The multiple bombshells unveiled at Tuesday’s surprise House committee hearing in the US into the January 6 Capitol riot were incredibly damaging to former president Donald Trump, according to one of his former top lieutenants.
White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who was the principal assistant to ex-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows from mid-2020 to the end of Mr Trump’s term in January 2021, told the select committee that Mr Trump and his aides were aware of police reports indicating attendees at the rally he held just prior to the January 6 attack on the US Capitol were packing weapons – including Glock semi-automatic pistols and AR-15-style rifles – but they did not care.
She also said Mr Trump demanded Secret Service agents take down magnetometers erected for his own protection, so the armed rallygoers could be closer to the stage from which he was to speak before the march on the Capitol.
One of the millions of Americans who watched Tuesday’s session was Mr Meadows’ predecessor, Mick Mulvaney.
The former South Carolina congressman, who Mr Trump tapped as his “acting” chief of staff after sacking General John Kelly in January 2019, took to Twitter to render his own observations on Ms Hutchinson’s testimony.
They were not at all complementary to his former boss.
Roughly 40 minutes into the hearing, Mr Mulvaney – who is now a paid political analyst for CBS News – tweeted that he had realised why the panel had called the hearing on such short notice, even while Congress was on its’ annual Independence Day recess.
“If the president knew the protesters had weapons, and still encouraged them to go to the Capitol, that is a serious problem. Things just got a lot more interesting,” he wrote, shortly before he observed that Mr Meadows “was afraid to tell the president something he didn’t want to hear”.
Ms Hutchinson told the committee that Robert Engel – the head of Mr Trump’s Secret Service detail – and his then-deputy chief of staff Tony Ornato had told her that Mr Trump had a physical altercation with Mr Engle and a Secret Service driver, after being told he could not join his riotous supporters at the Capitol.
After listening to her account, Mr Mulvaney observed that Mr Ornato, Mr Engel and Mr Meadows would all be testifying before the committee wraps its work, though all but Mr Meadows have already appeared for depositions with the panel.
Sources close to the Secret Service have since disputed that the altercation Ms Hutchinson said she was told of ever took place.
Numerous right-wing media figures began calling her a liar on various social-media sites.
But Mr Mulvaney spoke up in her defence, writing: “This is explosive stuff.
“If Cassidy is making this up, they will need to say that. If she isn’t, they will have to corroborate,” he said, adding: “I know her. I don’t think she is lying.”
Mr Mulvaney later returned to Twitter to offer an observation about the closing statement made by the panel’s vice-chair, Liz Cheney.
Ms Cheney said the panel had received evidence of communications with witnesses from people in Mr Trump’s orbit, which could amount to witness tampering or obstruction of justice.
Her former colleague called her closing “stunning” – and observed that the maxim ‘always the cover up, never the crime’ applies to Mr Trump’s situation.
“Things went very badly for the former president today. My guess is that it will get worse from here, “ he said.
He later called Tuesday’s proceeding “a stunning two hours,” and summarised the presentation of evidence.
“Trump knew the protesters had guns. He assaulted his own security team. There may be a line from Proud Boys to the [White House]. Top aides asked for pardons. The commission thinks they have evidence of witness tampering,” he wrote.
“That is a very, very bad day for Trump.”