Cassidy Hutchinson, an obscure former White House staffer, riveted the country on Tuesday with explosive testimony, providing an all-seeing fly on the wall perspective of an enraged President Donald Trump willing to go to extremes to illegitimately hang onto power and of the aides who enabled him.
Calmly and clearly, Hutchinson brought viewers of the House panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol into a White House dining room, where she helped a valet clean up Trump’s airborne lunch; a backstage tent before Trump told the crowd to “fight like hell”; and into a presidential vehicle where a co-worker told her the president allegedly attempted to grab the steering wheel and hit a security official as he pressed to follow his supporters to the Capitol.
Recounting stories told to her by stunned co-workers, as well as her own observations as she accompanied her boss, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, into seemingly every important meeting in the run-up to the insurrection, Hutchinson painted a picture of a White House in chaos and an enraged president willing to do nearly anything.
Hutchinson, who was just two years out of college when the events occurred, is seen as a vital witness, and has provided the committee with some of its most critical revelations at this point in its investigation. It was Hutchinson’s first time delivering testimony at a public hearing, and her appearance at the surprise hearing was kept secret by the committee until the last minute.
Trump said in a statement that he “hardly” knew Hutchinson, attempting to discredit her as a “phony” who could not have known everything she recounted.
But presidential administrations have often relied on young and often overlooked staffers to work long hours to keep the White House functioning, and Hutchinson’s quiet observations of Trump’s inner circle gave her testimony its bombshell quality.
Within Trump circles, Hutchinson was known to accompany Meadows, whom she described as often scrolling on his phone at key moments, to nearly every meeting, several high-profile Republicans said on Wednesday.
“I knew her testimony would be damning,” former White House communications official Alyssa Farah Griffin tweeted. “I had no idea it’d be THIS damning. I am so grateful for her courage & integrity.”
Hutchinson, who graduated from Christopher Newport University in Virginia in 2018 with a degree in political science and American studies, served in a White House internship before becoming Meadows’s aide. In a profile of her published by her alma mater, Hutchinson said she was “brought to tears” by the chance at working in the Trump White House as an intern.
“My small contribution to the quest to maintain American prosperity and excellence is a memory I will hold as one of the honors of my life,” she said in the article.
But in her testimony, she described feeling crestfallen and disgusted by the Jan. 6 attack, as the full scale of Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the election became clear.
“We were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie,” Hutchinson said.
With her proximity to Meadows and other key members of the inner Trump circle, the granular details of Hutchinson’s testimony are among the most damning to come out of the Jan. 6 hearings so far. In but one of many revealing scenes, she recalled that Trump directed his staff, in profane terms, to take away the metal-detecting magnetometers because he thought they would reduce the crowd at his rally at the Ellipse before the attack, even though he had been advised that some in the crowd were armed.
In videotaped testimony played before the committee, she recalled the former president saying words to the effect of: ”I don’t [expletive] care that they have weapons.”
She also revealed there was an awareness within the White House before Jan. 6 that the day could turn ugly. She remembered being “scared, and nervous for what could happen” after conversations with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Meadows, and others.
Meadows told Hutchinson “things might get real, real bad,” she said. Giuliani told her it was going to be “a great day” and “we’re going to the Capitol.” And she described Meadows on Jan. 6 as being unconcerned when security officials told him that people at Trump’s rally had weapons — including some wearing armor and carrying firearms. (Meadows has refused to testify.)
Hutchinson’s testimony extended to other members of Trump’s team, including Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, members of Congress, and anxious White House lawyers. She testified that as Trump rallied supporters on the Ellipse, she received an angry call from House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, who had just heard the president say he was coming to the Capitol. “Don’t come up here,” McCarthy told her, before hanging up.
Even before she had finished testifying, there were instant comparisons of Hutchinson to John Dean, the former White House aide whose testimony on the Watergate conspiracy helped seal the end of Richard Nixon’s presidency.
And indeed, Hutchinson’s testimony could bring legal implications for Trump or some in his inner circle as the Justice Department probes the scheme to promote false electors in swing states. Federal agents have seized the phones of Jeffrey Clark and John Eastman, two lawyers who pushed false claims of election fraud and the discredited theory that Joe Biden’s electors could be replaced. Republicans in at least five states have also been served with subpoenas or warrants.
She also testified that Giuliani and Meadows both sought presidential pardons related to the actions of Jan. 6, adding them to the list of Republican members of Congress who she said also asked for pardons in testimony shown last week.
Hutchinson also provided insight into Trump’s state of mind as he refused to cede power. In December, she heard a noise outside the office where she worked and wandered toward it. She said she entered the dining room, where a broken plate lay on the floor with ketchup dripping down the wall. The valet told her the president was enraged by a recently published story in which then-attorney general William Barr said the Justice Department hadn’t found evidence of voter fraud that could have affected the election outcome.
Trump, it turned out, had thrown his lunch across the wall in disgust over the article and she was urged to steer clear of him.
Hutchinson also said in videotaped testimony that she witnessed a conversation in the White House while the rioting at the Capitol was underway in which White House counsel Pat Cipollone told Meadows, “We need to do something more. They’re literally calling for the vice president to be [expletive] hung.”
Meadows told Cipollone, “You heard him, Pat. He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.”
Elizabeth Goodwin of the Globe staff contributed to this story. Material from the Associated Press was used.
Shannon Larson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98. Travis Andersen can be reached at email@example.com.