Cassidy Hutchinson was a compelling witness at the January 6 committee hearing yesterday. One of her more sensational statements was that Donald Trump tried to grab the steering wheel of the presidential vehicle when the Secret Service refused to take him from his January 6 rally to Capitol Hill.
For the record, it would have been impossible if Trump were in the “beast,” his limo. But he was in an SUV and there are conflicting claims as to whether it, like the beast, has a partition that would prevent access to the driver’s seat. At least one source is telling the press the claim is not true. Hutchinson herself was not a witness, but claimed White House Deputy Chief of Staff Tony Ornato relayed that to her. Overnight, Ornato has denied Hutchinson’s story.
Those individuals can and should either release sworn affidavits or testify before the committee. If the committee will not give them equal live coverage if they testify, Hutchinson’s testimony will look more like performance — but still testimony under oath before Congress.
The reality is her statements are hearsay, i.e. statements taken for the truth of matters asserted by others. In a committee they are gripping testimony that the individuals she testified against could answer in their own testimony. If Ornato does testify, as claimed, it will cast doubt on the rest of Hutchinson’s claims and on the committee itself.
Understandably, Mark Meadows, the former White House Chief of Staff, has legitimate privilege claims to sort through related to the President’s executive privilege. The Democrats and media are predisposed to hate Meadows not just because he was White House Chief of Staff to Trump, but also because he’s a conservative and former leader of the House Freedom Caucus. Meadows will not get a fair hearing in the press and is right to make a challenge in a court before a judge more likely to give him a fair hearing.
Plenty of others, however, could be called.
The committee is providing a compelling story and it increasingly looks like a complete strategic failure by the House Republicans to have no one on the committee to challenge the unified consensus and present alternate lines of questions. While I doubt this committee’s hearings will affect public opinion about the GOP, it is certainly increasingly plausible that the uncontested revelations begin a slow walking away from Trump.
Importantly, it is all because the House GOP did not put anyone on the committee who could represent the Trump world consensus. It would have been worth it if only for the meme war and daily rebuttals.
The hearings allow hearsay and courts will not (with a number of exceptions). However, this is not a court of law. It is a court of public opinion. The hearings won’t affect Republican standing in polling with $5.00 gas, but can affect Donald Trump’s standing with both the public and the GOP.
It is increasingly clear Trump did not win Georgia. Not only did he lose in 2020, but all his endorsed candidates lost the state in 2022, except the two statewide who did not need his endorsement anyway. Even the Club for Growth notes their polling has Trump losing Georgia going forward.
First, it is Georgia. But that will spread. No one will publicly say they are walking away from Trump. Polling will undoubtedly continue to say he is strong. But first, the donors will turn. Then the whispers of the politicians will begin. Then the voters will wonder if they really want to go through with it again — with a man as old as Biden is now. The conversation will change.
It will change because the House Republicans chose not to engage on Trump’s behalf in a forum in which Trump himself cannot venture.