Behind the wheel
Trump, Secret Service agent confirmed main elements of bombshell Jan. 6 fight over driving to Capitol
Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson dropped several bombshells in her testimony Tuesday before the House Jan. 6 committee. Mick Mulvaney, one-time acting chief of staff to former President Donald Trump, listed a couple of highlights:
Hutchinson also testified to several examples of out-of-control rage by Trump, including multiple times he upended the dining table and broke White House plates, and recounted several instances in which Trump and his top aides knew beforehand that there would be violence at the Capitol.
But the most jaw-dropping — and most contested — part of Hutchinson's testimony was probably about Trump being so "irate" he couldn't go to the Capitol with his armed supporters that he grabbed at the steering wheel of his presidential SUV and assaulted his lead Secret Service agent, Bobby Engel. Hutchinson testified that she heard about the incident right afterward from a visibly shaken Tony Ornato, Trump's former lead Secret Service agent who controversially became his White House deputy chief of staff for operations in 2020.
An unidentified Secret Service official told CNN that Ornato, who works for the Secret Service again and has disputed sworn testimony involving Trump before, denies telling Hutchinson that story, and that agents involved are prepared to testify under oath that the incident, as described, didn't happened. The Jan. 6 committee said it "found Ms. Hutchinson's testimony to be credible" but accepted the offer.
Washington Post reporter and Secret Service expert Carol Leonnig told MSNBC on Tuesday night that Trump physically could have reached for Engel and the steering wheel of the Secret Service SUV he was riding in on Jan. 6 — not the presidential limo, or Beast — and that Engel and especially Ornato "were very, very close to President Trump, and some people accused them of at times being enablers and yes men of the president."
Leonnig reported that her unidentified sources said the Secret Service agents "dispute that Donald Trump assaulted any agent or tried to grab the steering wheel on Jan. 6" but "agree Trump was furious about not being able to go to Capitol with his supporters."
Trump and Engel have also both corroborated the thrust of Hutchinson's testimony.
Trump told The Washington Post in April that he had wanted to accompany his supporters to the Capitol on Jan. 6, but the "Secret Service said I couldn't go. I would have gone there in a minute." Engel testified to the Jan. 6 committee that he and Trump had disagreed about going to the Capitol and he had steered them to the White House instead, Politico reported earlier this month.