June 28, 2022 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
Trump tried strangling his Secret Service agent, one of many revelations from today’s explosive J6 hearing
We may look back on today as a major turn in the story of Donald Trump’s attempted coup on January 6, 2021.
CORRECTION: Hi! I’m resending to make sure you see the correction. Donald Trump tried strangling his Secret Service agent, Bobby Engel, not the White House counsel, Steven Engel. I regret the error.
It’s early yet, but we may look back on today’s hearing by the J6 committee as a major turn in the story of Donald Trump’s attempted coup on January 6, 2021. After hearing testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, J6 chair Bennie Thompson said:
After hearing your testimony in all its candor in detail, I want to speak directly to the handful of witnesses who have been outliers in our investigation, a small number who have defied us outright., those whose memories have failed them again and again, on the most important details and to those who fear Donald Trump and his enablers because of this courageous woman, and others like her: Your attempt to hide the truth from the American people will fail.
To that group of witnesses, if you’ve heard this testimony today, and suddenly you remember things you couldn’t previously recall, or there are some details you’d like to clarify or you discovered some courage you have hidden away somewhere, our doors remain open.
That seems to me like something you’d say when you know an investigation is ’bout to blow up. Here’s what Hutchinson said.
1. On J6, Donald Trump was “fucking infuriated” about the small number of people in the arena on the Ellipse. He was told the reason was the mags – machines that detect weapons. Trump told the Secret Service to remove the mags from the Ellipse, to let them all in so he would have a good shot for the TV audience. Trump knew supporters were armed, some with spears, pistols and AR-15s.
2. Trump wanted to go to the Capitol with the insurgents. There was even talk of the former president giving a speech in the House. White House counsel Pat Cipollone said that if Trump goes to the Capitol, “We’re going to be charged with every crime imaginable,” specifically obstruction of justice and defrauding an electoral vote count.
3. When Trump took the stage on the Ellipse on J6, he expected to travel with the insurgents to the US Capitol. In the presidential limo, Secret Service agent Bobby Engel said no. We’re going back to the White House. Trump then lurched for the steering wheel. Engel grabbed his arm. Hutchinson then gestured toward her own neck, suggesting that the former president tried to strangle Engel.
4. Trump had a history of violent outbursts during his time in the White House. He would throw dishes or flip tablecloths, breaking everything on the table. Former Attorney General Bill Barr said Trump once pounded the table to accept Barr’s resignation.
5. After seeing Trump say in his J6 speech that he was going to the Capitol with the insurgents, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called Hutchinson. He said, I thought you said Trump wasn’t going to the Capitol. You lied to me. Trump didn’t go, but McCarthy’s call to Hutchinson suggests that he knew and feared violence was coming.
6. Trump and his advisers talk about white-power terrorist groups the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers at the rally. They were made aware of plans by insurgents to “occupy federal buildings” and so on.
7. Rudy Giuliani asked for a pardon.
8. Mark Meadows asked for a pardon.
9. In a speech on January 7 that he was urged to give, Trump wanted to include pardons for all the insurgents. Advisers struck that out. He gave the speech “as cover” for “what might happen in the Senate” (impeachment?) and because the Cabinet was considering invoking the 25th Amendment to strip Trump of his presidential power.
10. When told that insurgents were chanting “hang Mike Pence,” Trump said “Mike deserves it.” They weren’t doing anything wrong.
11. The J6 committee learned of attempts at witness tampering. Vice Chair Liz Cheney said these were statements made to witnesses:
“What they said to me is as long as I continue to be a team player, they know I’m on the right team. I’m doing the right thing. I’m protecting who I need to protect. You know, I’ll continue to stay in good graces in front of the world. And they have reminded me a couple of times that Trump does read transcripts, and just keep that in mind as I proceed through my interviews with the committee.”
“[The person] let me know you have your deposition tomorrow. He wants me to let you know he’s thinking about you. You know, you’re loyal. And you’re going to do the right thing when you go in for your deposition.”
12. When asked if he believes in the peaceful transfer of power, Trump adviser Mike Flynn pleaded the Fifth Amendment.
As Cheney keeps repeating, all of these witnesses are Republicans appointed by the former president. Moreover, most of them are white men in positions of authority. They are not Democrats. They are not “agents of the Deep State.” They are Trump’s own people.
His own people say he’s a walking crime scene.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.