The Hutchinson Factor
A new day, a new dimension for the January 6 Committee Investigation
The truth’ll come out tomorrow,
Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow
There’ll be truth…
The truth’ll come out tomorrow
So you gotta’ hang on ’til tomorrow
Come what may…
You’re only a day away…
-author’s version of “Tomorrow,” from the musical Annie (1982)
Historians and cable anchors struggle to compare what happened on Day 6 of the January 6 Committee Hearings with recent US Presidential political scandal history: Committee witness Cassidy Hutchinson is neither ‘another John Dean’ (no pithy takeaways) nor another ‘Fox Butterfield’ (no coverup tapes).
There is no black dress hiding in the closet. Watergate and Clinton scandal comparisons fail us.
It’s remarkable that we know so little about Cassidy Hutchinson considering her proximity to the plot attempt of January 6. It's remarkable how prepared we are to accept her accounts despite the conditions under which we first entertained her narrative — the secrecy, urgency, and drama of Day 6. (1)
Was this a ‘public itch’ to be scratched or something else?
For the January 6 Committee it’s not about Hutchinson, so much as it is about using Hutchinson’s testimony to get other voices to testify, revealing a chorus of hapless enablers protecting and harboring a takeover.
In sum, to convince the American public that with the increasing amount of evidence, there is only one conclusion to be drawn from the events leading up to and including a January 6: that Donald Trump was determined to subvert the election results with violence if necessary. And that Donald Trump refused to stop the destruction of the Capitol and armed hostage taking of the lawmakers by the mob of supporters.
At first the Committee had to cobble together what salient information it could. In Washington, a ‘city of lawyers,’ this is not an easy assignment. The power players and the legal ‘teams’ who eluded Mueller and then Schiff and then Raskin knew what to do: refuse subpoenas, delay hearings and on multiple occasions, hide or destroy evidence. The temptation to have Mueller fired hampered his investigation and constrained his presentation.
During the two impeachment presentations, the accountability imbalance between the Executive and Legislative branches didn’t help: “Constitutional” became a kind of intelligence barricade in the effort to convince a public that even the President is ‘not above the law.’
Who uses the Constitution as a defense in violating the Constitution?
The January 6 Committee turned to the staffers, the no name functionaries who encircle the power brokers, the white men, the “adults in the room.” (2) The gamble for the Committee was the staffers’ credibility and the public’s incredulity. Would America believe in a staffers’ text message in order to save democracy? As hyperbolic as this sounds, nevertheless the stakes were high for the Committee to convince a divided partisan nation.
To her credit and character, Cassidy Hutchinson convinced her audience that scared as she was, she saw past the drama and the posturing.
In other words, she remained alert. Her grasp of details, her recall demonstrated on Day 6 was confident, unassailable.
She was the ‘perfect witness.’
But even Ms. Cassidy’s presence and testimony do not let America ‘off the accountability hook.’ There is work to be done.
There is the United States of Amnesia. (3)
The trouble with amnesia is that it buries experience in a gauze of anxiety. One succumbs to the notion that ‘it’s not as bad as we thought’ and/or ‘it's a lot worse than we feared.’ To cope with this uncertainty, we need doses of reckoning.
The new dimension for the Committee is now that we have a taste of corroborating evidence, where does the Committee go to convince? On Day 6 the mission of the January 6 Committee to investigate… became the mission of the January 6 Committee to convince…
To put this into perspective: if a 25-year-old no name staffer can travel this path and be ‘convinced,’ why can’t we?
Cringeworthy were her testimony details that support the conclusion that Trump didn’t care about consequences. Trump’s sole motive was to stay in power. Trump’s Presidency should have ended the way it started, with his fuming about crowd size on the Ellipse.
The tragedy for America is that on January 6, it didn’t. One can argue convincingly that it exists in a kind of morbid limbo, counting down the days to 2022 mid-term elections and replacing election boards with conspiracy driven accomplices. For the majority of Republicans, Trump is still President and the current guy in the White House is an interloper. ‘We will impeach him when we take over Congress.’ (4)
Consider that we don’t really need Trump to pull this off.
What is at stake for the Committee, the convincing part of their mission, is to redefine accountability, to spread the conviction to a partisan-riven nation that ‘democracy matters.’
Right now, in a period of relative stability, considering the global and national environment, bigotry and fear are calling the shots and driving the politics in Washington, in the states, in the town councils, in the school districts. (5)
Yes, Republicans demonstrate how adept they are at manipulating division. Yes, Democrats demonstrate how consistent they are at trading away political and demographic advantage. Don’t look to party history to spread the conviction of saving democracy.
It’s the alert witnesses, the Plames, the Vindmans, the Hills, the Abramovitchs, the Hutchinsons, that convince.
3-A description once advanced by Gore Vidal which remains relevant today, sixty years later. (citation)
4-Michael Steele, former RNC Chair and current political contributor on MSNBC, June 29
5-Paul Krugman (citation)