Ex-Trump aide inspired to testify after reading Watergate book - Jan. 6 recap

WASHINGTON – The waiting game resumes Thursday for the final report of the House committee that investigated the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, after a delay from Wednesday for the visit of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and unspecified logistical hurdles.

However, the committee released files from dozens of witnesses it interviewed, though some of the documents remain sealed.

The report culminates an 18-month inquiry into the worst attack on the Capitol since 1814, with recommendations for legislation to prevent another attack. Republicans who will take control of the chamber in January labeled the panel partisan and illegitimate, so the report will be the panel's final pitch in the court of public opinion.

Here is what we know so far:

  • Publix heiress Julie Fancelli was prepared to contribute as much as $3 million to a rally on Jan. 6, 2021 that organizers were calling the “Million MAGA March,” according to interview transcripts.

  • John Matze, a co-founder and former CEO of the alternative social media platform Parler, faced questioning by the committee on the platform’s efforts to moderate violent rhetoric before and after the Jan. 6, 2021 riot.

  • Nick Fuentes' lawyer told the panel in February that Fuentes had been notified he was “a subject and possibly a target” of an investigation by the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.

The latest on the report and the files:

Cassidy Hutchinson felt inspired to testify after reading book on Watergate

After transcripts of Cassidy Hutchinson’s initial testimony to the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol attack, in which she answered “I don’t recall” to several of the committee’s questions, she said she felt an internal dilemma.

She ordered two copies of a book detailing the Watergate scandal and the involvement of Alexander Butterfield, deputy assistant to former President Richard Nixon. Butterfield delivered blockbuster testimony to the Senate Watergate committee at the time, revealing the White House’s taping system.

After she read the book, Hutchinson said she found inspiration in Butterfield. “And I wasn’t by no means trying to compare what I knew to what Butterfield knew at all.” Hutchinson said.

“And it was after I read this I was like, if I’m going to pass the mirror test for the rest of my life, I need to try to fix some of this,” Hutchinson told the committee.

– Ken Tran

Cassidy Hutchinson scheduled an interview with the committee without lawyer's knowledge

After her first interview with the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack, Cassidy Hutchinson said she felt guilty and thought she had more information to offer to the committee, but with “Trump world” attorney Stefan Passantino serving as her lawyer, she didn’t know how to schedule another interview without him knowing.

Hutchinson sought advice from another former White House aide, Alyssa Farah Griffin. The two decided on a plan for Farah Griffin to serve as a backchannel to the committee and provide them information on what to ask Hutchinson – without Passantino’s knowledge.

“I think that I can do this as long as like the committee thinks that they can really keep this low key and low profile and not let Stefan know that I’m back channeling for this interview,” Hutchinson told Farah Griffin, to which she agreed.

The committee’s request for another interview caught Passantino off guard and he was “genuinely shocked,” Hutchinson said. During breaks in the interview, Passantino asked Hutchinson, "How do they have all of this? How do they know that you know all of this?"

– Ken Tran

‘He knows you’re loyal’: Meadows aide called Jan. 6 witness Cassidy Hutchinson ahead of testimony

The night before Cassidy Hutchinson was set to testify for a second time before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol attack, she received a phone call from a top aide to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

Ben Williamson, formerly a senior adviser to Meadows and deputy assistant to former President Donald Trump, told Hutchinson that Meadows asked him to pass along a message.

“Mark wants me to let you know that he knows you're loyal and he knows you'll do the right thing tomorrow and that you're going to protect him and the boss. You know, he knows that we're all on the same team and we're all a family. Let me know how it goes."

The exchange was previously reported, though the caller was unnamed.

The call “sparked an anxiety thought” that Meadows perceived her as disloyal, Hutchinson told the committee. She said that after her deposition, Williamson called her again on Signal but she did not pick up.

– Ella Lee

Cassidy Hutchinson felt ‘target on my back’ about misleading committee

Cassidy Hutchinson said her final break with “Trump world” lawyer Stefan Passantino came June 9, when she sent him an email discontinuing their relationship and switched lawyers to Bill Jordan and Jody Hunt.

