Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Trump Driver Refuted Jan. 6 Claim From Star Witness

 Trump Driver Refuted Jan. 6 Claim From Star Witness


The Secret Service agent who was driving the SUV with President Donald Trump inside on Jan. 6, 2021, refuted the claim that President Trump attempted to grab the wheel of the vehicle, according to a U.S. House of Representatives report issued on March 11.

The agent, who is not being identified by name by lawmakers, told a House panel that he “did not see him reach.”

President Trump “never grabbed the steering wheel,” the agent said, according to a transcript reviewed by The Epoch Times. “I didn’t see him lunge to try to get into the front seat at all.”

The testimony was given to the Democrat-dominated select committee convened to investigate Jan. 6 in the previous Congress, but the transcript was not released by the committee.

Quotes from the testimony were included in a new interim report by House Republicans, who are probing the work that committee did.

Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide, testified to the panel in her fourth interview, in 2022, that she was told by Anthony Ornato, another Secret Service agent, that he was informed by a fellow agent that President Trump grabbed for the wheel.

“Tony said something to the effect of, ‘did you hear what [expletive] happened?’” Ms. Hutchinson testified on June 20, 2022. Mr. Ornato then “retold the story,” she said. According to that story, when President Trump entered the presidential state car, known as the Beast, after his speech at the Ellipse, he said he wanted to travel to the Capitol.

She said President Trump became upset when he was told he would be taken back to the White House and “he lunged forward into what I believe ... would be called the cab of the presidential limo and went to grab at the steering wheel.” When an agent said, “We’re going back to the White House” and “that’s final,” President Trump “was extremely angry at that response and used his free hand, to my understanding, to then lunge at Bobby Engel,” Ms. Hutchinson claimed, attributing the story to Mr. Ornato.

“Despite the driver of the president’s SUV testifying under oath that the Hutchinson story was false, the select committee chose to validate and promote Hutchinson’s version of the story as fact. The select committee hid the driver’s full testimony and only favorably mentioned his testimony in its final report, it did not release the full transcript,” House Republicans said in the new report.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman of the now-disbanded select committee, said in a statement that his panel explained in 2022 that it had to send some transcripts to the Executive Branch for review “to protect sensitive information as well as the privacy of witnesses.” He said the panel’s final report “took into account the testimony of all witnesses” and that “all the evidence points to the same conclusion: Donald Trump wanted to join his violent mob as it marched on the Capitol.”

The Jan. 6 select committee did not release the driver’s transcript. Neither did House Republicans. A Republican aide declined to provide it.

The select committee did say in its final report, after mentioning Ms. Hutchinson’s claims, that “the driver testified that he did not recall seeing what President Trump was doing and did not recall whether there was movement.”

It also noted that Mr. Engel, another agent, “did not characterize the exchange in the vehicle the way Hutchinson described the account she heard from Ornato, and indicated that he did not recall President Trump gesturing toward him.” And it released a transcript of an interview it did with Mr. Ornato in which he said, “This is not a story I recollect and I don’t recall that story happening.”

The first time he heard it, he said, was when Ms. Hutchinson testified about it during a public hearing.

Ms. Hutchinson’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

Key Details Changed

Ms. Hutchinson, who was an assistant to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, changed key details in her testimony, including whether anything happened while President Trump was being driven from the Ellipse.

In her first interviews, Ms. Hutchinson did not mention President Trump lunging for an agent or the wheel of the vehicle.

Even in her fourth interview, she got a detail wrong. She claimed President Trump tried to grab the wheel of the Beast, the presidential state vehicle, but President Trump was being driven in an SUV.

An errata she sent to the select committee updated some parts of her previous testimony, according to portions of the errata included in the new GOP report.

Another update dealt with then-Vice President Mike Pence. Ms. Hutchinson said for the first time in her fourth interview that she overheard Mr. Meadows say President Trump thought Mr. Pence should be hanged, and also heard chants of “hang Mike Pence” in the White House dining room.

The errata was never released by the select committee.

Ms. Hutchinson has said she did not testify about the supposed incident involving President Trump in the first three interviews because of her lawyer. When she went in a fourth time, she had a new attorney.

White House Officials Contradict Hutchinson

Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), who is leading the GOP probe, was able to recently review testimony from the driver and others, including four White House officials.

In its final report, the select committee said that the officials gave testimony corroborating Ms. Hutchinson.

But the transcripts showed their testimony did not corroborate Ms. Hutchinson, the interim report states.

One of the employees, for instance, said he did not recall President Trump commenting on chants of “hang Mike Pence” or saying that Mr. Pence should be hanged.

Another employee said that they were not aware of anything that happened in the vehicle transporting President Trump following the rally.

A third official, who spoke to Mr. Ornato, did not testify that President Trump lunged at the driver or wheel of the vehicle, although they did describe President Trump as irate.

Republicans said the testimony “directly contradicts claims made by Cassidy Hutchinson and by the select committee in the final report.”

“The American people deserve the entire truth about what caused the violent breach at the United States Capitol of January 6, 2021. It is unfortunate the Select Committee succumbed to their political inclinations and chased false narratives instead of providing the important work of a genuine investigation,” Mr. Loudermilk said in a statement. “In my committee’s investigation, it is my objective to uncover the facts about January 6, without political bias or spin. My report today is just the beginning.”

Trump Wanted to Go to Capitol?

The driver did say that President Trump wanted to go to the Capitol, backing one part of Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony.

“I don’t remember exactly what prompted it or how that portion of the conversation kind of grew organically, but he was pushing pretty hard to go,” the Secret Service agent said. “The thing that sticks out most was he kept asking why we couldn’t go, why we couldn’t go, and that he wasn’t concerned about the people that were there or referenced them being Trump people or Trump supporters.”

When President Trump was told that there was no plan in place for the president to go to the Capitol and that they should go to the White House, President Trump “kept insisting that he wanted to go to the Capitol and that it would essentially be fine and that there people there were supporters or something to that effect,” the driver added.

The select committee’s final report says that it a key question was whether President Trump intended to “participate personally in the January 6th efforts at the Capitol” and “there is no question from all the evidence assembled that President Trump did have that intent.”

One of the White House officials said that some officials in the Situation Room were monitoring whether President Trump was heading to the Capitol and that the official first became aware of discussions about possible movement to there within minutes of President Trump leaving to speak at the rally on the Ellipse.

Another official, though, said they would have known whether President Trump planned to go the Capitol and that they did not hear about any such plans. And a third White House employee said that the Secret Service was “telling me that this was not a thing.” The fourth White House employee, who was close to Mr. Pence throughout Jan. 6, said that there were no plans for President Trump to go to the Capitol but that they learned that the president might go there around 1 p.m.

The driver also said that President Trump was irritated but not as agitated as he had been earlier in the day. The third White House employee also described President Trump as irate.

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