Cassidy Hutchinson this week recalled the strange indifference from Donald Trump and her boss, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, to news that the Capitol was being assaulted. Drew Angerer/Getty Images
For two hours Tuesday, former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson calmly, matter-of-factly testified to the commission of high crimes by the former president and by many of those around him.
She told her fellow Americans that Trump had been informed on the morning of Jan. 6 that the mob assembled by his command had armed itself with “knives, guns in the form of pistols and rifles, bear spray, body armor, spears, and flagpoles.” She spoke of efforts within the Trump White House to remove violent language from the president’s speech that day, to prevent incitement, and she told us that Trump had refused to change that language.
“I – – I don’t effing care that they have weapons,” she quoted Trump as saying about the mob. “They’re not here to hurt me.”
She talked of Trump planning to lead the armed mob to the Capitol, even after repeated, almost desperate warnings from Trump’s own White House counsel that “We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen.” And according to Hutchinson, only the stubborn refusal of the Secret Service to participate in that part of the plot prevented Trump from taking part.
She recalled the strange indifference from Trump and her boss, chief of staff Mark Meadows, to news that the Capitol was being assaulted. And she talked about the planning that had preceded Jan. 6, including what to do after the Capitol had been taken.
“You know, I — I know that there were discussions about him having another speech outside of the Capitol before going in,” Hutchinson told the January 6 special committee. “I know that there was a conversation about him going into the House chamber at one point.”
Imagine, for a moment, that scenario. The mob has taken the Capitol; Congress has fled. And into the abandoned House chamber marches a triumphant Trump, ready to begin his second, maybe never-ending term.
In one of many other chilling moments, Hutchinson also describes a conversation she witnessed between Meadows and White House counsel Pat Cippolone after they and Trump had learned that the crowd was calling for Vice President Mike Pence to be hung:
“I remember Pat saying something to the effect of, ‘Mark, we need to do something more. They’re literally calling for the vice president to be f’ing hung,’” Hutchinson recalled. “And Mark had responded something to the effect of, ‘You heard (Trump), Pat. He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.’”
He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn’t think they were doing anything wrong.
As some have pointed out, it’s true that neither the committee nor the American people are hearing much from the other side, so to speak, from those who might defend Trump’s actions or contradict the storylines laid out so emphatically by the committee. But why is that?
Most of those who might conceivably offer such testimony – everyone from Republican congressmen to former generals to Trump’s White House counsel to the spouse of a Supreme Court justice — are fighting subpoenas, taking the Fifth or simply refusing to testify. And if they don’t want to tell their story to the committee, under oath, every reporter and TV outlet in the world would love to give them an opportunity to do so without such an oath. Apparently, they’re afraid that revealing what they did, what they witnessed and what they heard wouldn’t be all that helpful to Trump or to their own situation.
I think they’re probably right.
In fact, the same instincts of self-preservation that drove these people to stay silent or play along while Trump tried to end American democracy are still telling them, even after all this, that cowardice remains the best course. They are victims of their character.
As Hutchinson made clear, many of the now-silent had sought pardons for their actions from Trump, another indication that the stories they might tell aren’t exactly exonerative. Trump did not grant those pardons, probably because doing so would have been an admission of his own criminal behavior, and as always the only hide he was interested in protecting was his own.
However, as stunning as Hutchinson’s testimony was, it suggested that even more serious revelations are yet to come. Throughout her appearance, she referred to secret meetings to which she had not been invited, and ominous hints and clues that she did not fully understand at the time.
“I recall hearing the word Oath Keeper and hearing the word Proud Boys closer to the planning of the Jan. 6 rally, when (Rudy) Giuliani would be around,” she said at one point. At another, she recalled Trump issuing an order for Meadows “to speak with Roger Stone and General (Mike) Flynn on Jan. 5.” She mentioned the existence of a “war room” at a Washington hotel where Stone, Giuliani, Flynn, John Eastman and other plotters were meeting the night of the 5th, and she pleaded with her boss not to attend.
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“I wasn’t sure everything that was going on at the Willard Hotel, although I knew enough about what Mr. Giuliani and his associates were pushing during this period. I didn’t think that it was something appropriate for the White House chief of staff to attend or to consider involvement in, and made that clear to Mr. Meadows.”
Meadows heeded that advice, according to Hutchinson. Instead of attending that meeting in person, he participated by telephone, and I think he’s going to very much regret doing even that much.
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