Hutchinson said she felt uncomfortable through three interviews answering committee questions about Trump’s clash with the Secret Service with “I don’t recall,” when she did recall. When asked to return for another interview, Hutchinson said she “knew that there would be a target on my back with this,” she said.

“I followed his bad legal advice; I took his bad legal advice. I will own that,” Hutchinson said. “But my character and my integrity mean more to me than anything.”

– Bart Jansen

Cassidy Hutchinson said Trump tried to 'wrap his hands around' his Secret Service agent’s neck but she was advised not to tell the committee about it

Former White House official Cassidy Hutchinson told the Jan. 6 committee how White House security chief Anthony Ornato told her after Trump’s Jan. 6, 2021 rally on the Ellipse that Trump had "tried to wrap his hands around Bobby’s neck and strangle him because he wouldn't take him to the Capitol." She was referring to Trump’s main Secret Service agent, Bobby Engel, who was in the presidential limousine with him when the president was told the Secret Service thought it was too dangerous to drive him to the Capitol to accompany an angry mob he had sent there during his fiery speech that morning.

Her closed-door testimony on Sept. 14 goes beyond her bombshell public testimony weeks earlier, when she said Trump lunged at the agent and tried to redirect the steering wheel. She also testified that when she recounted this to defense lawyer Stefan Passantino, whom she later fired and accused of trying to silence her, he said, "No, no, no, no, no. We don't want to go there. We don't want to talk about that.”

Passantino, who has denied wrongdoing, also told her to say she didn’t recall entire incidents even if she recalled a lot of detail, Hutchinson testified – including pardons sought by Trump associates and suspicious interactions between GOP lawmakers and her former boss, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, in the run-up to the attack on the Capitol. When she expressed worry that she’d be perjuring herself if she claimed not to recall such details, Passantino told her, “‘I don't recall’ is the best answer to any of that,” Hutchinson testified.

– Josh Meyer

Kevin McCarthy, John Ratcliffe expressed concerns over Mark Meadows as advisor to Trump

Former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy both expressed concerns over White House chief of staff Mark Meadows’ advisory role to Trump in the lead up to the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol attack, according to former top Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson.

Ratcliffe told Hutchinson he had conversations with Trump where he went back and forth between accepting his loss and then denying the results of the election. “I’m just a little worried that Mark’s not giving him good advice,” Ratcliffe told Hutchinson.

McCarthy echoed similar sentiments in his own conversations with Hutchinson, telling her, “I talk to the president sometimes, and he admits he lost the election, but then he’ll immediately say he didn’t lose and there’s actually a way that he’s going to stay in office.”

“I can only imagine that’s coming from Mark. Mark’s lying to him, Cassidy,” McCarthy said.

– Ken Tran

Publix supermarket heiress pledged up to $3M for 'Million MAGA March' on Jan. 6

Publix heiress Julie Fancelli was prepared to contribute as much as $3 million to a rally on Jan. 6, 2021 that organizers were calling the “Million MAGA March,” according to interview transcripts released Wednesday by the House committee investigating the Capitol riot.

Trump fundraiser Caroline Wren sent her a proposal roughly two weeks earlier and within days, Wren texted a colleague to report that she was at Fancelli’s house and had secured the money.

"Guess what the budget is she just gave me for our bus project?” she wrote, according to texts described by investigators. "$3 million..."

The colleague, Trump aide Taylor Budowich, replied with “lol”s, and “probably could do it for that,” before remarking, “rich people are so odd.”

Fancelli did not answers investigators’ questions about the exchange or many others, pleading the Fifth Amendment. She did tell investigators she never intended to fund anything but a peaceful rally.

– Donovan Slack

Cassidy Hutchinson feared 'Trump world' lawyers would try to silence her about what she knew about Jan. 6

Former top Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson told the Jan. 6 committee that she was desperate to raise money for her own defense about any potential role in the alleged Trump insurrection plot because she feared she was being railroaded into accepting “Trump world” lawyers who would protect the former president’s interests at the expense of her own.

