Trump's driver contradicts Cassidy Hutchinson about Jan. 6 SUV altercation, GOP report says

Hutchinson's attorney has defended her account, however.

March 11, 2024, 10:11 PM

Former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony about what she was told of then-President Donald Trump's actions on Jan. 6 was contradicted, in part, by Trump's driver that day, a new report from a Republican-led House committee claims.

Hutchinson was a key witness in a previous, Democratic-led House select committee's investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. She testified both privately and publicly.

Among other details, Hutchinson testified that she was told Trump was "irate" on that day and attempted to go meet with supporters at the Capitol, where the rioting then unfolded as Congress gathered to certify Trump's election defeat to Joe Biden.

Hutchinson recalled a conversation she had at the White House on Jan. 6 with Bobby Engel, part of Trump's security detail, who was "sitting in the chair, looking somewhat discombobulated," and Trump White House staffer Tony Ornato, she testified before the committee in June 2022.

"As the president had gotten into the vehicle with Bobby, he thought they were going out of the Capitol and when Bobby had relayed to him, 'We're not, we don't have the assets to do it, it's not secure, we're going back to the West Wing,' the president had a very strong, very angry response to that," she recalled then.

"Tony 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 Bobby responded, 'Sir, we have to go back to the West Wing.' The president reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel. Mr. Engel grabbed his arm, 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,'" Hutchinson said.

"Mr. Trump used his free hand to lunge towards Bobby Engel," she said.

But the new 81-page report from the House Administration Committee's subcommittee on oversight, which is examining both the previous committee's investigation and what happened on Jan. 6, calls Hutchinson's account into question.

The new report cites testimony that was given by four other Trump White House employees to the previous Jan. 6 committee and the account of Trump's Secret Service driver when the purported altercation took place.

"None of the White House employees corroborated Hutchinson's sensational story about President Trump lunging for the steering wheel .... However, some witnesses did describe the President's mood after the speech at the Ellipse [earlier on Jan. 6]," the report states.

"It is highly improbable that the other White House Employees would have heard about the President's mood in the SUV following his speech at the Ellipse, but not heard the sensational story that Hutchinson claims Anthony Ornato, the White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, told her," the report continues, adding, "[N]one of them ever testified they heard anything even similar to the story recounted by Hutchinson."

According to the new report, the driver, who is not named, was interviewed by the previous Jan. 6 committee in November 2022 and "testified that he specifically refuted the version of events as recounted by Hutchinson."

The driver said he "did not see him reach [redacted]. [President Trump] never grabbed the steering wheel. I didn't see him, you know, lunge to try to get into the front seat at all," the report states.

Ornato was also interviewed by the previous Jan. 6 committee, in January, March and November 2022, both before and after Hutchinson testified publicly, according to the new report, which stated that the January 2022 interview was not released to the public along with other materials the earlier committee shared, with exceptions.

Ornato said in his November 2022 interview that he didn't remember the incident with the former president that Hutchinson described.

"I relayed that this is not a story I recollect and I don't recall that story happening," he told members of the previous Jan. 6 committee, according to excerpts included in the new report.

PHOTO: 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 on June 28, 2022 in Washington, DC.
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, FILE

The new report released by House Republicans seeks to undercut Hutchinson's credibility in various ways, including by citing Ornato and others who offer differing accounts and pointing out what it calls shifting details in what Hutchinson said when she was interviewed about Jan. 6.

The report also notes some places where Hutchinson's remembrance is corroborated.

For example, a Trump White House employee "did testify that Ornato told him that the President was 'irate' on the drive back to the White House," the report states.

In a statement, Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Democrat who led the previous Jan. 6 committee, pushed back on the new report's findings and said the work, led by Rep. Barry Loudermilk, a Georgia Republican, was "dishonest."

Thompson said that his committee's final report "took into account the testimony of all witnesses" and that "all the evidence points to the same conclusion": Trump was angered because he wasn't able to go to the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Trump has denied all wrongdoing and also attacked Hutchinson's character.

Hutchinson's attorney referred ABC News to a letter he sent to Loudermilk in January in which he wrote, in part, that Hutchinson "has and will continue to tell the truth."

"Ms. Hutchinson will not succumb to a pressure campaign from those who seek to silence her and influence her testimony, even when done in the name of 'oversight,'" her lawyer wrote.

Before her bombshell public testimony about being told Trump had an incident with Secret Service on Jan. 6, Hutchinson switched from an attorney paid for by a Trump-aligned political group to another attorney, ABC News previously reported.

She has written about having concerns that speaking out about what she knew could raise concerns with Trump, given who her lawyer was.