What made Tuesday’s surprise Jan. 6 hearing the most devastating yet
Cassidy Hutchinson, a 25-year-old former aide in Donald Trump’s White House, became the unlikely hero of the Jan. 6 committee hearings when she fearlessly dropped bombshell after bombshell during live and taped testimony Tuesday.
As the former assistant to Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, Hutchinson was a powerful eyewitness with insider knowledge into the staggering behavior and actions of the president and his close associates before, during and after the 2021 coup attempt at the U.S. Capitol.
Her testimony was perhaps the most damning to date, but it was her poise and bravery that resounded among viewers and pundits. The young woman stood firm against the pressure of a president who’s bullied the nation’s most powerful men into submission, while exposing those who protected him by revealing that Meadows and former Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani both sought presidential pardons related to the Capitol attack.
These were stunning disclosures by any measure, but their source made the new information all the more damaging. Hutchinson was an aide, not an elected official. She was a loyal foot soldier for the GOP, a high achiever who had previously interned for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.). Under oath, she described herself as “a staffer that worked to always represent the administration to the best of my ability. To showcase the good things [Trump] had done for the country.”
Her realization that her president had deceived her and the American people was evident when she spoke of the conflict and pain she felt over his corrupt and reckless actions. She said the president and his advisors knew there were people armed with guns and other weapons at the Jan. 6 gathering of Trump supporters, and the president still encouraged the crowd to “march down to the Capitol” in his Ellipse speech, urging them to “fight like hell.” “And if you don’t fight like hell,” he said, “you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
When the president was cautioned by his counsel beforehand against using such inflammatory language in his speech, he raged: “I don’t f— care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the f— [metal detectors] away.”
Times television critic Lorraine Ali is covering the Jan. 6 committee hearings. Catch up on the big moments you missed with her recaps.
Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) asked Hutchinson about her reaction to Trump’s tweet stating that former Vice President Mike Pence did not have the courage to do what needed to be done, posted after the president was aware the crowd was armed and headed for the Capitol. “It felt personal,” the witness replied. “It was really sad. As an American, I was disgusted. It was unpatriotic. It was un-American that we were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie.”
Hutchinson testified that she made multiple attempts to warn Meadows that Capitol Police officers were being overrun by rioters, and when she did finally catch his ear, he appeared uninterested in the urgent news. “It was almost a lack of reaction,” she said. “He just asked, ‘How much longer does the president have left in his speech?’”
Her mere presence stood in contrast to the party she served. She’s a young woman in a political system still run by men, many of whom are three times (or more) her age. And given that Meadows and others in Trump’s orbit have refused to participate in the hearings, Hutchinson’s behind-the scenes intel proved invaluable — a form of speaking truth to power that further distanced her from the Trump cabal.
For the record:
12:00 p.m. June 29, 2022An earlier version of this article said Hutchinson testified that shortly after Trump’s speech at the Ellipse, a senior Secret Service official pulled her into his office. At the time, that official, Anthony Ornato, now an assistant director at the Secret Service, was the White House deputy chief of staff for operations.
In particular, she had an eye for the humiliating detail known to irk the vain ex-president and reality star. Hutchinson said that shortly after Trump delivered his speech at the Ellipse, a White House deputy chief of staff pulled her into his office and told her the president tried to grab the steering wheel away from an agent who refused to drive him to the Capitol.
The former aide also recalled wiping ketchup off the wall after Trump threw his lunch in a fit when former Atty. Gen. William Barr wouldn’t hand him the voter fraud findings he wanted.
With the nuance of these outbursts and more, Hutchinson painted a picture of a desperate, power-hungry despot and his terrified subordinates; among the vivid moments Tuesday was her description of a conversation between Meadows and Pat Cipollone, White House counsel for Trump, about the mob’s alarming chants to “hang Mike Pence.” “You heard it, Pat. [Trump] thinks Mike deserves it,” said Meadows, rolling over in the face of the president’s demands. “He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.”
Though the hearings hadn’t been scheduled to resume until July, Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) explained in his opening statement that the impromptu sixth session was called to present crucial new evidence to the public. It was a smart move by the panel before members, and the country, take a holiday break.
Like the midseason finale of a blockbuster drama, they left the public with plenty of explosive material to comb over until the committee resumes its work next month.
Cheney teased what’s to come when she introduced evidence of witness tampering, showing intimidating messages that multiple witnesses had received from unnamed Trump cohorts about testifying to congressional investigators.
It made for a fitting close to Hutchinson’s star turn, which showed, with genuine courage, that a true believer can still draw the line at her leader’s attempt to overthrow democracy.
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