months, the commission has suggested that Mr. Trump or his loved ones may have tried to influence potential witnesses. Members have suggested, for example, that Mr. Trump may have influenced the refusal of Representative Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, to cooperate with the investigation.
On Tuesday, Rep. Liz Cheney, the Wyoming Republican and vice chair, showed what she believes were two examples of unnamed people associated with Mr. Trump trying to influence witnesses. A witness was told to “protect” certain individuals in order to “stay in good grace in Trump World.” In the other example, a witness was encouraged to remain “loyal.”
“Most people know that trying to influence witnesses to testify falsely raises very serious concerns,” said Ms. Cheney. “We will discuss these issues as a committee and carefully consider our next steps.”
It is not clear whether the commission referred the incidents to the Justice Department for investigation or possible prosecution. According to Punchbowl News, Ms. Hutchinson was one of those who received such a warning. Her lawyer did not respond to a message asking for comment.
Trump and his advisers have come under scrutiny in previous situations for allegedly trying to influence witnesses. In 2017, a Trump lawyer investigating his 2016 campaign conspiracy with Russian officials dangled the prospect of pardoning two under investigation, Michael T. Flynn and Paul Manafort. And in 2018, Mr. Trump’s public statements regarding Michael D. Cohen, his former personal attorney who was being investigated by federal prosecutors, were considered possible acts of obstruction of justice.
How did Trump and his aides react to the violence?
One of the biggest problems is what exactly Mr Trump was doing during the 187 minutes of the attack and what exactly the White House was doing to combat it. According to Ms. Hutchinson, the answer was: not much.
On the day of the attack, Mr. Trump rejected attempts by his aides and relatives, including his daughter Ivanka, to issue a statement ordering the mob to resign. Instead, he posted an attack on Mr. pennies.
“Mark, we need to do something more,” said Ms. Hutchinson, who overheard White House counsel Pat Cipollone tell Chief of Staff Mark Meadows as he stormed into her office after Mr. Trump’s supporters broke into the Capitol. to go. “They’re literally calling for the vice president to be hanged.”
“You heard him, Pat,” she said, replied, referring to Mr. Trump. “He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.”
Key Revelations from the January 6 Hearings
Is her testimony credible?
Given the stakes, it’s not surprising that Trump allies, in particular, are trying to poke holes in Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony to undermine her credibility. Claims by unnamed Secret Service officials who question her account of what happened in Mr Trump’s vehicle have provided Mr Trump’s supporters with a way to question her reliability.
Her relative youth — she’s 26 years old — belies a wit and intelligence, her former colleagues said. A former colleague, Sarah Matthews, who was deputy press secretary, assisted Ms Hutchinson and praised her for her bravery.
But another former colleague disputed another part of her testimony. Eric Herschmann, a White House attorney who testified privately before the committee, said in a statement that he was the author of a note that Ms. Hutchinson testified was handwritten. The note suggested language Mr. Trump could use to blow off the mob storming the Capitol.
The note was written on “Chief of Staff” letterhead and read: “Anyone who entered the Capitol without proper authorization should leave immediately.” Mrs. Hutchinson testified that it was her handwriting and that Mr. Herschmann had suggested adjustments.
Still, a spokesperson for Mr Herschmann said: “The handwritten note that Cassidy Hutchinson testified was written by her was in fact written by Eric Herschmann on Jan. 6, 2021.” Others familiar with the note’s existence said Mr Herschmann was identified as the author months ago.
One person familiar with what happened said that while Mr. Meadows and Mr. Trump in the small dining room next to the Oval Office, Mr. Herschmann came in and said they had to issue a statement “immediately” and the Mr. Meadows’ office nearby to grab a note card. He returned and wrote a message, reading aloud, stating that the rioters were “illegal” in the Capitol. “How do you determine it’s illegal?” asked Mr. Meadows. Mr Herschmann responded by crossing out that word.
A spokesperson for the commission said the panel understood there was conflicting testimony as to who wrote the note, but lawmakers believe Ms. Hutchinson was telling the truth, and that “it is ultimately important that both White House officials believed that the president should have given his immediate instructions. supporters to leave the Capitol. The note commemorates this. But Mr Trump did not take that action at the time.”
That two people claim to have written the same note illustrates the difficulty of getting an accurate picture of the events of January 6, but will also add to questions about Ms Hutchinson’s memories.
Alan Feuer reporting contributed.