Cassidy Was Trump's Worst Nightmare
One bombshell after another
Well, that lived up to its billing.
As you’d expect, we have extensive coverage of Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony in today’s Bulwark. Make sure you read Amanda Carpenter’s piece: “Hutchinson Puts Trump’s Violence on Display,” and Tim Miller’s insta-take: “Cassidy Hutchinson Held Their Manhoods Cheap.”
I also have some thoughts.
Brought the 1/6 investigation into the room where it happened. Cassidy Hutchinson was a Trump White House insider, who was at, or near, the center of it all. Her appearance may encourage others to come forward and could break the dam.
Laid out several new lines of possible criminal exposure for Trump — ranging from seditious conspiracy to witness tampering. Tuesday’s testimony increased the odds that Trump and his inner circle will, in fact, face criminal charges.
Began to establish clear links between the White House inner circle and the coup plotters — and their knowledge of what was about to go down.
On 2 January 2021, four days before electoral college results would be certified, Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s attorney, told Hutchinson: “The 6th is going to be a great day … we’re going to the Capitol. It’s going to be great. The president is going to be there. He’s going to look powerful.”
Meadows then told Hutchinson: “Things might get real, real bad on January 6.”
Added important details to the timeline of what was happening in the White House before, during, and after, the Insurrection, including what Trump knew about the potential for violence; his order to let protesters with weapons in; and his real-time refusal to take action. This was close to a smoking gun:
“You know, I don’t effing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the effing mags [magnetometers] away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here. Let the people in. Take the effing mags away.”
Was chock full of dazzling details, from ketchup on the walls, to the HOLY F**k allegations that Trump may have assaulted a secret service agent who was preventing him from joining the march on the Capitol. (Those details are being disputed, about which more later.)
Laid the groundwork for new inquiries, and highlighted the centrality of White House counsel Pat Cipollone. If Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony wasn’t the John Dean moment, she made it clear that the testimony of the former White House counsel just might be.
In the days leading up to the attack, Hutchinson testified, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone was frantically warning that if anyone from the White House, let alone the president, went to the Capitol on Jan. 6, they’d be charged with federal crimes.
She said he told her, in language that sounded almost like begging: “Please make sure we don’t go up to the Capitol, Cass. … We are going to get charged with every crime imaginable.”
And on January 6 itself:
She said Cipollone continued to pressure Meadows to convince Trump to call off the rioters: “Something needs to be done, or people are going to die, and blood is going to be on your f---ing hands. This is getting out of control.” They both marched out of the office, down to the dining room where Trump was, she testified.
Was so powerful that it temporarily gobsmacked even Fox News.
But my biggest takeaway:
Yesterday really was Trump’s worst nightmare. As Dan Balz wrote: “Rarely have Americans heard such descriptions of the country’s highest elected official, descriptions made more powerful because they came from a 25-year-old who had served the president loyally but who on Tuesday acted courageously in service to the country instead.”
Why did she do it? She made that clear when she described her reaction to Trump’s tweet about Pence on January 6:
“As a staffer that works to always represent the administration to the best of my ability and to showcase the good things that he had done for the country, I remember feeling frustrated, disappointed, and really it felt personal.
“As an American, I was disgusted. It was unpatriotic. It was un-American. We were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie.”
How did Trump himself see this? He obsesses about appearances, and she was an attractive, poised, and compelling witness. To use Trump’s own term, she looked like she was from “central casting,” and she made for great television. Which is why TrumpWorld absolutely, positively will work feverishly to discredit her testimony. Which, of course, is already underway.
One bombshell after another
Amanda Carpenter lays out some of the highlights:
President Donald Trump was warned that his supporters were armed before he gave his speech on Jan. 6th. He wanted them to be packed in close to the stage at his rally anyway because he said, as Hutchinson recalled, “They’re not here to hurt me.”
With the full knowledge that members of the mob were armed, the president was insistent that his supporters not only go to the Capitol, but that he personally lead this mob there. As we already knew, Trump then directed this mob of thousands—which, again, he knew were armed—to go to the Capitol during his speech. (“I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”)
Trump steadfastly refused to condemn the attack. Instead, he wanted to make a speech defending the rioters, raising his willingness to pardon them, and issue further attacks on then-Vice President Mike Pence. (Which is exactly what Trump is doing in speeches now.)
Hutchinson revealed that both her direct boss—Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff—and Rudy Giuliani sought pardons from the president for their participation in activities related to Jan. 6th—as did several members of Congress.
About the Secret Service
Amid a series of explosive revelations, this was the most incendiary:
Hutchinson said then-White House deputy chief of staff Tony Ornato told her that Robert Engel, then the head of Trump’s Secret Service detail, refused to take Trump to the Capitol. When Engel refused, Trump said, “I’m the f—ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now.” Then, Trump “reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel.” She said Ornato told her that Trump used his free hand to “lunge” at Engel. In recounting this story to Hutchinson (in the presence of Engel), Ornato gestured toward to his throat to indicate a physical attack.
This is, however, a second-hand story, and “sources” immediately suggested that the Secret Service would knock it down.
Hutchinson’s attorney responded.
Peter Alexander @PeterAlexander🚨 A source close to the Secret Service tells me both Bobby Engel, the lead agent, and the presidential limousine/SUV driver are prepared to testify under oath that neither man was assaulted and that Mr. Trump never lunged for the steering wheel.
So, we’ll have to see. Obviously, the stakes are high, because this story could be used by the MAGAverse to undermine her credibility on everything else. (It could also raise questions about the January 6 Committee’s vetting process: surely they checked with the SS about the story before airing the testimony, right? Right?)
It really is important to keep in mind some context about Tony Ornato, who was the source for Hutchinson’s story:
The Secret Service also took the unprecedented step of allowing the former detail leader to temporarily leave his job to become a White House political adviser. Anthony Ornato was hired as White House deputy chief of staff earlier this year. In that role, he helped coordinate a controversial June photo opportunity in which Trump strode defiantly across Lafayette Square to pose with a Bible after the park was forcibly cleared of peaceful protesters.
Ornato also helped coordinate numerous rallies across the country during the pandemic, per Trump’s wishes. The mass gatherings were blamed for increasing the spread of the coronavirus in some of the communities where they took place and left many in the ranks of the Secret Service infected or exposed.
Ryan Goodman tweeted:
Jake Tapper @jaketapperFormer Trump WH Comms director @Alyssafarah says she sees former Trump WH deputy chief of staff (and Secret Service agent) Tony Ornato's reported dispute with Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony he told her the story of Trump lunging at USSS agent Engel through a specific lens...
Some believed that, with 2022 looking tough for Democrats, Republicans could take the governor’s mansion in deep blue Illinois.
That got a lot more difficult after Tuesday’s Republican primary. Voters nominated conservative firebrand state Sen. Darren Bailey over a more traditional Republican candidate to take on Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) in November. Democrats are thrilled about this. Bailey wants to ban abortion in the state (except in cases where the mother’s life is in danger) and has described Chicago as “a crime-ridden, corrupt, dysfunctional hellhole.” He once tried to eject the city from the state and he has former president Donald Trump’s endorsement.
Tim Miller writes: “They all knew. But only the 26-year-old staffer would testify about it under oath.”
This afternoon a 26-year-old former assistant showed more courage and integrity than an entire administration full of grown-ass adults who were purportedly working in service to the American people, but had long ago decided to serve only their ambition and grievance.
Cassidy Hutchinson did so at risk to her safety. Her social circle. Her career.
And she overcame all of the self-serving rationalizations that prevented the powerful, whose manhoods she held in her palm, from stepping to the plate.