(CNN) — To date, the January 6 committee has provided a clinical, step by step breakdown of who knew what when in the days leading up to the insurrection at the US Capitol.
The committee’s hearing on Tuesday was something quite different — as Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, provided stirring and intimate details of what happened that day and, specifically, how Donald Trump acted.
It was, in a word, ugly.
Three moments stand out:
1) Hutchinson said she was told that when Trump got back into the presidential limousine, known as the Beast, and was told that he could not join protesters at the Capitol, he lost it. The then-President tried to grab the steering wheel and, when one of his security detail reached to stop him, he grabbed at that man’s throat.
2) Trump, in expletive-laden language, urged that people with weapons — guns, knives and the like — be let through the magnetometers before his speech to the “Stop the Steal” rally. His goal? Ensure that the photographs and video of the event showed a packed crowd all listening to him. “They’re not here to hurt me,” Trump reportedly told people.
3) Meadows, when pressed by White House counsel Pat Cipollone, to say something more amid “Hang Mike Pence” chants at the US Capitol responded, according to Hutchinson: “[Trump] thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn’t think they are doing anything wrong.”
Consider that. The President of the United States tried to commandeer his limousine, was stopped from doing so, and struck out at one of the people tasked with protecting him. The President, knowing there are armed people gathering, urged that they be let into a confined space so that the crowd looked robust. Amidst chants that his vice president be hung, Trump said that he deserved it.
It sounds more like the plot of a bad made-for-TV movie than real life. And all of it was happening on the same day that thousands of people stormed the Capitol, leaving 5 people dead and more than 100 police officers wounded.
In each of these instances, Trump bridled at having his power — or that of the mob — curtailed in any way. The image of Trump created in Hutchinson’s testimony is of someone driven wild by anger, spinning out of control even as he was fomenting a lie that the 2020 election was stolen and urging his followers to come to Washington on January 6 to protest the results.
Mick Mulvaney, a former Trump chief of staff, acknowledged the damage done to the former president in Tuesday’s hearing. “(I)f the President knew the protesters had weapons, and still encouraged them to go to the Capitol, that is a serious problem,” Mulvaney tweeted.
And, again, this behavior was not a one-off on January 6. Trump’s behavior was erratic for months following the election.
Hutchinson recounted that shortly after Attorney General Bill Barr told the Associated Press that he had “not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election” in early December, she walked into the presidential dining room to find a valet cleaning up — and with ketchup dripping off the wall. “The President was extremely angry at the AG’s AP interview and had thrown his lunch against the wall,” said Hutchinson.
Asked whether that was the only time that Trump had behaved that way, Hutchinson said it was not. “There were several times that I was aware of him throwing dishes or flipping the tablecloth so that all the contents of the table went on the floor.”
Trump comes across as a man desperately clinging to power, resistant to any attempts to curtail what he believed to be his absolute power to do whatever he wanted — up to and including remaining in office by any means necessary.
It’s an ugly portrait. And, unfortunately, an accurate one.