Driver says Trump didn’t lunge for wheel on Jan. 6 in newly released testimony

The driver of former President Trump’s car on Jan. 6 disputed bombshell testimony that he tried to take control of the car, even as the witness affirmed the former president’s insistence in joining his supporters at the Capitol. 

The detail, released as part of a broader report from House Republicans that minimizes Trump’s role in the destruction that day, takes aim at star witness Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony before the now-disbanded Jan. 6 committee. 

Hutchinson told the public she heard Trump had “lunged” for the steering wheel following his speech near the White House in an apparent effort to veer toward the Capitol, a story that was relayed to her by others.

“[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 unnamed driver told the committee’s investigators.

A subcommittee on the House Committee of Administration, which drafted the report, did not release the full transcript with the driver, which has been requested by The Hill.

A copy reviewed by The New York Times, however, indicates the driver backed Hutchinson’s details about Trump’s insistence on joining supporters at the Capitol, making the demand to the driver as well as Bobby Engel, the head of former President Trump’s security detail on Jan. 6.

“The president was insistent on going to the Capitol,” recounted the driver, whose name was not disclosed.

“It was clear to me he wanted to go to the Capitol. He was not screaming at Mr. Engel. He was not screaming at me. Certainly his voice was raised, but it did not seem to me that he was irate — certainly not, certainly didn’t seem as irritated or agitated as he had on the way to the Ellipse,” the driver said, according to the transcript reviewed by the Times. 

“What stood out was the irritation in his voice, more than his physical presence.”

At another point Trump also made clear he viewed the crowd as his supporters and therefore not a danger to himself.

“I don’t remember exactly what prompted it or how that portion of the conversation kind of grew organically, but he was pushing pretty hard to go,” the agent testified. 

“The thing that sticks out most was he kept asking why we couldn’t go, why we couldn’t go, and that he wasn’t concerned about the people that were there or referenced them being Trump people or Trump supporters,” they added.

In her stunning appearance before the panel in the summer of 2022, Hutchinson described Trump’s actions as they had been relayed by Tony Ornato, a former Secret Service agent who served as Trump’s deputy chief of staff at the time. Ornato recounted the episode in front of Engel, who did not interject. 

“I’m the effing president, take me up to the Capitol now,” Trump said when Engel informed him they could not safely make the unscheduled journey, according to Hutchinson’s testimony.

“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.’ Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge towards Bobby Engel,” Hutchinson testified she had been told. 

In the Jan. 6 committee’s final report, it described Trump’s demand to go to the Capitol to join his supporters — as the undisputed key detail.

“It is difficult to fully reconcile the accounts of several of the witnesses who provided information with what we heard from Engel and Ornato,” the report states. 

“But the principal factual point here is clear and undisputed: President Trump specifically and repeatedly requested to be taken to the Capitol. He was insistent and angry, and continued to push to travel to the Capitol even after returning to the White House.”

The driver was interviewed by the committee months after Hutchinson’s explosive testimony, and the transcript was not released as part of the broader collection of records preserved by the committee.

House Administration Republicans have cast its exclusion as an effort to hide information that counters a star witness.

But a letter from the Department of Homeland Security’s general counsel referenced by the Times indicates the department was asked to review the transcript for needed redactions before it could be included in the record.

The transcript includes other details that back testimony given to the committee, including Trump’s frustration with then-Vice President Mike Pence as well as his fixation on the size of the crowd during his speech at the Ellipse.

“I don’t remember exactly how he phrased it, but my recollection is that he was upset that the vice president was unwilling to not certify the Electoral College,” the driver testified.

“Probably within 30 seconds or so, if not less than that of getting in the car, after asking about crowd sizes,” the driver added later.

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