Hutchinson, who later fired her Trump-affiliated counsel Stefan Passantino and delivered bombshell live testimony at a Jan. 6 committee hearing, told committee members on Sept. 14 she interviewed dozens of independent lawyers after being subpoenaed but couldn’t afford the required legal retainers of $125,000 or more. In desperation, she testified, Hutchinson drove from Washington to New Jersey and “begged” her father for financial assistance, saying, "You have no idea what they are going to do to me if I have to get an attorney with Trump world."

Later, Hutchinson testified, her fears intensified when former Trump associates steered her to Passantino, the former top ethics lawyer in the Trump White House, and he told her not to print out her calendars or try to remember key dates and conversations. “Look, we want to get you in, get you out,” Hutchinson quoted Passantino as saying. “We're going to downplay your role. You were a secretary. … But the less you remember, the better.” Passantino has denied any wrongdoing and said he did his best to represent Hutchinson.

– Josh Meyer

'The president could have tried to strangle you': Cassidy Hutchinson recalls conversation with Anthony Ornato

A few months after she left the White House, Cassidy Hutchinson, top aide to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, said she reached out to Anthony Ornato, former White House deputy chief of operations, after having “a really hard day.”

“I remember waking up that morning and just feeling like this heaviness with everything that happened in that period,” she said according to a transcript of the testimony. “And I knew that Tony (Ornato) would be somebody that I could talk to because Tony and I did confide in each other about a lot of things working at the White House.”

After assuring each other about how they shouldn’t blame themselves about the “movements in the Capitol,” Hutchinson recalled how Ornato had ended the call with a reference about Trump trying to grab the steering wheel of his car to force the motorcade to go to the U.S. Capitol. She had previously testified that Trump had tried to “lunge” toward the chief of his security detail Robert Engel’s “clavicles.”

"It could be worse. The President could have tried to strangle you,” Hutchinson recalled Ornato as saying.“I remember just laughing and being like, “That's true. At least he didn't try that,” she said.

– Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy

Mark Meadows met with National Archives in December 2020 to discuss transition

Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows met with the chief U.S. archivist in December 2020 without former President Donald Trump’s knowledge to discuss Trump’s presidential library and the document-retention protocol for the administration’s end, according to a transcript of testimony from Jan. 6 committee witness Cassidy Hutchinson.

According to Hutchinson, Meadows said Trump was left in the dark on the Dec. 9, 2020 meeting because the former president didn’t want his staff to begin working on a “post-election period” yet. Asked whether he agreed with Trump’s thinking, Meadows quipped “Well, I had the meeting, didn’t I?,” Hutchinson said.

“I understood that comment to mean that Mr. Meadows knew it was the right thing to do, to begin having meetings discussing an end of the Trump administration, but also that he needed to keep also trying to balance the interests and ensure that the President wasn't going to get angry at him,” Hutchinson told the panel. “He was sort of trying to do this a little bit more quietly.”

The FBI uncovered classified documents at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, earlier this year, which is a subject of a special counsel investigation concerning the former president.

– Ella Lee

Trump Mar-a-Lago documents: Judge tosses Trump's lawsuit, ending special master review of Mar-a-Lago documents

What we know about the final Jan. 6 report

Former Parler CEO grilled on content moderation by panel

John Matze, a co-founder and former CEO of the alternative social media platform Parler, faced questioning by the committee investigating the Capitol attack on the platform’s efforts to moderate violent rhetoric before and after the Jan. 6, 2021 riot.

In a May interview, Matze was asked when aggressive language on the platform went from protected speech to unprotected speech worthy of investigation by law enforcement. He primarily pleaded the Fifth Amendment to questions asked by the committee.

Questions asked by the committee indicated Parler employees were aware the events of Jan. 6, 2021 could turn violent. One employee sent a Parler post, not detailed in the interview, to the FBI along with the message, “More where this came from. Concerned about Wednesday.”

The committee also asked Matze questions about the presence of extremist groups like the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and Three Percenters on the social media platform, which he declined to answer.

– Ella Lee

Jan. 6 committee told DOJ to prosecute Trump

  • The committee on Monday recommended the Justice Department charge Trump with four crimes: inciting the insurrection, obstruction of Congress, conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to make false statements.

