Yesterday, a 25-year-old former aide to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows testified under oath about some of the shocking things she witnessed in the lead up to the January 6 insurrection.
Cassidy Hutchinson said that then-President Donald Trump not only said Vice President Mike Pence “deserved” the chants calling for him to be hanged, but also that Trump called for metal detectors to be removed outside his rally that day because he wanted more of his supporters present, even if they were armed. Hutchinson said, “I overheard the president say something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f—ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me...let my people in, they can march to the Capitol from here.’”
She also said she learned that Trump was so desperate to go to the Capitol, against the advice of White House counsel, that he allegedly lunged for both the steering wheel of his armored SUV and the clavicle of a Secret Service agent.
Hutchinson’s testimony generated tons of news coverage and chatter on social media, and it’s understandable why: So many people want to believe that any bit of news is the thing that will put Trump in jail so he can’t run in 2024—or at least finally, after everything, make him a pariah who wouldn’t get the party’s backing.
The testimony was courageous, but it’s not clear it will change a thing. Not only because we have an attorney general who seems reluctant to charge Trump with any crimes because of “norms,” whatever those are, we also have a Republican messaging machine that roared into action to try to discredit anyone who criticize conservatives, even if the person is conservative themselves. Trump kicked this off almost immediately, calling her “a total phony and ‘leaker’” in social media posts Wednesday afternoon. And calling a 25-year-old woman a liar will nearly always work among Trump’s base, regardless of how credible she is.
Not only are Republican politicians and news outlets claiming Hutchinson is lying, several reporters tweeted last night claiming that sources told them Secret Service agents disputed that the steering wheel incident happened and that agents were prepared to testify under oath—as if the the car stuff was the most damning bit of information in Hutchinson’s testimony. I, for one, would be more concerned about the allegation that Trump wanted to have more armed people at the Capitol because they wouldn’t hurt him, specifically.
Hutchinson is a Republican who previously interned for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.). She said during her very detailed and credible testimony—given under penalty of perjury—that she believed Trump had done “good things” for the country. And, still, Republicans are attacking her. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), the vice chair of the committee in question, has been all but excommunicated from the party for speaking out against Trump.
No matter what a woman says, or how credibly she says it under oath, Republicans can very easily yell, “She’s a liar!” It’s a bit reminiscent of Christine Blasey Ford: Much of the country was riveted by her courage coming forward, but because her words could have prevented a uniquely bad man from amassing more power and causing irreparable harm, people simply chose not to believe her.
This isn’t to say that every Republican is calling Hutchinson a liar. Following her testimony, the conservative Washington Examiner published an editorial with this headline: “Trump proven unfit for power again.” And Trump’s former acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said, “I know her. I don’t think she is lying.”
It would be naive to hope that any of this will change anything—that anyone currently or formerly running this country has any backbone or moral compass. But I would love to be proven wrong.