Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony to the January 6th committee on Tuesday was extraordinary. Hutchinson, formerly a senior aide to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, had a ringside seat to the attempted coup, and over the course of several hours, she described President Donald Trump’s insistence that armed supporters be allowed to attend his rally; his desire to join the violent mob himself; his attempt to literally take the wheel of the motorcade; his alleged assault on the Secret Service officer who stopped him; and Trump’s support for the protesters’ chants of “hang Mike Pence.”
Hutchinson is just 25—Washington has an unusual propensity for piling its biggest responsibilities on either octogenarians or twentysomethings—and her in-person appearance was all the more notable in light of the absence of her boss, the 62-year-old Meadows, who declined to cooperate with a congressional subpoena, but did publish a book. In Hutchinson’s account, she grew increasingly frustrated with what was happening on January 6th, while her boss sat idly, scrolling on his phone. She was a “courageous woman,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said in his closing remarks. While other Trumpworld lackeys have pleaded the Fifth, Hutchinson illuminated the interior of president’s January 6th bunker—and its ketchup-stained walls.
But perhaps we should be a bit more particular about applying the “hero” tag to anyone who spent that much time in Trump’s orbit, whether it’s a staffer, a vice president, or a member of the cabinet. Hutchinson signed up to help an aspiring autocrat wield power—she didn’t go undercover. It wasn’t exactly a mystery that Donald Trump was a vindictive goon who encouraged acts of violence among his supporters and treated everyone in his orbit like trash. Those were known knowns long before January 6th. They were known knowns long before November 8th, 2016 too. Lots of people were very clear about this. And she stuck with it over the course of a slow-motion coup that was quite easy to see happening from the outside. It was apparently even easier to see that happening from the inside. Providing an honest account of those days is the minimum threshold of accountability the public is owed after all this.
And any answers from anyone in the White House that day might have been exponentially more helpful had they come sooner. As NBC News’ Benjy Sarlin noted, the kind of information we learned on Tuesday would have been pretty useful to have during Trump’s second impeachment trial, when the Senate had the opportunity to block the president from ever holding federal office again. It’s been 15 months since then.
In cooperating with the committee, Hutchinson was jeopardizing at least some future employment prospects; mob informants aren’t typically invited back to work for the mob. On the plus side: They no longer work for the mob. Hutchinson’s testimony was historic and riveting, and it might well break the dam of silence her colleagues (including her old boss, Meadows) have hid behind. But if Hutchinson was heroic, it was only by that most Washington of definitions—someone in politics who finally does what they’re supposed to.