Two things leaped out for me with Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony yesterday. First, for any Republicans trying to smear her, she worked for Steve Scalise, Mark Meadows and in the Trump administration. And second, what a remarkable 25-year old woman with poise, intelligence and courage, who exuded utter credibility.
Okay, a third thought also leaped out. What a shame that was all wasted on working for such far-right policy makers. But at least they had a smart, courageous and poised young woman to give them a sense of perspective.
For all her explosive testimony, what stuck out for me was almost the very first thing she discussed. That on January 5, she was walking with Rudy Giuliani who enthusiastically was telling her about what a great day it was going to be the next day. Now, there was only two event taking place the next day – certifying the electoral votes to make Joe Biden and a rally to complain about it. The first of those is no reason for anyone in the Trump administration to be giddy, and the second (saying how upset you are that you lost) isn’t either. The only thing that can make a Trump official excited about January 6 is if he was aware something big was planned to change things. Which means the Insurrection was not an angry gathering that got out of control, but planned by those at the top. (As a side note, what also stood out is that she kept referring to him as “Rudy,” so clearly she knew him well.)
And related to this is that the very next thing in her testimony is that when she told her boss Mark Meadows, chief of staff to Trump, about this odd conversation with “Rudy,” he didn’t even react. Which pretty much suggests he, too, knew this was planned. The fact that he intended to go to the rally "war room" at the Willard only supports that. And the fact that it took her, his 25-year-old aide with far more integrity and common sense, to make sure he didn’t go, speaks even louder to her clear-eyed testimony. And from all this, we can now understand her surprising revelation why Meadows asked Trump for a pardon.
The details that Cassidy Hutchinson just flowed throughout her long testimony – some substantive to the attempted coup, some meaningful as mosaic piece about the full picture of who Trump was.
When he tried to get the metal detectors taken away so that they could knowingly let those in with guns, because “they’re not here to hurt me,” may have been the most damning testimony about Trump’s part in the Insurrection. Again, it not only suggests that the attempted coup was planned, but planned as an armed Insurrection. After all, if he know who the mob wasn’t there to hurt, it suggests he had a good idea who it was there to hurt.
Then, there was the story of the out-of-control Trump, so angry at not being able to lead to mob to the Capitol that he grabbed the wheel of his presidential limo and grabbed the throat of the Secret Service agent in charge of his detail – a man whose job was to protect Trump’s life and even risk his own if necessary.
And that was only matched by the picture of Trump being so petulant about all this that he threw his food on the wall and pulled off the tablecloth. It made me think the Baby Trump balloon should maybe be taken out of mothballs.
(So, we have a new fun game – Which is a Worse Image? Attacking his Secret Service agent or throwing food. I was going to vote for food throwing because it’s SO infantile. But I can see a powerful person having a tantrum and knocking things off the table. But attacking your Secret Service agent? Hmmm, yeah, that might be the winner.)
The meticulous details of her entire testimony – keeping in mind that she testified in private previously for the Select Committee – only added gravitas to what she presented.
It came as no surprise in the slightest that Trump released a statement during Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony that (as his go-to response about most anyone who says something critical about him) in which he claimed that he hardly knew her. The thing is, regardless of whether Trump says he doesn't know Ms. Hutchinson well (and of course he does – she was the advisor to his chief-of-staff who worked down the short hallway every single day), it doesn't matter if he knows her. That’s because Mark Meadows (her boss) knows her. Rudy Giuliani knows her. Kevin McCarthy knows her. Jim Jordan knows her. Tony Ornato and Bobby Engel know her, the men both in charge of different areas of Trump’s Secret Service security detail. And she was in the room with Trump, often. Taking notes about everything -- because that was her job. So, if Trump doesn’t actually know her (and of course he does), he should have paid much better attention, and not let this little person who means nothing to him escape his attention.
How devastating was her overwhelmingly-credible testimony? The GOP House Judiciary put out a tweet in which the best they could do was say, in its entirety – “It’s literally all hearsay evidence. What a joke.”
Now, keep in mind, this is from the GOP House Judiciary, the party’s experts in the law – which explains a lot. For starters, if yesterday was a court trial, that would have been be a semi-interesting point. But only semi, since some hearsay evidence is allowed in court. As attorney Renato Mariottii replied to the GOP Judiciary tweet, "You might want to read Federal Rule of Evidence 801(d)(2). Her testimony regarding Trump’s statements would be admissible in a criminal case against Trump."
Furthermore, not everything she said, “literally," was even hearsay. But more to the point, unfortunately for the GOP House Judiciary Team, this was not a court trial, which they should know as GOP Judiciary members. And they also should have understood that, whether hearsay or direct evidence or a hearing or a trial…she was under oath at penalty of perjury about everything she “literally” said. And nothing in the GOP House Judiciary tweet said that a single word about what Cassidy Hutchinson testified was untrue.
It was also notable at the end of the day that co-chair Liz Cheney addressed the reality of pressure being put on many of the Republican witness we’ve heard, raising the specter of witness tampering, quoting a couple of them, and making clear that this is something that would be address. Basically this was what nautical experts call giving a warning shot across the bow. There might be quite a few Republicans on the Trump team who come to mind. Rudy Giuliani is one who comes to mind, given that we already know from previous testimony about some of his efforts.
And that one crime only touches the surface of the list of crimes that legal analysts on TV were presenting about what further exposure Trump now has.
The one thing to keep in mind is that everything that Cassidy Hutchinson testified to under oath was valid for the hearing, but not all wouldn’t be admissible in a court. Though some would. So, to the DOJ, yesterday’s hearing has to be seen as the starting point for getting the information they can use. Some or much of which, I suspect, they already have.
And in the end, one other bit of testimony stood out for me – and it wasn’t from Ms. Hutchinson. Rather, it was a video of retired Gen. Mike Flynn being questioned by Liz Cheney. And when asked if he thought the violence on January 6 was morally justified, he pled the Fifth Amendment. And when asked if he thought that the violence on January 6 was morally justified, he again pled the Fifth Amendment. But the one that most-caught my attention was when he was given a softball from Rep. Cheney. “Gen. Flynn,” she asked, “do you believe in the peaceful transfer of power in the United States of America?”
To which the retired general answered, “The Fifth.”
It is my hope that Mike Flynn is re-activated to service, court-martialed and then stripped in rank. That isn’t likely to happen, but it remains one of my hopes. And I don’t put it in the fantasy file.
And in the end, that one exchange may best describe what this hearing is all about. A retired general whose sworn oath and duty of his career was to defend the Constitution and country couldn’t answer “Do you believe in the peaceful transfer of power in the United States of America?” He believed that responding might incriminate himself.
That is the Trump administration and his enabling acolytes surrounding him – in office and in the public.
That’s today’s Republican Party.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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