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Trump was alerted that Cabinet considered using 25th Amendment, aide testifies

·Reporter
·6 min read
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WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump’s staff warned him that his actions on Jan. 6, 2021, could amount to criminal behavior. They unsuccessfully pleaded with him to call off rioters ransacking the Capitol who were threatening former Vice President Mike Pence. And after the riot had been put down and one of the most chaotic days in U.S. history was over, a former aide testified Tuesday, they told him his cabinet members were discussing invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.

Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top aide to Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows and a veritable fly on the wall throughout the events and meetings that led to the insurrection at the Capitol, testified at length Tuesday that Trump was often irate and lashed out at staff as he attempted to hold on to power after he lost the 2020 election. His behavior, she said, had led Cabinet members to consider a remedy allowed by the U.S. Constitution.

Trump’s top advisers and White House lawyers pushed him to deliver an address to the nation on Jan. 7, 2021, the day after the attack, as a means to save his legacy — and also stave off a potential move by his own Cabinet members to oust him using the 25th Amendment.

“There was a large concern of the 25th Amendment potentially being invoked and there were concerns about what would happen in the Senate if it was — if the 25th was invoked,” Hutchinson said. Part of their pitch to Trump was, she said, “You need this as cover.”

Cassidy Hutchinson, a top former aide to Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, testifies during the sixth hearing by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol in the Cannon House Office Building on June 28, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
Cassidy Hutchinson, a top former aide to Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, testifies during the sixth hearing by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol in the Cannon House Office Building on June 28, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Trump’s lawyers, including Pat Philbin and Pat Cipollone wanted him to condemn the rioters, promise to prosecute them, and acknowledge that the election was not stolen. In contrast, Trump sought to offer them a blanket pardon in the speech, Hutchinson testified. While Trump ultimately taped the speech, without mentioning of prosecutions or pardons, he again falsely asserted that he had won the 2020 election.

The 25th Amendment allows for the vice president and the members of the cabinet to install the vice president into the role of president if the sitting president is incapacitated. Throughout the six Jan. 6 select committee hearings to date, Trump’s own former aides and advisers have repeatedly described Trump as almost out of touch with reality, refusing to accept his loss and pushing wild conspiracy theories to argue that he had won the 2020 election.

Last week, former Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue recounted investigating Trump’s many bogus claims of election fraud. He expressed his surprise that when he told Trump there was no evidence, instead of being angry, Trump simply floated another conspiracy theory. In one case, Trump had his acting secretary of defense, Chris Miller, contact Italian officials to ask if they were using defense satellites to change votes for Biden.

And following a meeting between Trump and then-Attorney General William Barr in early December 2020, after Barr had told the Associated Press there was no evidence of fraud, Hutchinson recalled walking into the White House dining room and found a smashed porcelain plate and ketchup dripping down the wall. Trump had thrown his lunch at the wall in a fit of rage.

“There was ketchup dripping down the wall, and there was a shattered porcelain plate on the floor,” Hutchinson said.

A slide shown during the House select committee hearing on Tuesday
A slide shown during the House select committee hearing on Tuesday. (House TV)

Throughout her two hours of testimony during Tuesday’s surprise hearing, Hutchinson detailed how he seemed increasingly irate and out of control as he attempted to defy the peaceful transfer of power on Jan. 6.

When Secret Service agents refused to drive Trump to the Capitol, the former president became angry, Hutchinson said, and he told them, “I’m the effing president, take me up to the Capitol now!”

When Trump was alerted that armed protesters bearing AR-15s, pistols and body armor had assembled outside his “Stop the Steal” rally, which later morphed into a riotous mob attacking the Capitol, Trump demanded that Secret Service take down the magnetometers (or “mags”) meant to screen out potential threats to the president.

“They’re not coming after me,” Trump said, according to Hutchinson.

A slide shown during a House select committee hearing
(House TV)

As he departed the speech he had given to his supporters, Trump demanded that his Secret Service detail drive him to the Capitol to address lawmakers. When they refused, citing the need to protect him, Trump lunged to try to grab the wheel of his own limousine, Hutchinson said.

As the attack on the Capitol unfolded, Hutchinson described Trump as effectively walled off from his advisers and recounted her efforts to push Meadows to alert Trump about the severity of what was transpiring.

Fox News host Sean Hannity spoke with Trump later that day and let him know that he was facing potential removal from office via the 25th Amendment or impeachment, Rep. Liz Cheney said at Tuesday’s hearing.

Hutchinson recalled then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who at the time was laying the groundwork for his own possible White House bid, telling Meadows that the other Cabinet members were actively debating invoking the 25th Amendment.

(House TV)
(House TV)

Indeed, former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told USA Today, later that she had discussed invoking the 25th Amendment with Pence, but that Pence had shot down the idea.

“I wanted to get a better understanding of the law itself and see if it was applicable in this case. There were more than a few people who had those conversations internally,” DeVos told USA Today. She later concluded it would be unlikely to work and resigned on Jan. 7, 2021.

Pence, who faced the wrath of the Trump mob on Jan. 6, would have needed to have signed on to the plan to carry it out. In a Jan. 12, 2021 letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Pence wrote that the nation needed to heal after the attack, rather than seek Trump’s removal.

“The Bible says that ‘for everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven ...a time to heal ... and a time to build up,’” Pence wrote to Pelosi. “That time is now.”

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The rioters got within 2 doors of Vice President Mike Pence's office. See how in this 3D explainer from Yahoo Immersive.