50 migrants dead after trailer abandoned in San Antonio heat. Today’s Jan. 6 hearing recap: Who is Cassidy Hutchinson?
50 migrants dead after trailer abandoned in San Antonio heat
Yesterday, authorities in San Antonio, TX, discovered 62 people inside an abandoned truck trailer. By the time authorities arrived, 46 were already dead and the other 16 required hospitalization. Another 4 have since died. San Antonio has been experiencing triple-digit temperatures for multiple days. Officials believe this was an abortive human smuggling attempt and three people are in custody in connection with the incident.
Among the dead were 22 people from Mexico, 7 from Guatemala and 2 from Honduras. The origins and identities of the rest remain unknown. There were children inside the truck but authorities say so far none of them have died.
Authorities haven’t yet determined how long the trailer had sat on the road abandoned. The trailer was refrigerated but had no working air conditioning and no water.
This is one of the deadliest migration tragedies ever, but it is not unique. In 2017, ten migrants died in a truck abandoned outside a San Antonio Walmart. In another similar incident in San Antonio in 2003, 19 migrants died.
Jan. 6 Hearing: Who is Cassidy Hutchinson?
Cassidy Hutchinson, now 25, was a top aide to Donald Trump’s fourth Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Prior to her work at the White House, Hutchinson had interned on Capitol Hill for Republican House Whip Steve Scalise and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. Hutchinson was an ardent supporter of Trump’s and served as a key Capitol Hill liaison for his White House.
Hutchinson had previously given four videotaped depositions before the Jan. 6 committee. Today she testified live. The committee considered her testimony important enough to hold a surprise meeting today to hear her statements before Congress’ July 4th hiatus. She offered several revealing details and insights about the lead-up to Jan. 6 and the events of the day.
Her testimony filled in a lot of gaps about the level of knowledge and involvement Trump and others had regarding plans for organized violence on Jan. 6.
Hutchinson testified that on Jan. 2 Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, asked her if she were “excited” about the 6th and said that it was “going to be a great day”. Giuliani alluded to Trump’s plan to go to the Capitol on the 6th as a joint session of Congress gathered to certify the results of the 2020 election. Giuliani said Trump would be there and that he would “look powerful”. He told Hutchinson to ask Meadows, saying “he knows about it”. Hutchinson did later ask Meadows what the plan was for the 6th. Meadows replied that there was “a lot going on” and that “things could get real, real bad on January 6th”.
Hutchinson had heard previously about plans for the rally and a possible march to the Capitol. She’d also seen memos about the potential for violence to take place that day. However, Hutchinson said that the first time she felt “scared” about what could happen on the 6th was after her conversations with Giuliani and Meadows.
Hutchinson testified that on the 5th, Trump asked Meadows to call Michael Flynn and Roger Stone. Stone in particular has extensive ties to the Oathkeepers and Proud Boys. Prominent members of both of these organizations have been brought up on charges regarding Jan. 6.
Giuliani and John Eastman, the chief architects in Trump’s legal strategy to set up fake electors to delegitimize the Nov. 2020 vote, had set up a “War Room” at the Willard Hotel. Meadows had intended to attend a meeting at the Willard Hotel the night before Jan. 6, but ultimately phoned in instead.
Hutchinson also testified about interactions with Deputy White House Chief of Staff Tony Ornato, who was in charge of coordinating the movements of core staff with the Secret Service. Ahead of Trump’s speech at the Ellipse on the 6th, Ornato and others expressed concerns to Meadows about a large number of gathering attendees who werecarrying weapons. These included flagpoles, with spearheads affixed, sidearms, knives, batons, clubs, and at least one who appeared to be carrying an AR-15. Many also wore heavy tactical armor. Meadows appeared unconcerned.
Later at the Ellipse, Trump was furious, according to Hutchinson that the Secret Service had set up metal detectors at the arena and were confiscating weapons from people who entered. Rather than enter, many of the armed attendees had taken up positions in the surrounding grounds where they could view the stage without surrendering their weapons. Trump angrily demanded that the Secret Service remove the metal detectors because he wanted the arena to be packed and there was a lot of empty space in the camera view. “Let my people in,” said Trump, “They’re not here to hurt me”. Hutchinson said Trump mentioned his wish that the crowd march to the Capitol from the Ellipse.
After the speech
At the time, it was Trump’s declared intention to go to the Capitol with the protesters. This plan was ultimately thwarted by Trump’s own followers. By the end of Trump’s speech, rioters were already gathering outside the Capitol and Capitol Police were already struggling to hold them back. Ms. Hutchinson made a still-unconcerned Meadows aware of this fact.
Because of the security situation at the Capitol, Trump’s Secret Service protector Bill Engell decided he couldn’t allow Trump to go. Engell and Ornato later described to Hutchinson Trump’s reaction when Engell told him this as they left the Ellipse in Trump’s limo. Engell and Ornato said that Trump flew into a rage, first lunging to grab hold of the steering wheel and then at Engell himself.
Hutchinson testified that White House attorney Eric Herschmann had asked Trump’s speech writers to remove language from his speech that was apparently even more inflammatory than what he ended up saying that day. She mentioned the phrases “fight for me”, “fight for Trump”
White House counsel Pat Cipollone approached Hutchinson, believing that Meadows was supporting Trump’s idea of going to the Capitol with the marchers. Cipollone urged Hutchinson to speak with Meadows to ensure that wouldn’t happen. Cipollone said “We would get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement [to the Capitol] happen”. He said that Trump leading the marchers to the Capitol could open up everyone up to charges including obstruction of justice, inciting a riot, obstruction of Congress.
At the White House
Once everyone had returned to the White House, Hutchinson was privy to some attempts to persuade Trump to intervene to halt the unfolding chaos at the Capitol. According to Hutchinson, Meadows was not especially interested in pushing Trump to do anything to call off the mob.
After Pat Cipollone came to Meadows’ office to try to rouse him from his inaction, they went together and had a brief conversation with Trump. Hutchinson observed that they discussed the chants of “hang Mike Pence” by the rioters. Afterward, Cipollone and Meadows remarked that Trump thought Pence deserved it. In the meantime, Trump tweeted that Mike Pence didn’t have the “courage” to do what Trump wanted him to.
It wasn’t until the late afternoon, after urging from Cipollone, Herschmann and Ivanka Trump, that Trump finally issued a video statement tepidly calling on the rioters to leave peaceably.
Witness intimidation? Thompson challenges previous witnesses
At the end of the meeting, Rep. Liz Cheney presented evidence that someone she did not name was reaching out to witnesses who came forward, implying there was extensive witness tampering and witness intimidation by this unnamed someone. Cheney said the committee would be investigating this further.
Jan. 6 Committee Chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) admonished witnesses that he said had given untruthful or incomplete testimony. He said the committee had recently received evidence (probably the footage from documentary filmmaker Alex Holder) that contradicted their testimony. Thompson challenged witnesses who wished to amend or add to their testimony to come forward.
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