(Dobbs) I Believe Cassidy Hutchinson
Why won't Trump's loyalists come in and testify under oath, as she did?
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Where there’s smoke there’s fire.
If you believe in that as I do, then maybe Donald Trump is going down in flames. Ever since that dreadful day in 2015 when Trump said he was running for president, the smoke has been so thick, you could cut it with a knife. Now even a knife’s not enough.
That’s why, if there are a few challenges to the incriminating testimony against Donald Trump this week by former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who had a front-row seat on January 6th, they are lipstick on a pig.
She said Trump knew his supporters that day were armed but, confident that “they’re not here to hurt me,” he told them to “fight like hell” and encouraged them to march on the Capitol. No one has disputed that.
She said he had to know from planning sessions for the January 6th rally that violent groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers would be in the heart of the mob. No one has disputed that.
She said he wanted to join them, screaming at the Secret Service, “I’m the f***ing President, take me up to the Capitol now!” No one has disputed that he wanted to get there. To the contrary, the Secret Service has confirmed it.
She said he knew they were calling for his vice president to be hanged for refusing to violate the Constitution to keep Trump (and himself) in office but that Trump believed Pence “deserved” it. No one has disputed that.
She said he didn’t act for more than three hours to disperse the insurrectionists. When he did, he told them with a wink and a nod, “We love you.” No one has disputed that. We saw it.
A few have disputed the story about Trump’s wild behavior in his limousine but no one, save perhaps Trump himself, no one even in Trump’s orbit has said— especially under oath— that these other things, far more threatening to the future of our democracy, aren’t accurate.
They could have disputed them, of course. They’ve been invited to talk. But most won’t.
That’s why Trump’s complaint that the January 6th Committee hearings are one-sided is so hollow.
Republican leader Kevin McCarthy could have allowed his members who hadn’t acted to overturn the election to serve on the committee. He wouldn’t. Trump’s loyalists could have testified to the committee as Cassidy Hutchinson did. They haven’t. As Trump’s own former chief of staff Mick Mulvaney put it on CNN, “It’s hard to say that your side is not getting out there, your argument’s not getting out there, when your people won’t go and talk.”
But key aides have refused, some even have defied subpoenas. Like Mark Meadows, Rudy Giuliani, Steve Bannon, Peter Navarro, Dan Scavino, Republican leader McCarthy and four others in Trump’s rabid corps of congressional apologists. Even Ivanka and Jared could come in, but they couldn’t.
Ginni Thomas— Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife who was proactively promoting the plan to overturn the election— Tuesday withdrew her offer to testify.
Trump’s first national security advisor Michael Flynn, who told a QAnon crowd a year ago that a coup like the one earlier that year in Myanmar “should happen here”— the verbal italics were his emphasis, not mine— he did appear before the committee, but he didn’t talk. Here’s how that went:
Co-chairperson Liz Cheney asked Flynn, “Do you believe the violence on January 6th was justified?” Flynn took the Fifth.
“Do you believe the violence on January 6th was justified morally?” The Fifth.
“Do you believe the violence on January 6th was justified legally?” The Fifth.
“General Flynn, do you believe in a peaceful transition of power in the United States of America?” Again, the Fifth.
Cheney wasn’t asking this guy if he had smuggled guns into the Capitol and plotted a coup d’etat. She was simply asking him how he felt about the attack. He couldn’t give a straight answer.
Cassidy Hutchinson, on the other hand, answered every question. And this woman, who New York Times columnist Bret Stephens describes as “a source from within the inner sanctum," was credible. In fact unlike General Flynn, she not only answered questions, she answered them under oath, and under penalty of perjury. On top of that, as columnist Michelle Cottle has pointed out, she testified “knowing full well the abuse and threats that those who cross Donald Trump on even minor matters often suffer.”
The courage she showed is reinforced by reports that she and at least one other witness got intimidating calls before their appearances warning that Trump was paying attention to what they’d say.
The picture she painted is reinforced by reports that some of the key figures in the attempt to overturn the election— Trump’s chief of staff Meadows, his personal lawyer Giuliani, and at least six of his collaborators in Congress— asked for pardons even before being charged with crimes. Why would these people ask for pardons if they haven’t done anything wrong?
So whether or not our 45th president was so unhinged, when told by the Secret Service that he couldn’t personally join his gang at the Capitol, that he tried to grab the steering wheel of his armored limo and actually lunged at an agent in the front seat is almost immaterial.
The Secret Service says the agents in the car would testify that Hutchinson’s story isn’t completely true. But still— and I might regret saying this but I don’t think I will— still I believe her. First, because I don’t think someone astute enough to be a senior aide to the White House chief of staff would be stupid enough to concoct a tale like that, and even name others who were in the limo and told her the story. Second, because the three-time Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, Carol Leonnig, has described some of Trump’s agents as “enablers” and “yes men” who “were very, very close to President Trump”— the man who Hutchinson says told her the limo story, Trump’s deputy chief of staff, had been an agent himself and is one again. And third, because it’s not inconceivable that in denying that Trump “grabbed” the steering wheel and “lunged” at an agent in the front seat, they are parsing their words.
But after all is said and done, this is about more than what happened in the limo. It’s about what happened at the Capitol. Who planned it, who encouraged it, who started it. All Cassidy Hutchinson did was paint a vivid portrait of what many others have corroborated.
If Donald Trump does go down in flames, it’ll be because even some loyalists who long took his side have had enough and heard enough. The Washington Examiner, founded as a conservative counterpoint to The Washington Post, wrote in an editorial this morning that Hutchinson’s testimony “ought to ring the death knell” for Trump’s presidential ambitions. “Trump,” it declared, “is unfit to be anywhere near power ever again…. Trump is a disgrace.”
Over almost five decades Greg Dobbs has been a correspondent for two television networks including ABC News, a political columnist for The Denver Post and syndicated columnist for Scripps newspapers, a moderator on Rocky Mountain PBS, and author of two books, including one about the life of a foreign correspondent called “Life in the Wrong Lane.” He has covered presidencies and politics at home and international crises around the globe, from Afghanistan to South Africa, from Iran to Egypt, from the Soviet Union to Saudi Arabia, from Nicaragua to Namibia, from Vietnam to Venezuela, from Libya to Liberia, from Panama to Poland. Dobbs has won three Emmys, and the Distinguished Service Award from the Society of Professional Journalists.