She sat bolt upright in the witness chair, her forearms on the table. And she spoke quietly but with a command, backed up by notes and texts, that left no doubt that her testimony about what she had witnessed in the Trump White House was the horrible truth.
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Hutchinson, 25, recounted what she was told President Donald Trump had done when the head of his Secret Service detail, Bobby Engel, refused to take him to Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, 2021: “The president approached the front of the vehicle to grab the steering wheel. Mr. Engel grabbed his arm and said, ‘Sir, you need to take your hand off the wheel. We’re going back to the west wing. … Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge at Bobby Engel” toward his throat.
I heard gasps and saw stunned looks among the 70 or so reporters in the room.
She recounted walking into the Oval Office dining room after Trump heard Attorney General Bill Barr say he hadn’t seen substantial fraud in the 2020 election: “First I noticed there was ketchup, dripping down the wall, and there’s a smashed china plate on the floor. The valet had said that the president was extremely angry with the attorney general’s decision. [Associated Press] interview and had thrown his lunch against the wall.”
In the courtroom, their jaws dropped.
“There were several times,” she testified, “that I noticed him knocking over the plates or flipping the tablecloth over to let the entire contents of the table fall to the floor.”
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We all knew that Trump fomented violence on January 6, but here was evidence that he was violent himself (Trump accusations denied Tuesday on his social media platform). Hutchinson filled in the details in vivid responses to questions posed by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the panel’s vice chair, sitting 30 feet away on the dais.
People at the mall with AR-15s, Glock pistols and other weapons on Jan. 6 were avoiding Trump’s rally at the Ellipse because the Secret Service reportedly seized their weapons at the magnetometers, or magazines, where participants were scanned. But Trump wanted them at his rally, he testified, saying “something to the effect of, ‘You know, I don’t care if they have guns. They are not here to hurt me. Get rid of the damn magazines. Let my people in. You can march to the Capitol from here.
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Hutchinson had everything to lose by defying pressure from Team Trump to remain silent. (After his testimony, the committee also revealed incidents of apparent witness tampering had found out.) His courage should put to shame his former renowned colleagues who refuse to cooperate. He had served in the White House for just over a year, and before that he had interned at the White House and on Capitol Hill, but his testimony showed a sense of patriotism that eludes so many Trump loyalists.
“As a staff member who works to always represent the administration to the best of my ability and show the good things I had done for the country, I remember feeling frustrated, disappointed, and it was really personal,” she said of her reaction. to January 6. “As an American, I was disgusted. It was unpatriotic. He was anti-American. We were watching the Capitol building be defaced for a lie.”
Contrast that with the cowardice of retired General Michael Flynn, one of the insurrection’s schemers, whose testimony the committee relayed, with laughter:
“Do you think the violence of January 6 was morally justified?”
“Do you think the violence on January 6 was legally justified?”
“Do you believe in the peaceful transition of power?
And contrast the character evident in Hutchinson’s testimony with the perfidy of his former boss, who phoned a meeting on the eve of the insurrection with his architects. Meadows told Hutchinson that “things could get really, really bad on Jan. 6,” he said, but when they did, he sat on the couch in his office, looking at his phone.
Then-White House counsel Pat Cipollone had warned Meadows that “we’re going to be charged with every crime imaginable” and that “people are going to die and blood will be on their goddamn hands.” Hutchinson testified. But Meadows, still on his couch, said Trump “doesn’t want to do anything” to stop the violence.
If Meadows, who is more than twice Hutchinson’s age, had half his courage, the country would be in a much better place.