This isn’t even the biggest news from this afternoon’s hearing, just the splashiest.
But I suppose it does qualify as big news that the sitting president allegedly physically attacked his own security detail because they wouldn’t let him participate in a putsch attempt going on at the Capitol.
Cassidy Hutchinson was Mark Meadows’s right-hand gal when he was Trump’s chief of staff, placing her within earshot of the two of them for much of her workday. She’s spoken to the committee in four separate closed-door interviews, but what she told them was compelling enough that they wanted to get her in front of the cameras. Evidently she was reluctant, as today’s hearing was only announced yesterday and her identity was kept a close secret by the committee until this morning. Why? Because, as is the case for anyone who makes life difficult for Trump, she now faces “credible security threats.”
Which, I suspect, is how he likes it. More on that in a second.
Here’s the testimony that sent political media reeling, a never-before-disclosed allegation of what happened in the presidential limo after Trump finished his rally speech on the morning of January 6. He wanted to drive to the Capitol, where the mob was en route. No way, said the Secret Service, not wanting to let the commander-in-chief mill about in a volatile crowd at a moment when no one knew what might happen. Trump did not react well, according to Hutchinson.
“Tony” is Tony Ornato, a Secret Service agent who was serving at the time as White House deputy chief of staff(?!). “Bobby” is Robert Engel, the Secret Service agent who was assigned that day to stay by Trump’s side and protect him.
Hutchinson describes a chaotic scene in which Trump tried to force his motorcade to drive him to the Capitol: pic.twitter.com/dHGHM7ovUR
— The Republican Accountability Project (@AccountableGOP) June 28, 2022
Could Hutchinson be making that up? It’s unlikely, per another former Trump chief of staff:
My guess is that before this is over, we will be hearing testimony from Ornato, Engle, and Meadows.
This is explosive stuff. If Cassidy is making this up, they will need to say that. If she isn't they will have to corroborate.
I know her. I don't think she is lying.
— Mick Mulvaney (@MickMulvaney) June 28, 2022
I suspect Mulvaney is right, for the simple reason that Engel himself has already spoken to the January 6 committee. If they hadn’t already corroborated Hutchinson’s claims with him, it’d be silly to let her testify; otherwise Engel could simply call a press conference and deny everything.
In all likelihood, they’ve got Engel and/or Ornato teed up to testify next month and are laying the groundwork for them with Hutchinson.
As I say, though, the president trying to grab his bodyguard by the throat for not letting him witness his coup attempt firsthand is only the secondary headline. This is the headline:
Cassidy Hutchinson: "I overheard the president say something to the effect of, 'I don't effing care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me. Take the effing mags away. Let my people in, they can march to the Capitol from here.'" pic.twitter.com/42RRdO7dNh
— CSPAN (@cspan) June 28, 2022
Sounds like … incitement. He knew that the rally crowd, which he was about to exhort to march to the Capitol, had weapons. He actually tried to loosen security so that more people with weapons could file in and fill out the space. He didn’t see a problem inflaming an armed mob because he knew those weapons wouldn’t be used on him, only on the cops and members of Congress.
That’s Trump to the core. He can’t empathize with people, especially those who are standing between him and something he wants, and he’s always clearly relished the idea of his fans siding with him in a violent context. It goes back to his famous line during the 2016 campaign that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose a single vote. Later he speculated about his supporters rioting if he were to be denied the nomination at the 2016 convention; he half-joked at rallies that he’d pay his fans’ legal fees if they punched left-wing protesters, he told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” at the debate shortly before the 2020 election; and he made many other small asides over the years winking at the threat that the most crazed members of his cult might potentially pose to their enemies.
The insurrection was the icing on the cake. For a narcissist of Trump’s magnitude, the prospect of goons hanging his own vice president for behaving disloyally must have hit him like a shot of heroin:
"Mark had responded something to the effect of, 'You heard him, Pat. He thinks Mike [Pence] deserves it. He doesn't think they're doing anything wrong.'" pic.twitter.com/TGeXBmAy3O
— January 6th Committee (@January6thCmte) June 28, 2022
He’s a tragic figure in a sense. He has all the charisma, wealth, and animal cunning required to have made him a dictator somewhere, which is what he wants to be. It was his misfortune to have been born in a country that was almost but not quite prepared to see it happen here too.
But if he had been born in the Middle East somewhere or in one of the -stans? He’d be in year 30 of his presidency right now, having amassed hundreds of billions of dollars in corrupt wealth. Biden would be meeting with him this week to negotiate a new U.S. base in his country in return for America looking the other way at local human rights abuses.
At the very least, even if he didn’t make it all the way to dictator for life, he’d be a powerful mafia boss in his country of origin. He knows all the tricks. Maybe even witness tampering:
We commonly ask witnesses connected to Trump whether they have been contacted by anyone attempting to impact testimony.
Below are examples of answers we have received to this question. pic.twitter.com/pwxyJBf7Kl
— January 6th Committee (@January6thCmte) June 28, 2022
Just a gangster, surrounded and served by other gangsters. And currently the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination.
In fact, despite everything Hutchinson said today and what future witnesses like Engel and Ornato may yet say, it’s a lock that Trump will finish no worse than second in the next primary. Demagogues come and go but the rotten civic culture that nourishes them abides.
I’ll leave you with the tweet below, from a former deputy in Trump’s White House press shop who resigned in protest on January 6. It continues to be darkly funny to me that all of the major players around Trump feared criminal liability — Pat Cipollone warned people to stay away from the rally, Meadows and Rudy Giuliani allegedly sought pardons — yet to this day none of the coup plotters have been charged. Only the droogs who smashed up the Capitol are doing time despite the fact that their crimes pale by comparison to a sustained attempt to overturn an election on false pretenses. We’ll never fully recover from the damage this reptile and his enablers did to this country.
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.
— Sarah Matthews (@SarahAMatthews1) June 28, 2022