A former White House aide testified that former President Donald Trump grabbed the steering wheel of a Secret Service vehicle on Jan. 6, 2021, when his detail refused to take him to the Capitol where he encouraged supporters to “peacefully and patriotically” protest. However, two witnesses in the vehicle at the time later said through an NBC source that the account wasn’t true and they’re prepared to testify under oath.
During testimony on Tuesday before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol storming, Cassidy Hutchinson — a former aide to Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows — said Trump’s team told him that the Capitol was “not secure” after his speech and that they were taking him “back to the West Wing.”
“The president had a very strong, very angry reaction response to that. [Tony Ornato, then-White House deputy chief of staff] described him as being irate. The president said something to the effect of: ‘I’m the effing president. Take me up to the Capitol now.’ To which [Secret Service agent Robert Engel] responded, ‘Sir, we have to go back to the West Wing,” Hutchinson said.
“The president reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel,” she continued. “Mr. Engel grabbed his arm and said, ‘Sir, you need to take your hand off the steering wheel. We’re going back to the West Wing. We’re not going to the Capitol.”
NBC Chief White House Correspondent Peter Alexander later tweeted Tuesday evening that a source close to Secret Service lead agent Bobby Engel and the presidential vehicle driver – who were both present during the alleged dispute – “are prepared to testify under oath that neither man was assaulted and that Mr. Trump never lunged for the steering wheel.”
Trump had responded to Hutchinson’s testimony on his social media platform Truth Social, writing that the steering wheel story was “fraudulent, very much like the Unselect Committee itself.”
“Her Fake story that I tried to grab the steering wheel of the White House Limousine in order to steer it to the Capitol Building is ‘sick’ and fraudulent, very much like the Unselect Committee itself – Wouldn’t even have been possible to do such a ridiculous thing,” Trump wrote. “Her story of me throwing food is also false…and why would SHE have to clean it up, I hardly knew who she was?”
On Jan. 6, 2021, before Trump’s team allegedly refused to take him to the Capitol, Trump spoke at a rally and told hundreds of his supporters, “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”
Trump also urged protesters to go home after the Capitol was breached, saying in a video posted to Twitter at the time, “We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side, but you have to go home now, we have to have peace.”
“We love you. You’re very special,” he added. “Go home in peace.”