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Explained: Who is Cassidy Hutchinson, what is her testimony against Donald Trump?

Hutchinson, the former White House staff member, has given a striking testimony against former US President Donald Trump.

Written by Rishika Singh , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: June 30, 2022 10:36:13 pm
Cassidy Hutchinson testified against Donald TrumpCassidy Hutchinson testified about how former President Donald Trump reacted when told he was not to go to the Capitol on Jan. 6 (AP/PTI)

Cassidy Hutchinson, a 25-year-old former White House staff member, has given a detailed account of the role allegedly played by former US President Donald Trump in the January 6, 2021 riots at the US Capitol.

On June 28, Hutchinson appeared before a Select Committee of Congress set up to inquire into the events that unfolded when Trump and his supporters claimed the 2020 US Presidential elections were “stolen” from him.

The January 6 event was the first of its kind in the country’s history, when the transfer of power after Presidential elections was challenged by a candidate, that too a former President.

Hutchinson’s testimony, given she was a part of Trump’s staff, lends support to the belief that Trump was aware of what his supporters were going to do, and possibly encouraged it. More than 535 people who entered the Capitol have been arrested on charges like assaulting police officers and trespassing. Five people died in the ensuing violence.

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Who is Cassidy Hutchinson and what did she say?

Hutchinson was the principal assistant to Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff — the person who handles the US President’s day-to-day schedule and helps coordinate with other executives. She had previously interned at the White House.

According to The Washington Post, Hutchinson heard prior concerns from senior administration officials about plans for a massive rally near the Capitol on January 6. She claimed officials who worked with Trump were aware of reports saying the protesters could be armed.

Hutchinson was present at a Trump rally at The Ellipse, a garden south of the White House, that had taken place earlier that evening. In the rally, Hutchinson said he repeated claims that the election results were fraudulent, and this instigated the crowd of supporters to march to the Capitol.

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She alleged she was told by Anthony M Ornato, a deputy White House chief of staff, that Trump tried to grab the steering wheel of the vehicle he was in when told he could not go to the Capitol to join his supporters, The New York Times reported. Ornato told her the President had “lunged” at his lead Secret Service agent, Robert Engel, Hutchinson testified. Some media reports have, however, said that Ornato and Engel may testify that Hutchinson’s account is untrue.

Even so, former White House officials who worked with her told The Washington Post she was a “star witness” due to the extraordinary access she had to what went on close to the President, as well as her “uncommon courage” to come out and testify.

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What has Trump said about Hutchinson?

Trump has claimed he does not know Hutchinson well, and called her “bad news” and her account “fake”. He has disputed that he allowed an armed crowd to be a part of the rally on Truth Social, a social media platform that he launched in 2021.

At the time when his supporters had marched to the Capitol building, Trump had tweeted: “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long.”

“Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!” he had said.

Twitter suspended Trump’s account soon afterward “due to the risk of further incitement of violence”. Days later, Trump said in a televised address: “I want to be very clear: I unequivocally condemn the violence that we saw last week…Violence and vandalism have absolutely no place in our country.”

What will the January 6 committee do?

The committee, whose members mostly belong to Joe Biden’s Democratic Party, wants to examine all the events related to the violence. This includes studying why the US Capitol Police and other security agencies were unable to defend against the riot. The role of technology companies and online platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, apart from that of smaller, more right-wing leaning platforms, is also under review for allegedly helping the rioters to create networks.

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The House will then vote to send the committee’s recommendations to the Justice Department, which will then decide whether to charge those who are indicted. President Biden has said he would like the Justice Department to prosecute, but Attorney General Merrick Garland has so far not expressed himself in favour of a particular course of action.

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First published on: 30-06-2022 at 09:34:54 pm
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