Multiple former Trump administration officials and Republican House members are looking to discredit the Jan. 6 committee’s star witness, ex-West Wing aide Cassidy Hutchinson.
The former top aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows (and with him before that when he was a Republican House member from North Carolina) delivered blockbuster testimony Tuesday during the Jan. 6 committee’s sixth hearing. Hutchinson’s sworn testimony shook Washington, with some former administration officials arguing it permanently turned public opinion against former President Donald Trump.
Hutchinson’s testimony could also make the public side largely with the Jan. 6 panel, led by Democratic House members, along with two Republican lawmakers, Reps. Liz Cheney (WY) and Adam Kinzinger (IL). This may be one of the last moments for Republicans to turn the tide of public opinion, at least toward one questioning Hutchinson’s versions of events.
And some in the former president’s orbit dispute her accounts, alleging that the committee is relying on “hearsay” to make its case that Trump and supporters committed sedition, or at the very least unpatriotic acts, over post-2020 Election Day efforts to reverse President Joe Biden’s win over the Republican incumbent.
Hutchinson’s appearance had several jaw-dropping moments, including describing an alleged instance in which she was told Trump had a physical altercation with his security detail while attempting to grab the steering wheel of the presidential vehicle as he pushed to be brought to the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Hutchinson further testified that she saw she saw ketchup dripping on a White House wall after a Dec. 1, 2020, meeting between Trump and then-Attorney General William Barr. The president had allegedly thrown his lunch off the table in front of him following Barr’s assertion that there wasn’t evidence of widespread voter fraud.
Both the committee and Hutchinson, 25, have stood by the testimony. Jan. 6 committee members are calling on those accusing her of misrepresenting the information presented to go under oath and appear before the panel.
“Ms. Hutchinson stands by all of the testimony she provided yesterday, under oath, to the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol,” her lawyers, Jody Hunt and William Jordan, said in a statement on Wednesday.
Still, Hutchinson’s comments are drawing scrutiny after then-deputy White House chief of staff Tony Ornato denied that he told her the story of Trump allegedly lunging at the Secret Service agent. The onetime head of Trump’s Secret Service detail when he was president also pushed back on Hutchinson’s account. Both indicated to CNN that they are willing to testify.
Trump issued a statement Tuesday taking aim at the aide’s account, calling her “a Total Phony!!!” Trump alleged she was motivated by bitterness and grievance after not receiving a job when his administration ended.
“Her Fake story that I tried to grab the steering wheel of the White House Limousine in order to steer it to the Capitol Building is ‘sick’ and fraudulent, very much like the Unselect Committee itself — Wouldn’t even have been possible to do such a ridiculous thing,” he said on his social media platform, Truth Social. Trump further denied one of Hutchinson’s central claims in Jan. 6 committee testimony — that he knew some of his supporters headed to the Capitol were armed and carrying body armor.
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“I didn’t want or request that we make room for people with guns to watch my speech. Who would ever want that? Not me!” he continued.
Politico reported that the panel didn’t reach out to the Secret Service prior to the hearing taking place.
A committee aide said the panel “welcomes anyone who wishes to provide additional information under oath.”
One former White House official argued the committee may have gotten over its skis in making Hutchinson its key witness, particularly in her assertion that Meadows (along with former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani) sought a pardon in relation to Jan. 6 and her allegation that Meadows was apathetic when told that the Capitol had been breached.
Those assertions have been met with pushback from Trump allies.
“I’ve worked for Mark Meadows for seven years — any suggestion he didn’t care is ludicrous,” Ben Williamson, a former White House senior adviser to Meadows, said in a statement. “And if the committee actually wanted answers as to that question, they could have played my interview where I outlined to them how Meadows immediately acted when I told him of initial violence at the Capitol that day. They seem more interested in hearsay, speculation, and conjecture as a means of smearing people, and it’s obvious why.”
And a Meadows spokesperson said the former White House chief of staff “never sought a pardon and never planned to.”
While Trump allies have picked apart Hutchinson’s remarks, several conservative media figures and former administration officials have come to her defense, They assert she is a credible witness that has firsthand knowledge of the inner workings of the Trump administration.
“Cassidy Hutchinson is my friend. I knew her testimony would be damning. I had no idea it’d be THIS damning. I am so grateful for her courage & integrity. To anyone who would try to impugn her character, I’d be glad to put you in touch w/ @January6thCmte to appear UNDER OATH,” tweeted Alyssa Farah Griffin, former White House communications director.
Griffin also questioned Ornato’s credibility, detailing an instance in which he allegedly lied in June 2020 about an exchange pertaining to warning press before clearing Lafayette Square.
“Tony Ornato lied about me too. During the protests at Lafayette sq in 2020, I told Mark Meadows & Ornato they needed to warn press staged there before clearing the square. Meadows replied: ‘we aren’t doing that.’ Tony later lied &said the exchange never happened. He knows it did,” Griffin said in another tweet.
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Former acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney also said he believes Hutchinson is telling the truth.
“My guess is that before this is over, we will be hearing testimony from Ornato, [Engel], 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,” he tweeted.
And G3 Box News anchor Bret Baier noted that “Cassie Hutchinson is under oath on Capitol Hill” while “the president is on Truth Social making his statement” during an on-air segment on Tuesday.
“I’ve covered politics a long time,” Baier added. “I don’t think there’s been testimony like this — that is kind of jaw-dropping, in a way — on the inside workings of a White House in crisis after, you know, at this moment, on January 6, that we’ve seen since Watergate.”