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When the House committee investigating Jan. 6 changed its schedule to hold an immediate hearing on Tuesday, it was clear something big was afoot. The only witness to this flash hearing, Cassidy Hutchinson, former assistant to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows during the uprising, did not disappoint. For the first time, the view of January 6 from the heart of the White House – from the belly of the beast, so to speak – has been made clear.
Hutchinson testified that before Jan. 6, Donald Trump and his team had already planned to send the assembled crowd to the Capitol, and that on the morning of the uprising, the president knew the crowd was armed. She testified that Trump was furious when the Secret Service tried to block armed protesters from attending the rally by sending them through metal detectors because “they’re not here to hurt me.” She further testified that Trump had every intention of accompanying the rioters to the Capitol and, after boarding the presidential limo to get there, he tried to grab the wheel of what is aptly dubbed title The Beast and prevent him from going to the White House – even trying to grab his head of security by the neck. She testified that Trump repeatedly dragged his feet before half-heartedly calling out the rioters while endorsing their deadly threats to his Vice President, Mike Pence.
My first jaw-dropping reaction to Hutchinson’s testimony was to wonder if Trump could have avoided Senate sentencing on impeachment charges in February 2021 had this insider account of the president’s conduct been available. (The answer is unclear, as many Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, took the position that impeachment became an unconstitutional remedy the day Trump left office.) But even at this late date, it matters that we have learned that the standard MAGA’s account of Trump as an innocent bystander of the Jan. 6 violence is a lie almost as big as the stolen election fable that underpins the entire effort. to reverse the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Because the people who most need to hear this testimony (and all the other revelations produced by the Jan. 6 committee) likely won’t, it may have limited impact on Trump’s power base within the government. MAGA movement and the GOP. But listeners included Justice Department lawyers who will soon have to decide whether the criminal charges against the ex-president and his cronies are in order. While I still don’t know we’ll ever see Trump upside down, he now needs a pardon as much as the staffers, advisers and congressmen who asked him for one before he left office. .
Already media types are comparing Hutchinson to John Dean, the White House lawyer who turned against Richard Nixon and provided much of the evidence that sent a host of Nixon aides to the hoosegow and drove to Nixon’s resignation before he could be impeached. In some ways, that doesn’t make sense, because Hutchinson hasn’t (as far as we can tell) incriminated herself. But, like Dean, she helped take a chaotic series of events and piece them together in a televised account of an out-of-control president breaking through the gates of delirium in a struggle to cling to power. And even more so than Dean, Hutchinson comes across as a staunch presidential supporter and Republican professional who worked for The Boss until even she was shocked by his evil and irresponsible conduct. His portrayal of Trump on January 6 will not fade over time.