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Defense & National Security — Former aide offers explosive Jan. 6 testimony

Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, is seen after a House Jan. 6 committee to hearing on Tuesday, June 28, 2022.
Peter Afriyie
Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, is seen after a House Jan. 6 committee to hearing on Tuesday, June 28, 2022.

Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol in a surprise hearing on Tuesday.  

We’ll break down everything she said. Plus, we’ll discuss Turkey dropping its objections to Finland and Sweden joining NATO.  

This is Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Jordan Williams. A friend forward this newsletter to you? Subscribe here.

Dissecting Cassidy Hutchinson’s Jan. 6 testimony

Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol in a surprise hearing on Tuesday.  

Hutchinson was a special assistant to former President Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows and had already provided the committee with insight on what had happened across the White House on Jan. 6.  

  • Hutchinson said that Trump and Meadows were both told that attendees at the rally near the White House Ellipse on Jan. 6 had weapons. 
  • She said that Trump was frustrated that security measures were keeping some attendees from joining the rally. “Furious” that the rally wasn’t filling up to capacity, he demanded to loosen security.   
  • “I was in the vicinity of a conversation where I overheard the president say something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f—— care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the f—— mags away,’” Hutchinson testified. 

Trump lunged at security detail: According to Hutchinson, Trump lunged at his own security detail when he was told he could not go to the Capitol to be with his supporters on Jan. 6.  

Robert Engel, the special agent in charge for Secret Service that day, told Trump when he got into the presidential limo that going to the Capitol would not be possible.  

“The president had a very strong, a very angry response to that,” Hutchinson testified. “Tony described him as being irate. The president said something to the effect of, ‘I’m the f—— president, take me up to the Capitol now.’”  

Read that story here.

THE 25TH AMENDMENT

Hutchinson also said that Trump gave a recorded address on Jan. 7, 2021, in which he acknowledged he would leave office and condemned violence at the Capitol under pressure from a group of White House advisers.   

Hutchinson said Trump initially resisted giving a speech the day after the attack on the Capitol.  

Ultimately, a group of White House aides convinced Trump it was necessary to say something both to condemn the violence and to quell talk of invoking the 25th amendment to remove Trump from office before the end of his term, she added. 

Meadows, Giuliani asked for pardons: Hutchinson ended her testimony by revealing that Meadows and Rudy Giuliani, former President Trump’s legal adviser, asked the president for pardons in the wake of the attack.  

Hutchinson was asked whether the two had requested pardons over the attack following a series of bombshells about Trump’s actions that day. 

“Mr. Meadows did seek that pardon, yes ma’am,” Hutchinson said in response to the question from Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) after also confirming Giuliani’s own request for a pardon. 

Read more here.

Trump dismisses Hutchinson as ‘bad news’

Former President Trump on Tuesday dismissed Hutchinson’s testimony, saying he “hardly” knows who she is.  

“I hardly know who this person, Cassidy Hutchinson, is, other than I heard very negative things about her (a total phony and ‘leaker’), and when she requested to go with certain others of the team to Florida after my having served a full term in office, I personally turned her request down,” Trump posted on Truth Social. 

“Why did she want to go with us if she felt we were so terrible? I understand that she was very upset and angry that I didn’t want her to go, or be a member of the team. She is bad news!” Trump added. 

Trump routinely claims not to be familiar with individuals who are critical of him, particularly when they were part of his administration. He deployed a similar tactic during his impeachment proceedings. 

Read more here.

Turkey supports Finland, Sweden joining NATO

Officials said Tuesday that Turkey has dropped its objections to the bids of Finland and Sweden to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), representing a major breakthrough at a summit in Madrid.   

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö announced in a statement that Turkey had agreed to support the bids of the two Nordic countries after all three countries signed a trilateral memorandum in which they committed “to extend their full support against threats to each other’s security.”  

  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the three countries had signed a memorandum addressing Turkey’s concerns and pledging to work together to fight terrorism and support Turkey in combatting threats to its national security.   
  • Niinistö said that the “concrete steps” for Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership process would be agreed to over the remaining days of the summit.  

Backstory: The announcement came on the first day of the NATO summit in Spain and after Ankara had protested the bids of both countries to join the alliance for weeks over stated concerns they weren’t doing enough to combat terrorism, and particularly threats from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).   

