White House staffer’s Jan. 6 testimony drew blood, changed everything

Hearing number six of the Jan. 6 House Select Committee investigating the Capitol attack was decidedly damaging for the top two perpetrators of the failed effort to overturn the 2020 election — former president Donald Trump and his enabling chief of staff Mark Meadows. 

The former commander in chief and his chief of staff were appreciably wounded by detailed accounts from Meadows’s former close aide and star witness, Cassidy Hutchinson, a twenty-something whose testimonial polish belies her age and experience. And she has survived it favorably thus far, notwithstanding the oppressive discrediting campaign underway from Trump and MAGA thugs.

Her accounts have armed the committee — and the country — with a bright spotlight on the activities and utterances of those two central players on and around Jan. 6. As a true believer in Trump’s presidency and as a true White House insider, Hutchinson has drawn blood in seeking accountability for the two.

Her testimony revealed the nefarious deeds and possible motives of Trump, and the enabling and irresponsible reactions of Meadows. Both, she indicated, knew that Jan. 6 rally attendees were armed and potentially dangerous, yet Trump egged them on to march to the Capitol. Meadows did little if anything to impact the situation. Trump was indifferent — at best — to the harm facing Vice President Mike Pence from the rioters, according to her testimony. Meadows showed no countervailing initiative. 

Meadows, in fact, lived up to his caricature as a wet noodle following release of his book last year when Trump decried it as “fake news,” and Meadows promptly agreed. Meadows was so inept that he couldn’t even get the presidential pardon that Hutchinson said he wanted.

By the end of Hutchinson’s testimony, she had exposed many holes in the Trump camp’s flanks that the committee and others can aggressively exploit in future proceedings. With intermission upon us in the committee’s hearings, Trump is flailing, and Meadows is probably starting to think about immunity for his testimony. 

The whole purpose of the committee having Hutchinson testify when she did, I am convinced, was to coerce cooperation from a semi-hostile Meadows and a reluctant former White House counsel Pat Cipollone.

Cipollone, Hutchinson testified, was trying to keep Trump out of harm’s way, criminally, at every turn — especially if Trump had gone to the Capitol. The portrait she painted was of Cipollone hosing down every Trump co-conspirator, including Trump, with a fire extinguisher. Never mind about the old adage of just follow the money to uncover the crime. In this case, just follow Cipollone — and the Department of Justice will have a roadmap to criminal exposure of Trump’s co-conspirators.

And now the committee has subpoenaed Cipollone, for obvious reasons.

Hutchinson’s testimony begs for a response from Cipollone: From the moment she concluded her account, the spotlight immediately shifted to him in expectation of a requisite response. He now has no choice but to negotiate a suitable option to answer questions for the committee and the country.

During the committee’s third hearing earlier this month, testimony established that — at least in the Trump campaign’s response to losing the election — there were two opposing camps: “Team Normal” and “Team Crazy.” But in fact, it seems for each nefarious scheme to overturn the election — the John Eastman scheme to bully Pence into stopping the electoral count; the Rudy Giuliani scheme to get alternate slates of electors in swing states; the Jeffrey Clark scheme to legitimize election fraud claims through DOJ — there was an equal and opposite team: Each scheme had its own version of each team.  For example, in the DOJ scheme, “Team Crazy” reportedly included Clark and Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.),   while “Team Normal” reportedly were the DOJ top brass. 

Simply put, “Team Normal” — in all cases — were always the adults in the room. “Team Crazy” were always the grifters. Put another way: “Team Crazy” were the arsonists, “Team Normal” the firemen.

The only person trying to put out all of the fires was apparently Pat Cipollone.

He had the broadest possible view of the entire enterprise, from the 30,000-foot level as well as the ground floor. 

That’s why he’s being subpoenaed, and that’s why it’s imperative that he testify.

Thus far, this select committee has been living up to its billing to “blow the roof off the House,” provided one views it as a video playing in slow motion. It’s hard to tell how far along the video is right now, but it’s moving in the right direction. 

Who’s getting a front-row seat to that video is DOJ — and they’re squirming.

Officials there reportedly felt blindsided by Hutchinson’s testimony, feeling slighted for not getting advance copies of her depositions and videos. It’s clear that DOJ has underestimated the committee’s ability to move the narrative in a compelling way. They are now hat-in-hand to the committee.

That development leaves the committee in the enviable position of not having to make a criminal referral at the end of its work. The more information the committee gets and reveals, the less reason there is for a criminal referral. Let the information speak for itself. DOJ is clearly listening — intently. For the committee to send a referral now is like sending a tweet in ALL CAPS. Chill.

What the committee could do that would be much more effective and righteous is bring its full weight to bear against those who reportedly intimidated Cassidy Hutchinson prior to her testifying — and to protect her and others who came forward and were intimidated. That’s the committee’s obligation and responsibility. 

Hutchinson especially — after all, she drew heart’s blood for accountability.

Kris Kolesnik is a 34-year veteran of federal government oversight. He spent 19 years as senior counselor and director of investigations for Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). Kolesnik then became executive director of the National Whistleblower Center. Finally, he spent 10 years working with the Department of the Interior’s Office of Inspector General as the associate inspector general for external affairs.

Tags Accountability Cassidy Hutchinson Congressional oversight congressional subpoena criminal referrals DOJ Donald Trump House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack Jan 6 Capitol riot Jan. 6 committee hearing Jeffrey Clark John Eastman Mark Meadows Mike Pence Pat Cipollone Rudy Giuliani Scott Perry United States Department of Justice White House Counsel witness testimony

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