Cassidy Hutchinson delivered bombshell testimony on Tuesday during the Jan. 6 committee's surprise hearing, revealing what she saw on the day of the Capitol attack while serving as an aide to then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
Hutchinson testified that former President Donald Trump was enraged when a Secret Service agent refused to drive him to the Capitol as his supporters began to descend upon it, and knew that there were armed individuals in the crowd but wasn't worried because they weren't "here to hurt me." She also said Trump didn't think the rioters "did anything wrong," with his ire focused solely on former Vice President Mike Pence, who did not go along with a plot to try to overturn the election.
Crucial — and riveting — testimony
Hutchinson's testimony "landed like a bomb," Elie Honig, a CNN senior legal analyst and former federal and state prosecutor, wrote. "She addressed several of the most pressing questions before the committee, including who knew what and who did what during the crucial moments before and during the Jan. 6 Capitol attack." During earlier hearings, the committee heard from Trump-era Department of Justice officials, lawyers, state and local election officials, and Capitol police officers, but Hutchinson has been the "most compelling witness to date," Honig said. Throughout her two-hour testimony, she "gave the committee and the American public a historically unrivaled look at a president unhinged, enraged, and apparently willing to cross any line to remain in power," Honig added. "She provided a riveting firsthand look at wrongdoing by an astonishing range of powerful people, up to and including former President Donald Trump."
Politico senior media writer Jack Shafer wrote that while powerful, the testimony "won't be potent enough on its own to undo the Trump hex — it was just an afternoon interview on afternoon television, and Trump has weathered worse." Still, it cannot be ignored that Hutchinson was a "White House insider and loyalist who worked only a 10-second walk from the Oval Office and who appears to be a credible witness," and this hearing "damaged the Trump edifice in a way that 1,000 op-eds and a hundred political speeches couldn't." She kept her cool, Shafer continued, and "artfully sketched the portrait many of us hold in our mind's eye: A belligerent oaf who cares for nothing but himself; a porcupinal blowhard who will do anything to maintain power; and a mess-making child who breaks things when he doesn't get his way and leaves us to clean up after him."
While Hutchinson was praised by pundits, Trump went on a rampage on his Truth Social platform, saying he "hardly" knows her "other than I heard very negative things about her." On Fox News, anchor Bret Baier called Hutchinson's testimony "very compelling from beginning to end," and noted that Trump was refuting much of it. "Cassidy Hutchinson is under oath on Capitol Hill," Baier added. "The president is on Truth Social making his statements."
Hutchinson, 25, interned for Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) before landing a White House internship, where she was hired full-time after graduating from college. She became an aide to Meadows in 2020, and four former White House officials told The Washington Post Hutchinson had "extraordinary access" and, to some, "inordinate power." She was "enthusiastic" about working for Trump and the White House, they said, and understood the magnitude of her job.
"It's pretty damning that you have a 25-year-old coming forward and publicly testifying, and there are folks twice her age who are refusing to do the same," Sarah Matthews, a former spokeswoman in the Trump White House, told the Post. "I think her coming forward despite an immense amount of pressure and credible security threats, that's just a profile in courage." On Twitter, there was some pushback to Hutchinson's testimony from people who claimed someone that young could not have played a major role in a presidential administration, and Matthews responded, "Anyone downplaying Cassidy Hutchinson's role or her access in the West Wing either doesn't understand how the Trump WH worked or is attempting to discredit her because they're scared of how damning this testimony is."
Where do we go from here?
Mick Mulvaney is now a political commentator, but during the Trump administration, served as acting White House chief of staff from January 2019 through March 2020. At the conclusion of Tuesday's hearing, the committee's vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), mentioned evidence of witness tampering and obstruction of justice, and Mulvaney tweeted that he was reminded of the "old maxim: it's never the crime, it's always the coverup. Things went very badly for the former president today. My guess is that it will get worse from here." This, along with Hutchinson's testimony stating that Trump knew his supporters at the Capitol had guns and "there may be a line from Proud Boys to the WH" made it "a very, very bad day for Trump."
Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, now a legal affairs columnist for Politico Magazine, called Hutchinson's testimony "a game-changer" that "actually moved the ball forward significantly toward a potential criminal prosecution of the former president." Before Tuesday, "the most damning evidence we've seen publicly has been the actions of the crooked lawyers advising Trump," Mariotti said, like Rudy Giuliani. Hutchinson, however, was physically present for conversations and heard firsthand about others, and is able to "give us a window into Trump's state of mind that would be admissible in court against Trump."
Hutchinson told the Jan. 6 committee that when talking about his supporters, Trump said he "didn't f---ing care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me," and they would make their way to the Capitol. This is "precisely the sort of 'smoking gun' evidence needed to prove that the person speaking meant to incite imminent violence," Mariotti said. This is enough evidence, he added, for the Department of Justice to "at least consider an incitement prosecution."