At a rally Friday night in Arizona, former President Donald Trump railed against the panel investigating the Jan. 6 riot — and his vice president, Mike Pence, who is also contemplating a presidential run, made a rival appearance in the Grand Canyon State.
Speaking in Prescott Valley in support of Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters, Trump attacked the House select committee investigating the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in 2021.
Trump said he had watched Thursday night’s hearing, which focused on what he was doing while the violent mob breached the Capitol as Congress was certifying Joe Biden’s 2020 election win. The former president called it a “hoax.”
He also repudiated former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony last month, in which she detailed Trump’s apparent plan to go to the Capitol on Jan. 6 and tell his supporters after his “Stop the Steal” rally on the Ellipse that he hadn’t lost the election.
Hutchinson claimed under oath that Tony Ornato, a top security official for the president, told her about an altercation on Jan. 6 in which Trump allegedly lunged at the steering wheel of the presidential vehicle, colloquially known as “the Beast,” demanding to be taken to the Capitol, and was physically restrained by a Secret Service agent, Robert Engel, when he was told he would be returning to the White House instead.
According to Hutchinson, Ornato “described [Trump] as being irate. The president said something to the effect of, ‘I’m the effing president. Take me up to the Capitol now!’” she said.
On Friday night, Trump contested Hutchinson’s testimony, saying he could not have physically done what she had claimed. The former president also denied Hutchinson’s claim that she saw a White House valet cleaning up a mess after Trump apparently smashed a plate with his lunch on it against a wall.
“They have me throwing food,” Trump told the crowd. “I don’t throw food in the White House. I don’t throw food anywhere. I eat the food.”
He also railed against Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, who told the members of the Jan. 6 committee that Trump pressured him, without evidence, to say the 2020 election was fraudulent. Trump called Bowers “a RINO coward who participated against the Republican Party” during the June hearing.
Trump said of the House’s investigation: “Where does it stop? Where does it end? Never forget: Everything this corrupt establishment is doing to me is all about preserving their power and control over the American people, for whatever reason. They want to damage me in any form so I can no longer represent you.
“If I stayed home, took it easy, if I announced that I was not going to run any longer for political office, the persecution of Donald Trump would immediately stop,” he added. “They’re coming after me because I’m standing up for you.”
Trump didn’t mention Pence on Friday night — but the two had dueling events in Arizona at which they campaigned for opposing candidates for governor. Pence, who is also contemplating running in 2024, attended two events with Karrin Taylor Robson, a development attorney who has called for moving on from the 2020 election.
Next week, Trump and Pence will cross paths again in Washington, D.C. — Trump’s first visit to the nation’s capital since leaving office — where each will deliver major speeches.