Finland and Sweden formally asked to join the alliance last month, decisions they made in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine.  

The United States had advocated forcefully for both countries to join the alliance. President Biden is expected to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sometime on Wednesday on the sidelines of the summit. 

Read the story here.

BIDEN UNVEILS MEASURES TO BOLSTER NATO SECURITY AGAINST RUSSIA

President Biden on Tuesday said the Pentagon will send additional Navy destroyers to Spain as part of U.S. efforts bolster NATO defenses in the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine.   

In talks with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, Biden promised to increase the number of Navy destroyers stationed at Rota Naval Station in Spain from four to six.   

  • “As I said before the war started, if Putin attacked Ukraine, the United States would enhance our force posture in Europe and respond to the reality of a new European security environment,” he said alongside Sánchez after the two met.
  • “Together, the new commitments will constitute an impressive display of allied unity and resolve and NATO’s 360-degree approach to our security.” 

Read more on that here.

Pentagon looks to alleviate abortion fears

The Pentagon on Tuesday sought to alleviate fears over the impact on service members or dependents from last week’s Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. 

  • The Defense Department said in a memo it will continue to provide abortions in cases when the mother’s life is at risk or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, instances known as “covered abortions.” 
  • Federal law prohibits the Pentagon from performing or paying for other types of the procedure, according to the memo, signed by Gil Cisneros, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.  

“The Supreme Court’s decision does not prohibit the Department from continuing to perform covered abortions, consistent with federal law. There will be no interruption to this care,” it said. 

What else Cisneros said: The memo notes the court’s decision “will have significant implications for our Service members, dependents, other beneficiaries of DoD health care services, and civilian employees, as well as the readiness of the Force.”  

  • The document also asserts that states where abortion is banned or may soon be restricted “may not impose criminal or civil liability on federal employees who perform their duties in a manner authorized by federal law.” 
  • Furthermore, the military will work with the Justice Department to ensure access to counsel for civilian employees and service members if needed.  

Some interesting numbers: The military’s health facilities have only performed 91 abortions since 2016, according to a Pentagon report obtained by USA Today.  

The report, which was sent to Congress, doesn’t detail who exactly sought these services, but it does shed light on how often the military’s clinics are performing abortions.  

There are 1.3 million active-duty servicemembers and more than 764,000 guard and reserve personnel, according to data released by the Pentagon in March.  

According to USA Today, the military’s clinics performed:  

  • 14 abortions in 2016 
  • 11 abortions in 2017 
  • 21 abortions in 2018 
  • 15 abortions in 2019 
  • 16 abortions in 2020 
  • 14 abortions in 2021

ON TAP TOMORROW

  • NATO’s Madrid Summit will continue tomorrow. 
  • The Business Council for International Understanding will hold an in-person breakfast roundtable with Deborah Rosenblum, Acting Assistant Secretary, Defense Industrial Base Policy at 8:30 a.m. 
  • The U.S. Institute of Peace will host a discussion on “A Holistic Approach to Preventing Violent Extremism” at 9 a.m. 
  • Washington Post Live will host a discussion on The European Union with European Parliament President Roberta Metsola at 11 a.m. 
  • The Business Council for International Understanding will hold an in-person luncheon roundtable with In-Person Luncheon Roundtable with Major General Borys Kremenetskyi, Defense Attache of Ukraine to the United States at 12 p.m. 
  • The Hudson Institute will host a virtual event on “Winning the Airwaves: The Future of DoD Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations” at 12 p.m. 
  • The National Defense Industrial Organization will host The Mastering Business Development Workshop at 1 p.m. 
  • Global Zero will hold a discussion on “The Real Cost of ICBMs: U.S. Economic Development Beyond Defense Spending” at 1 p.m. 
  • The Wilson Center will launch a report on “Environment of Peace — Security in a New Era of Risk” at 2 p.m. 
  • The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigrant Military Members and Veterans will hold a hearing on “Oversight of Immigrant Military Members and Veterans” at 2 p.m.

WHAT WE’RE READING

That’s it for today. Check out The Hill’s Defense and National Security pages for the latest coverage. See you tomorrow!

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