  • The committee also recommended Ethics Committee investigations of four House Republicans for defying subpoenas: Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania.

Jan. 6 committee witnesses sidestepped questions on fake elector scheme

Questions about a plot to use slates of fake electors in battleground states to overturn the 2020 election were sidestepped under questioning by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol attack.

Nevada GOP chair Michael McDonald and national committeeman Jim DeGraffenreid, in February testimony before the committee, pleaded the Fifth Amendment hundreds of times in their interviews with the panel, refusing to answer questions over whether they signed fake certificates pledging Nevada electoral votes to former President Donald Trump.

In one set of questions not answered, a committee investigator asked McDonald about a Nov. 4 text message to an individual named Steve suggesting McDonald was in direct contact with the then-president.

“Was on the phone to President, Mark Meadows, Giuliani, and they want full attack mode,” the text read, suggesting McDonald would participate in a “war room meeting” shortly after with the three.

Two Michiganders – Kathy Berden, a GOP national committeewoman, and Mayra Rodriguez – also declined to answer most substantive questions from the committee about a plot to subvert the election results.

– Ella Lee

Jeffrey Clark: Jan. 6 investigation ‘political,’ not ‘legislative’

Jeffrey Clark, the former Justice Department official who drafted a letter for Trump’s attorney general to send urging state officials to review their 2020 election results for fraud, refused to answer substantive questions from the committee. But that didn’t stop him from giving lawmakers a piece of his mind.

“I think that this is exclusively a political inquiry, not a legislative one,” Clark told the panel at his second deposition Feb. 2. “It also has, I think, pretenses and an underlying purpose of invading the executive sphere, in terms of law enforcement.”

His lawyer, Harry MacDougald, told the panel Clark received a call threatening to chop him into pieces in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. MacDougald said lawmakers should be embarrassed for implying Clark is guilty of crimes such as treason because he refused to testify.

“My point is that this whole process has gone off the rails,” MacDougald said. “People have lost their minds.”

– Bart Jansen

Nick Fuentes ‘subject and possibly a target’ of criminal investigation: lawyer

Nick Fuentes of Berwyn, Illinois, founder of the America First Foundation advocating American nationalism, Christianity and traditionalism, was among dozens of witnesses who declined to answer substantive questions from the committee under his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

His lawyer, Tom Durkin, told the panel at his Feb. 16 deposition that Fuentes had been notified he was “a subject and possibly a target” of an investigation by the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.

Fuentes hosts a streaming show on the internet and is a white nationalist, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremists. He recently dined with Trump at Mar-a-Lago.

– Bart Jansen

Trump, Fuentes, Kanye dined: Donald Trump dined with Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes, rapper Kanye West at Mar-a-Lago

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022.
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022.

Bennie Thompson: Committee interviewed witnesses Justice Department couldn’t find

The chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told MSNBC’s Symone Sanders-Townsend on Wednesday the committee secured interviews with witnesses such as fake electors from contested states the Justice Department couldn’t find.

Thompson expressed confidence in the special counsel, Jack Smith, to investigate who organized and financed the Capitol attack beyond the hundreds of rioters who have already been charged. But the committee interviewed more than 1,000 witnesses and is in the midst of sharing those transcripts with the department.

“There were people that we deposed that Justice had not deposed,” Thompson said. “There were electors in various states that Justice couldn’t find. We found them.”

– Bart Jansen

Jan. 6 committee posts files on 34 witnesses who were interviewed

The committee posted files Wednesday on 34 witnesses interviewed during the investigation, an initial signal of how much information the panel will be passing along to the Justice Department for its criminal investigation.

But the release was scant so far. Thirteen of the files, dealing with people such as Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis and broadcaster Alex Jones, remain sealed.

Witnesses in the rest, such as Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, Trump lawyer John Eastman and former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, refused to answer substantive questions by invoking their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

– Bart Jansen

Chapman School of Law professor John Eastman testifies on Capitol Hill in 2017. Eastman was also a former lawyer for former President Donald Trump.
Chapman School of Law professor John Eastman testifies on Capitol Hill in 2017. Eastman was also a former lawyer for former President Donald Trump.

