Meadows Aide Cassidy Hutchinson Thrusts Trump Chief of Staff Back Into Political Spotlight

todayjunio 29, 2022 8

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WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump’s final chief of staff, Mark Meadows, closed out his 10 months of White House service asking for a pardon, according to new testimony that portrayed a man reluctant to intervene to stop his boss from stirring up a mob on Jan. 6, 2021, and unwilling to engage with those who tried to do so.

Meadows Aide Cassidy Hutchinson Thrusts Trump Chief of Staff Back Into Political Spotlight

© Patrick Semansky/Associated PressMeadows Aide Cassidy Hutchinson Thrusts Trump Chief of Staff Back Into Political Spotlight

The testimony came from an aide to Mr. Meadows named Cassidy Hutchinson, a 26-year-old who wasn’t mentioned in his book, “The Chief’s Chief,” but whom former White House and Capitol Hill aides said played a key role in his office. In her retelling of the final days before Trump supporters stormed the Capitol to stop the certification of President Biden’s win, Mr. Meadows spent much of his time impassively scrolling through his phone while Trump administration officials warned him of the increasing potential for violence.

“I remember feeling scared, and nervous for what could happen,” Ms. Hutchinson testified before the House select committee on Tuesday, after describing the first conversation she had with Mr. Meadows after learning that Mr. Trump was planning to go to the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Mr. Meadows, whom the Justice Department declined to prosecute after the House voted to hold him in contempt for defying a subpoena to testify before the committee, didn’t respond to a request for comment left with the Conservative Partnership Institute, where he serves as a senior partner.

His lawyer, George Terwilliger, said that “the testimony I watched today would not in my judgment withstand five minutes of even basic cross-examination of where the knowledge comes from, precisely who said what to whom, and whether or not it’s firsthand knowledge, and so forth.”

Mr. Meadows had shared texts and other messages with the committee, but declined to testify on the grounds that he couldn’t waive executive privilege claimed by Mr. Trump. The question now is whether the new testimony will prompt Mr. Meadows to shift course.

Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D., Miss.) said it “remained to be seen” whether Mr. Meadows would now step forward.

Former White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney offered a different assessment. “My guess is that before this is over, we will be hearing testimony” from Mr. Meadows, Mr. Mulvaney said on Twitter. “I don’t think she is lying.”

Mr. Meadows was sitting on a couch in his office the night of Jan. 2, scrolling through his phone, Ms. Hutchinson said, when she relayed to him a conversation she had just had with Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s campaign lawyer. In that conversation, Mr. Giuliani told her that “we are going to go to the Capitol,” that Mr. Trump would be there, that Mr. Meadows knew, and that she should talk to him about it.

“He didn’t look up from his phone and said something to the effect of ‘there’s a lot going on, Cass, but I don’t know, things might get real, real bad on Jan. 6th,” she said.

Ms. Hutchinson similarly witnessed the inner activities of the White House when her boss agreed to Mr. Trump’s request to make calls Jan. 5 to Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, Mr. Trump’s onetime national security adviser who had suggested that Mr. Trump could deploy the military in swing states to rerun elections there. That same day, Ms. Hutchinson testified, she succeeded in preventing Mr. Meadows from attending a meeting at the Willard Hotel with Mr. Giuliani on a plan to stop Mr. Biden’s election win. Mr. Meadows said he would attend via phone, she said.

On the morning of Jan. 6, when the deputy chief of staff for operations told Mr. Meadows that people at the rally had guns, pistols, rifles, bear spray, body armor and spears, “I remember distinctly Mark not looking up from his phone,” she said.

When the operations leader finished speaking, it took “a few seconds for Mark to say something,” she said. Eventually, Mr. Meadows “looked up and said, “Have you talked to the president?” When the operations official said he had, Mr. Meadows replied, “All right, good,” she said.

When Mr. Trump left the rally, she overheard Mr. Meadows tell the president that he was still working on getting him to the Capitol. The Secret Service would later refuse to drive him there, she said.

On Jan. 6, as Trump supporters circled the Capitol, she went to Mr. Meadows’s office to ask him if he was watching the action on television. “The rioters are getting really close—have you talked to the president?” she asked.

“No—he wants to be alone right now,” Mr. Meadows replied, according to Ms. Hutchinson.

Ms. Hutchinson said that she remembered thinking, “I don’t know how to snap him out of this, but he needs to care.”

Shortly after, White House counsel Pat Cipollone ran down the hall, she said, asking if Mr. Meadows was in his office.

“Mark, we need to go down and see the president,” Mr. Cipollone said, she recalled. Mr. Meadows responded that Mr. Trump “doesn’t want to do anything,” she testified. Mr. Cipollone replied that “something needs to be done,” because “people are going to die and blood is going to be on your f—ing hands,” Mr. Cipollone said, according to her testimony.

In the Oval Office dining room, she heard a conversation about the “hang Mike Pence” chants outside the Capitol.

Back in the lobby of Mr. Meadows’s office, she heard Mr. Cipollone say that “they’re literally calling for the vice president to be f—ing hung.” Mr. Meadows responded, “You heard him, Pat, he thinks Mike deserves it—he doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.” She concluded that Mr. Meadows was referring to the rioters, based on the conversation she had heard in the Oval Office.

At one point, Mr. Cipollone suggested he was worried that Mr. Meadows was enabling Mr. Trump by supporting a plan for the president to go to the Capitol on Jan. 6.

“He said to me, ‘We need to make sure that this doesn’t happen; this would be legally a terrible idea,’” Ms. Hutchinson testified. “He then urged me to continue relaying that to Mr. Meadows because it’s my understanding that Mr. Cipollone thought that indeed Mr. Meadows was pushing this along with the president.”

“Did White House chief of staff Mark Meadows ever indicate that he was interested in receiving a presidential pardon related to Jan. 6th?” asked Rep. Liz Cheney (R., Wyo.), the vice chairman of the committee.

“Mr. Meadows did seek that pardon,” Ms. Hutchinson said. It wasn’t immediately clear what actions would justify his need for a pardon.

A person familiar with the matter denied Mr. Meadows ever sought a pardon but didn’t elaborate.

Write to Siobhan Hughes at [email protected]

Escrito por Pedro Mejia

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