Donald Trump has angrily hit out at a surprise witness who testified that he knew some rioters at the US Capitol on January 6 were armed but wanted to join them anyway.
A US House committee investigating the insurrection attempt heard from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, on Tuesday, who provided jaw-dropping details of how Mr Trump attempted to physically seize the steering wheel from his driver so he could join them.
Ms Hutchinson testified that Mr Trump was told some of his supporters were armed at an earlier White House rally but wanted them to go to the Capitol anyway.
After the hearing, Mr Trump said of Hutchinson on social media: “A Total Phony!!!"
Ms Hutchinson, the principal aide to Mr Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, told the hearing that Mr Trump was angry on the morning of the riot because of security lines for a White House rally on his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.
Told that guns, knives, brass knuckles and other weapons were being confiscated from the security screenings, Mr Trump urged more people to be allowed into the grounds, she alleged.
The testimony revealed that White House lawyers were trying to stop his plans to then go to the Capitol that day when Congress would be certifying Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
She told the committee that a lawyer advised mr Trump it would be “foolish" to include some of the inflammatory language the defeated president wanted to add to his speech–langauge he used in spite of warnings.
Days before January 6, White House counsel Pat Cipollone suggested there were "serious legal concerns" if Mr Trump went to the Capitol with the crowd, Ms Hutchinson said.
On the morning of January 6, Mr Cipollone said that if Mr Trump did go to the Capitol to intervene in the election certification, "We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable,” she told the House committee.
According to the former senior aide, after Mr Trump attempted to wrest control of the wheel to go to the Capitol, he “then used his free hand to lunge toward” staff in an attempt to be driven there.
She also told of helping the White House staff mop up ketchup off the walls of the Oval Office dining room after mr Trump allegedly threw a plate of food at the wall after learning that his attorney general, William Barr, said there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
She also recalled walking with Mr Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani out of the White House when he asked if she was “excited about the 6th.”
“We’re going to the Capitol, it’s going to be great, the president’s going to be there, he’s going to look powerful," she recalled Mr Giuliani saying.
Ms Hutchinson said she felt “frustrated, disappointed ... I was really sad”, over the events.
“As an American, I was disgusted. It was unpatriotic. It was un-American. We were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie,” she said.
After her testimony, vice-chair of the committee, Liz Cheney, a Republican from Wyoming, said: “We are all in her debt”.
Ms Cheney added that some witnesses told the committee that they have been receiving calls from figures associated with Mr Trump before giving their evidence asking them to be “a team player” among other things.
“I think most Americans know that attempting to influence witnesses to testify untruthfully presents very serious concerns,” she said.
The panel does not have the power to charge Mr Trump with any crimes, but the Justice Department is conducting its own investigation into January 6.