The takeaway from this post is that Cassidy Hutchinson testified that she heard, with her own ears, Donald Trump ask that the screening for weapons be taken away for his speech on January 6 because he knew that people were armed. He believed that those arms were not meant for him, and he wanted to lead the crowd to the Capitol and make a speech in the House chamber.
Shiny objects, people! Shiny objects!
The idea that Trump assaulted his top Secret Service agent and tried to take control of the car is sensational. It is one small part of his larger betrayal of his office, but it’s getting a lot of attention.
It’s the only part of Hutchinson’s testimony that is not something she directly experienced. She was clear in her testimony that it was told to her by Anthony Onrato, head of Trump’s Secret Service detail and special advisor to Trump. That combination of positions is unusual, and I think we can conclude from it that Onrato is closely attached to Trump. Bobby Engel is another Trump-friendly Secret Service agent.
Let’s look more closely at how Hutchinson heard the story from Onrato.
CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: When I returned to the White House, I walked upstairs towards the chief of staff’s office, and I noticed Mr. Ornato lingering outside of the office. Once we had made eye contact, he quickly waved me to go into his office, which was just across the hall from mine. When I went in, he shut the door, and I noticed Bobby Engel, who was the head of Mr. Trump’s security detail, sitting in a chair, just looking somewhat discombobulated and a little lost. (This and other quotes from the NPR transcript)
Ornato almost seems to be waiting for Hutchinson. Why was he at Meadows’s office, with his colleague Engel? Shouldn’t he have been with Trump during a riot?
Ornato then tells Hutchinson his story of what happened in the presidential SUV. Apparently Engel said nothing. Cheney carefully questioned Hutchinson about Engel’s lack of disagreement with Ornato.
Hutchinson is very young, and she undoubtedly felt that these guys, Trump partisans like herself, were on the same side. So no problem being in a closed room with a guy telling his story with his (I emphasize “his”) witness. And everything at that point was upsetting.
But Ornato knew that the plan was going wrong. Pat Cipollone put it nicely earlier, as quoted by Hutchinson, that they could be charged with “ every crime imaginable.” Hutchinson was a witness who could spill a lot of information, voluntarily or under legal pressure, so it would be a good idea to plant a small bomb in her testimony. That was the purpose of the conversation. And so far, it is serving that purpose with the public. Anonymous sources say that Ornato and Engel say that wasn’t the conversation. The bomb has been detonated.
Ornato has a law enforcement background, a good place to learn tactics like this. And if he didn’t learn them there, he learned them in the Secret Service. Heck, I learned them in a national laboratory.
Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money