Donald Trump described her to Newsmax TV as “a whack job” and “social climber” with “serious mental problems.”
“Is there something wrong with her?’ he asked, as if looking in a mirror. “The woman is living in”—wait for it now—“a fantasy land.”
To work up to such hysterical levels of projection means one thing: that the troubled former President took this resident of fantasy land very seriously.
As did the country.
Of course, his ranting was about Cassidy Hutchinson, 26, the unexpected detonator who shook up the nation by becoming the first Trump White House aide to testify publicly at the Jan. 6 commission hearings. Her hastily called, two-hour testimony laid out a shocking insider timeline for the days leading up to, and day of, the insurrection. In a calm and deliberative tone, she showed how Trump desperately tried to accompany his “base” to the Capitol to carry out an organized, pre-meditated plan to overthrow the election and commit violence in his name.
Now her actions are opening the floodgates for higher-ranking witnesses with first-hand accounts, like White House counsel Pat Cipollone, to come forward.
Previously, according to committee vice-chair Liz Cheney, “…her superiors, many of them men, and much older,” were “ hiding behind executive privilege.” Even worse, while the committee’s presentation expertly switched between live hearings and witnesses on previously-taped video, we had to watch General Michael Flynn on screen squeaking out a “Fifth.”
Low on the Totem Pole, High on the Ethics Meter
As contradictory as it seems on the surface, Hutchinson, a mere three-years-out-of-college and low on the totem pole, occupied the ultimate insider’s seat for proximity to power in the West Wing. As an aide, but more as a sort of chief-of-staff to chief-of-staff Mark Meadows, and the note-taker at his meetings, she witnessed the tower of destructive lies and forced us to pay attention to the cowering men behind the curtain.
She witnessed the tower of destructive lies and forced us to pay attention to the cowering men behind the curtain.
Despite being an impassioned Republican who had interned for Steve Scalise and Ted Cruz, and was thrilled to serve in Trump’s White House, she still somehow mustered the strength and courage to break away and testify against the powerful elders she assisted and the dish-throwing, ketchup-spewing sociopath-in-chief whom they enabled.
What brought her to that moment? She said that she thought the actions of that day were “un-American,” adding, “We were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie.”
A John Dean for Our Times?
So even if John Dean, whose testimony cracked open the Watergate investigation, thought she was no John Dean, Hutchinson became exactly the hero we needed at this still-Trumpist time.
At a howlingly punitive minute for women, she and fellow conservative, select committee vice-chair Liz Cheney have emerged as beacons of intelligence, truth telling and leadership. Their hand-offs during Hutchinson’s testimony were as beautifully choreographed as Swan Lake.
And at the most out-of-control, hopelessly divided time for the country, something hopeful came out of Cassidy’s hearing: it occurred to me that even if we otherwise disagree about the whole shebang politically, if we can agree on something as monumental as the need to defend democracy and the rule of law, it overrides the differences.
Painting a Horrible Picture
Certainly, Hutchinson’s credibility in front of the panel was hard to dismiss. With remarkable deftness, composure, and a breezy broadcasting voice, easy on the ears, she filled in key chaotic moments of that day in American history. After some initial nervousness, her ability to depict the madness in such well-organized answers with measured tones and juicy quotes was breathtaking.
From her description, Trump’s behavior that day was part Shakespeare (a raging Lear), part Sopranos (Tony at his most paranoid), and more felonious than even the most knowing Donald-watchers could anticipate. The structure of complicit yes-men around him (including those making on-going threats to Hutchinson) could make a cynic cry.
Hutchinson’s credibility in front of the panel was hard to dismiss.
Among the takeaways, it seems that the President was most hung up on the “shot” and (what else?) the size of his crowds at the Ellipse. At one point, fretting that it looked too empty, he demanded that the “effing” magnetometers be removed so that people with guns and knives could enter. “I don’t (effing) care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me,” he said, according to Hutchinson’s account.
That final phrase encapsulates the extreme narcissism of this grandiose man in full Mussolini mode. The Trump she portrayed is the one we all feared, angry and resentful, a tyrant with a toddler’s temperament. During the rampage at which five people died, it became clear that he thought only of his own irrational need for power and stardom.
And so enraptured was he by the presence of his reverent MAGAs that day that during the metal detectors speech that he even resorted to a quasi-Moses-like, “Let my people in!” And later, according to Hutchinson, after being told he could not go to the Capitol, like a lover in deep distress, he grabbed at the wheel of his SUV and at his Secret Service agent’s clavicles so that he could not be held back from his adoring, marauding throngs. (And though some at the Secret Service immediately denied this happened, it was later authenticated by at least one source.)
None of this would have been known without Hutchinson ‘s testimony.
The Opposite of Truth Decay
She looked like the perfect witness. Ironically, Hutchinson sported the young, energetic, hyper-groomed look of a successful Apprentice contestant. At first, I thought the white jacket might signal a clever nod to the suffragist spirit, an idea reborn with white-pantsuit-wearing during Hillary’s presidential campaign.
But now I think the beautifully tailored jacket was more of a fashion and optics choice: like pearly teeth, the white blazer over a black camisole and skirt was a way to stand out, to show the opposite of truth decay.
What proved amazingly compelling was the way she talked about the flagrant disregard for violence in such casual language.
What proved amazingly compelling was the way she talked about the flagrant disregard for violence in such casual language, gesturing with graceful, expressive hands. She repeatedly tried to wake up her boss, Mark Meadows, as he sat on his couch and surfed his phone, frozen, while Cipollone (transformed by a closed captioning quirk into Patsy Baloney) ran around, worried about the crimes being committed and the need to intercede with the President. When told by Meadows that Trump “didn’t want to do anything now,” Hutchinson recounted that Cipollone said, “Something needs to be done, or people are gonna die and the blood will be on your effing hands.”
Very little has been revealed about Hutchinson’s family, except that her parents were strong Republicans and that she grew up in Pennington, New Jersey, a suburb outside of Princeton. By contrast to those who thought she must have been raised by big donor types with connections, Hutchinson has said she is the first generation in her family to attend college. She got her B.A. from Christopher Newport University in 2019.
And Women Lead the Way
It’s reported that upon being introduced to Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1862, Abraham Lincoln fondly commented she was “the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.” It sounds retrograde and sexist now. But certainly, the testimony of Cassidy Jaqueline Hutchinson, the unknown assistant, unleashed something in the country that bends toward justice, reinvigorating the importance of democracy and doing the right thing. Some powerful Republicans still feel that they can’t disavow the unhinged one publicly (they’re afraid, rightly, of what he’d do to them) but are quietly moving away from supporting his desperation to a) overturn the election and b) go back to the Oval.
Women are turning out to be the unrelentingly brave ones, the truth-tellers, and heroes.
At the same time, an amazing coalition of women from both parties, including Tish James, Stacey Abrams, and Atlanta District Attorney Fanni Willis, have been working diligently and closing in on him.
Recently, Liz Cheney, sounding like a liberal feminist, told an audience at the Ronald Reagan Library, “Let me also say this to the little girls and to the young women who are watching tonight—these days, for the most part, men are running the world and it is really not going that well.”
And women are turning out to be the unrelentingly brave ones, the truth-tellers, and heroes.
And by the way, for a certain someone obsessed with size and measurements, Cassidy Hutchinson did gangbusters in the ratings.