On Cassidy Hutchinson’s Testimony

The June 28th testimony of Ms. Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, before the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol (the “Committee”), stands for itself.  Anyone who hasn’t either seen or heard about it, and the manner in which it implicates former President Donald Trump and Mr. Meadows in a coup to overthrow the United States government, has been living in a cave deep underground.  She made an excellent witness.  As I watched it, the same thought occurred to me as has been noted by various commentators:  it was, along with former White House Counsel John Dean’s testimony during the Watergate hearings, arguably the most compelling testimony ever rendered before Congress.  Perhaps the most dramatic if not the most significant part of the testimony was Ms. Hutchinson’s account of a White House aide, Tony Ornato, describing to her, in the presence of the head of Mr. Trump’s Secret Service detail, Bobby Engel, how Mr. Engel had told Mr. Ornato that after Mr. Engel informed the former president following his speech at the Ellipse that the Secret Service was not taking him to the Capitol,  Mr. Trump lunged for the wheel of his Presidential limousine in a rage and then struck at Mr. Engel when Mr. Engel attempted to restrain him.

And yet:  I am troubled by the report that Mr. Engel and the (as yet unidentified) member of the Secret Service agent driving the limousine are willing to testify that the events in the limousine did not occur.

Although I spent very little time in the courtroom in my career, it is among the most basic premises of trial work that when you are confronted with very damaging testimony, if you can discredit any part of the testimony, it casts doubt upon the witness’ entire account.    

It is a lawyer’s point to note that it is not inconsistent for Ms. Hutchinson to have testified truthfully about what Mr. Ornato told her in Mr. Engel’s presence while at the same time, the incident in the limousine did not in fact occur.  Even so, such a fine distinction will be lost in the controversy that will arise if Mr. Engel or the limousine driver testifies before the Committee (and at this point, the Committee will have no choice but to let these gentlemen testify live on television if the report regarding their prospective denials is accurate) that Mr. Trump neither reached for the wheel nor accosted Mr. Engel.  Mr. Trump’s defenders will use any such testimony by Mr. Engel and/or the limousine driver to discredit Ms. Hutchinson’s entire account.

The Committee has been so thorough and its presentations have been so compelling that it is frankly hard for me to believe that the Committee – which didn’t need the portion of Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony regarding the limousine incident to establish the most incriminating evidence against Mr. Trump and Mr. Meadows it has yet presented – would include it without corroboration of the incident by Mr. Engel or the limousine driver, or, at the very least, corroboration from Mr. Ornato or Mr. Engel of the exchange Mr. Hutchinson testified to.

I guess we’ll see.

2 thoughts on “On Cassidy Hutchinson’s Testimony

  1. Had much the same reactions. As compelling as the testimony was, it had a little too much “he said, she said” feel to it. It would be much stronger if there was corroboration of the key points from SOMEONE. It seems obvious at this point that Meadows is not going to cave. I did hear this morning that Ornato is also denying the incident. They need to get Ornato and Engel to testify under oath. And if they continue to deny the incident, SOMEONE has committed perjury. Even as a non-attorney, I agree with your comments that while the limo incident wasn’t the most damning part of her testimony, any sense that she’s not credible damages her whole testimony. Perhaps the committee sorted through all of this and has queued up additional steps, but given the apparent hastiness of calling this hearing, I’m not confident.

    I was struck that Ms. Hutchinson is all of 25 years old. I’m certainly for giving young people chances, but does it make sense for anyone that has accumulated so little life/work experience, no matter how talented, to work in the WH? I’m very thankful for her frankness and willing to step forward, but she’s taken on a huge burden. I pray for her safety.


  2. Jim,
    The controverted lunge for the steering wheel and “clavicles” will ultimately, I am betting, settle as lies by mid level guys most loyal to Trump, not flaws in Hutchinson’s credibility. Yes, for now, it’s a focus of Trump defenders — straws they will try to grasp.

    It was telling that in Tucker Carlson’s Tuesday program, after Hutchinson testified, Carlson engaged in a bizarre mashup of conservative criticisms of Trump’s many enemies that, unless I missed a few seconds, made no mention of January 6. In Fox’s second hour, Sean Hannity made an attack on Hutchinson that seemed lame.

    So much for the court of public opinion … where we have yet to see what will inevitably be a complete legal case that includes still more substantial evidence damaging to Trump.

    Before the courts, Hutchinson’s shots at Trump, I think, can be called a game changer. Or, more precisely, the evidence is vety close to a tipping point supporting a decision to prosecute Trump.

    The Trump ship has managed to withstand torpedos before. But now the ship is listing and leaking.

    WH Counsel Cippilone is one of several who are a good bet to tip the evidence sufficiently that Trump will be charged and finally find himself in an untenable legal position.



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