I tuned in for a quite a bit of today’s January 6 committee hearing with “surprise” witness Cassidy Hutchinson, and it was gripping viewing indeed. Many of the things she related in her videotaped deposition (excerpted liberally in her committee room appearance) sounded plausible, such as alleged statements by Trump on January 6. And Hutchinson seemed a credible witness.
But second thoughts ought to grow in the aftermath of her appearance. Most of her direct testimony was about her interactions with chief of staff Mark Meadows for whom she served as an assistant (save this thought). And I did note that in her videotaped deposition she kept referring to a notebook in front of her, suggesting that her answers were prepared ahead of time. I don’t think that’s how depositions are supposed to go, even for congressional committees.
But I was really brought up short when she related the story (heard second-hand) of President Trump attempting to grab the wheel of the presidential SUV when the driver refused to take him to the Capitol after his speech on the Mall, and then trying to choke Secret Service agent Bobby Engel after the driver or Engel supposedly swatted the President’s hand away. Something about this scene defies credibility. Was Trump riding shotgun in the SUV after the speech? Of course not. Surely he was sitting in the back, where reaching for the steering wheel is likely an impossibility. I believe even the presidential SUVs (he didn’t use the usual limo that day) have considerable partitions between the passenger section and the driver’s compartment at the front. Where was agent Engel sitting if Trump tried to choke him?
And why hasn’t this story leaked out before now if it is true (or even if—especially if—it isn’t)? Ditto for her other stories of Trump throwing plates of food on the wall at the White House. We’ve heard plenty of stories of Trump’s temper tantrums—I’ve heard a few first hand from individuals on the receiving end of them—but nothing like this.
This is where the lack of an actual Republican on the January 6 committee comes into play, because any amount of cross-examination would raise these questions in public and require some kind of explanation.
Then there’s this, from NBC News White House correspondent Peter Alexander:
P.S. If Trump was consciously trying to incite a riot, why would he want to be in the middle of that at the Capitol? Not sure this doesn’t undermine the J-6 crusade if you think about it in a calmer frame of mind. I suspect what Hutchinson’s testimony is really intended to do is break down the resistance of Mark Meadows from testifying to the committee. Meadows is fighting a legal battle against the committee based on the entirely sound principle of executive privilege, and the J-6 committee knows they don’t have much time.