Watchdog predicts more Jan. 6 ‘bombshells’

One government watchdog expects the final report – expected to run as long as 800 pages or more – will help fill in blanks that remain, even after nearly a dozen committee hearings.

Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, wrote in an NBC op-ed on Wednesday the report would included "hundreds of pages packed with evidence, witness statements and bombshells."

But he argued nothing will be as important as the conclusion announced Monday that Trump, “as a matter of law, incited an insurrection against the authority of the U.S. government.”

--Donovan Slack

What about witness tampering?

Among the unanswered questions observers hope are resolved in the report due out Thursday: Just who tampered with witnesses, how and which ones?

Trump tried to contact a witness after a June hearing, committee members have said. Some of Trump’s fundraising proceeds went to pay lawyers for witnesses, one witness was offered a job but it was rescinded.

“The witness believed this was an effort to prevent her testimony,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said Monday.

Still, witness tampering was not among the charges the committee recommended to prosecutors but full details remain elusive.

– Donovan Slack

Did Trump loyalist Hope Hicks incriminate the former president?

Hope Hicks, Trump's communications director in the White House, made a splash at Monday's committee meeting with a videotaped deposition saying she told him she believed he lost the election and there was no evidence of widespread fraud.

“I was becoming increasingly concerned that we were damaging his legacy,” Hicks said.

She is among more than 1,000 witnesses who cooperated with the investigation while about 30 people refused to answer questions under their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Transcripts for Hicks and other witnesses will be released after the final report and could shed more light on the investigation.

"Next to Dan Scavino, she was Trump’s most trusted aide and one of the only people he listened to," said Stephanie Grisham, a Trump White House press secretary. "Her constant proximity to the president makes her not just valuable as a witness, but vital.”

– Josh Meyer

Hope Hicks' Jan. 6 testimony: Will Trump loyalist Hope Hicks' Jan. 6 testimony incriminate the former president?

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., left, and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, leave a closed door meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington in 2019.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., left, and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, leave a closed door meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington in 2019.

GOP lawmakers blame congressional leaders, law enforcement for failing to protect Capitol

Five House Republicans released a report Wednesday arguing congressional leaders and law enforcement left the campus vulnerable to attack on Jan. 6, but that the Democratic-led investigation disregarded those failings.

Findings accused Democratic leaders of seeking to avoid “optics” of a large police presence at the Capitol after Black Lives Matter protests the previous year. Capitol Police lacked training and equipment to deal with a riotous mob, according to the report, which echoed findings of an earlier Senate report.

The GOP lawmakers who wrote the rebuttal are Jordan and Reps. Jim Banks of Indiana, Rodney Davis of Illinois, Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota and Troy Nehls of Texas. The five were nominated to serve on the committee, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Calif., rejected Banks and Jordan, and the others withdrew.

– Bart Jansen

Jan. 6 committee released an executive summary of the report Monday

The House panel on Monday released a 160-plus page executive summary of the report and showed video testimony of some of the approximately 1,000 witnesses it has interviewed during the course of its 18-month investigation.

And it voted to forward to the Justice Department its recommendations that former President Donald Trump be charged with four criminal violations stemming from his effort to overturn the 2020 election results and set loose a mob of his supporters on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, when lawmakers were certifying the electoral results showing that Trump had lost to Democrat Joe Biden.

“I expect our final work will be filed with the clerk of the House and made public later this week,” Thompson said Monday. “Beyond that release, the select committee intends to make public the bulk of its non-sensitive records before the end of the year.”

“The transcripts and documents will allow the American people to see for themselves the body of evidence we’ve gathered and continue to explore the information that has led us to our conclusions,” Thompson said.

– Josh Meyer and Bart Jansen

Jan. 6 committee members list: Who is on the House panel?

  • Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.

  • Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.

  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.

  • Rep. Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va.

  • Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md.

  • Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla.

  • Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif.

  • Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.

  • Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: January 6 transcripts live updates: Hutchinson told to skirt questions