Cassidy Hutchinson may be no hero, but Jan. 6 witness still shows more guts than all the president's men

·5 min read

Most of us cannot know what it took for Cassidy Hutchinson to sit before the House Jan. 6 committee and become our country’s premier chronicler of the traitorous intentions of President Donald Trump.

She is not a seasoned politician, nor is she a veteran pundit of cable TV.  Until Tuesday, most of us had never heard of her. She is a former aide in the Trump White House who, by virtue of her youth, gender and rank – she joined the White House shortly after college – was seemingly viewed as harmless, if not invisible, by most of the powerful men around her.

As we now know, they ignored her at their peril.

Cassidy Hutchinson, aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, is sworn in before testifying before the House Jan. 6 committee on June 28, 2022.
Cassidy Hutchinson, aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, is sworn in before testifying before the House Jan. 6 committee on June 28, 2022.

Goodness, the timing of this. Just four days after the U.S. Supreme Court had stripped women of a constitutional right, this young woman insisted her voice would be heard. For two hours of testimony, she was poised and unflappable. Much has been made of this, mostly, I suspect, by people who don’t know a lot of women her age.

The closest Hutchinson came to being emotional during the hearing was when she described her response to Trump’s tweet about Vice President Mike Pence during the siege.

Steeled testimony, until Pence

First, she recounted the growing turmoil in the West Wing as rioters had begun chanting, “Hang Mike Pence,” and erected gallows on the Capitol lawn. Hutchinson said she heard White House counsel Pat Cipollone plead with her boss, chief of staff Mark Meadows, to intervene: "I remember Pat saying something to the effect of, 'Mark, we need to do something more, they're literally calling for the vice president to be f---ing hung.' "

Think Cassidy Hutchinson is lying? Then testify before Congress and set the record straight

Hutchinson described Meadows’ response: “You heard him, Pat,” he said, referring to Trump. “He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.”

President Donald Trump urges supporters to march to the Capitol at a rally on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington.
President Donald Trump urges supporters to march to the Capitol at a rally on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington.

At 2:24 p.m. that day, as the rioting raged, Trump tweeted, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”

This did her in, Hutchinson told Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, vice chair of the Jan. 6 committee. Hutchinson is often quoted as an excerpt, but her full response conveys the depth of her shattered faith in the president she had served:

"As a staffer that works to always represent the administration to the best of my ability, and to showcase the good things that he had done for the country, I remember feeling frustrated, disappointed, it felt personal, I was really sad. As an American, I was disgusted. It was unpatriotic, it was un-American.

We are watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie. It was something that was really hard in that moment to digest, knowing what I’ve been hearing down the hall and the conversations that were happening, seeing that tweet come up and knowing what was happening on the hill. And it’s something I’ve – I still struggle to work through the emotions of that.”

Don't blame Supreme Court justices: They behaved exactly as expected. Change the system that put them there.

A White House aid testifies that President Donald  Trump's "unpatriotic" anger was "over a lie."
A White House aid testifies that President Donald Trump's "unpatriotic" anger was "over a lie."

Some now want to cast Hutchinson as a hero, but I disagree. It took her 17 months to come forward, and before that Jan. 6 she was all in with this dangerous administration. But memories of my own early 20s require me to acknowledge that mistakes are the currency of young adulthood, and I can’t imagine a scenario in which I would have her guts at that age.

Ex-Trump aide Mick Mulvaney: 'Things could get very dark for the former president'

What I celebrate about Hutchinson, what I deeply admire, is her courage. She did not have to recount those conversations, including the one with Anthony Ornato, then-White House deputy chief of staff for operations, who told her that Trump tried to grab the steering wheel after they insisted he could not go to the Capitol that day. She did not have to tell us that, after learning that many of the rioters were armed, Trump said, “I don’t care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me.”

Cleaning up the mess

She didn’t have to tell us any of this, but she did.

The ex-president’s brayed responses to Hutchinson’s testimony have been the typical Trump cocktail of denials, aspersions and lies.  He didn’t know her except when he did. She’s a “social climber” and a “total phony.” But Trump said she is also a “leaker,” which is what we call people who divulge what is supposed to be kept secret.

Marvel’s first Muslim female superhero: This is the culture shift I've waited a long time to see

There’s something else Hutchinson didn’t have to tell us about Donald Trump, but she surely knew what she was doing when she did. On the day that Attorney General William Barr said publicly there was no widespread voter fraud, Trump threw a plate against the dining room wall.

I remember hearing noise coming from down the hall,” she said. She found a valet changing the tablecloth, a porcelain plate in shatters on the floor and ketchup dripping down the wall. This violence is not just a toddler’s tantrum.

Cassidy Hutchinson, a young woman who was once thrilled to be working for the president of the United States, grabbed a towel and helped wipe his mess off the wall.

USA TODAY columnist Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize winner whose novel, “The Daughters of Erietown,” is a New York Times bestseller. You can reach her at CSchultz@usatoday.com or on Twitter: @ConnieSchultz 

You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to letters@usatoday.com.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Cassidy Hutchinson, ignored by all the Trump men at their peril

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting