Trump denies lunging at Secret Service: ‘Who would do that?’
Former President Trump denied lunging at his Secret Service security on Jan. 6, 2021, after they refused to take him to the Capitol when he wanted to march alongside his supporters after a rally.
The revelation came from Cassidy Hutchinson, a special assistant to Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, who testified in a last-minute hearing on Tuesday about being told the story from two other officials.
“She said I jumped from a car and started strangling — think of this — started strangling a Secret Service agent who I know very well,” Trump said in an interview with conservative news outlet Newsmax. “Who would do that? I would grab a Secret Service person by the throat?”
Hutchinson said she learned of the episode from Tony Ornato, Trump’s deputy chief of staff, and Robert Engel, the special agent in charge for Secret Service on Jan. 6.
“ ‘I’m the effing president, take me up to the Capitol now,’ ” Trump said, according to Hutchinson, when Engel informed him they could not safely make the unscheduled journey.
“The president reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel. Mr. Engel grabbed his arm, said, ‘Sir you need to take your hand off the steering wheel, we’re going back to the West Wing, we’re not going to the Capitol,’” she said in her testimony.
“Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge towards Bobby Engel,” Hutchinson testified.
Hutchinson testified that Engel did not counter any of the details from Ornato as he relayed the story.
Several news outlets have since reported Engel and the driver are prepared to testify that neither was assaulted by Trump and that the former president did not try to grab the steering wheel.
“It was very nice that they came to my defense. I thought it was incredible actually. Because some whack job can say this stuff and get away with it,” Trump said, referring to Hutchinson.
The Secret Service has also said they will provide further details, but have thus far not done so.
“The Secret Service has been cooperating fully with the select committee since its inception in spring of 2021 and we will continue to do so by responding formally and on the record to the committee regarding new allegations that surfaced in today’s testimony,” the agency said in a statement late Tuesday.
Trump also countered another key detail from Hutchinson’s testimony — that White House staff were warned that some in the crowd at the president’s rally were armed — and that Trump wanted to do away with magnetometer screening because it was affecting his crowd size.
“[She] said that I wanted guns at my rally. I didn’t want guns. I have to speak, too, and I don’t want guns for anybody,” Trump said during the interview.
Police call logs from Jan. 6 show that a number of the protesters that day were carrying weapons, including Glock pistols and AR-15-style semi-automatic rifles. Hutchinson added to that record, saying top White House officials knew, as early as 10 a.m. on Jan. 6, that Trump supporters had knives, guns, bear spray, body armor and spears attached to the ends of flagpoles.
Trump was apparently furious the magnetometers, or mags for short, were evidently limiting his crowd size, as many protesters with weapons elected to watch the speech from outside the screened area so their arms wouldn’t be confiscated.
“He felt the mags were at fault for not letting everybody in. But another leading reason and likely the primary reason is because he wanted it full and he was angry that we weren’t letting people through the mags with weapons,” Hutchinson said.
In an earlier interview with the House investigators, Hutchinson had relayed Trump’s pleas to staff and security at the time: “ ‘They’re not here to hurt me. Take the effing mags away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here. Let the people in. Take the effing mags away,’ ” she said.
Meadows also appeared to realize that there was a potential for violence, telling Hutchinson on Jan. 2, “There’s a lot going on, Cass, but I don’t know. Things might get real, real bad on Jan. 6.”
Updated at 9:52 a.m.