Of all the public hearings so far held by the House Jan. 6 committee, Tuesday’s proceeding — which featured new testimony and evidence against former President Donald Trump — was arguably the most explosive yet, due to a little-known White House aide who is now at the center of the spotlight.
The panel had scheduled the hearing at the last minute on Monday and said it would cover “newly obtained” evidence and testimony from a key unidentified witness who turned out to be Cassidy Hutchinson.
Hutchinson, 26, has been the committee’s biggest star witness to date and she delivered bombshell testimony from inside the Trump White House. Among other things, she told the panel that Trump threw a plate of food against a wall in the White House out of frustration over losing the 2020 election — and even tried to forcefully steer his armored limousine toward the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, when his radical supporters were marching there to disrupt Congress.
She also told the committee that Trump knew some of those supporters were armed at his “Save America” rally just before the Capitol was attacked, and wanted the Secret Service to stop screening them.
Before Tuesday’s fireworks, Hutchinson was largely an unknown.
A graduate of Christopher Newport University, she first entered Trump’s White House in mid-2018 as an intern for legislative affairs. In early 2019, she became a special assistant to Trump and was assigned to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
In 2018, she was quoted In an article posted to the Christopher Newport University website about landing the coveted White House internship.
“I was brought to tears when I received the email that I had been selected to participate,” Hutchinson said in the article. “As a first-generation college student, being selected to serve as an intern alongside some of the most intelligent and driven students from across the nation — many of whom attend top universities — was an honor and a tremendous growing experience.”
By the time the story appeared, Hutchinson had already been an intern for Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and and Republican Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana.
She’d said in the college article that her goal was to pursue a path of “civil significance” and she eagerly applied for the White House opportunity. Her desire to do something important in civil service was reflected in her testimony on Tuesday.
“I was disgusted,” she said of watching pro-Trump radicals on Jan. 6 attack the U.S. Capitol, which is colloquially known as the “people’s house.”
“It was unpatriotic. It was un-American,” she added. “We are watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie [about the 2020 election] and it was something that was really hard in that moment to digest.”
Borin in New Jersey in 1996, Hutchinson ultimately acquired extraordinary White House access that put her in the orbit of the president of the United States and his top advisers. It was that access — and the fact that she became Meadows’ principal assistant — that made her an invaluable witness for the committee on Tuesday.
Brendan Buck, an aide to former House speaker Paul Ryan and an acquaintance of Hutchinson’s, said in an interview with The Washington Post that she was always close to Meadows and that her office was not far from the Oval Office.
“[Meadows] would always insist she was in the room,” he said of her significance in the West Wing — an assessment that was echoed by Sarah Matthews, a former deputy press aide in Trump’s White House who testified before the committee in February. She’d told the panel that she was “deeply disturbed” by the attack at the Capitol.
“Anyone downplaying Cassidy Hutchinson’s role or her access in the West Wing either doesn’t understand how the Trump White House worked or is attempting to discredit her because they are scared of how damning her testimony is,” Matthews said in a tweet on Tuesday.
Some Republicans and supporters have moved to discredit Hutchinson in light of her testimony, which was heavily damaging to Trump.
Following the explosive testimony on Tuesday, former White House counsel Eric Herschmann disputed Hutchinson’s claim that she’d written a statement for Trump on Jan. 6 that demanded rioters leave the Capitol.
However, a spokesperson for Herschmann told ABC News that she, in fact, had not written that statement.
“The handwritten note that Cassidy Hutchinson testified was written by her was in fact written by Eric Herschmann on Jan. 6, 2021,” the spokesperson said.
In her remarks before the panel, Hutchinson said she’d written the statement for Trump — and that Herschmann had suggested changing it.
The committee said that, whoever wrote it, the note is evidence that Trump staffers were urgently trying to get the president to call off the mob at the Capitol.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Secret Service has promised to respond to a particularly fiery part of Hutchinson’s testimony, which said that Trump was determined to join the mob at the Capitol. In fact, she said, he physically attempted to grab the wheel of his presidential limousine on Jan. 6 when agents on his security detail told him that it was unsafe to go and they were returning to the White House.
Hutchinson said that a member of Trump’s detail had relayed the story to her a short time later at the White House.
“The United States Secret Service has been cooperating with the Select Committee since its inception in spring 2021, and will continue to do so, including by responding on the record to the committee regarding the new allegations surfaced in [Hutchinson’s] testimony,” Secret Service spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi told CBS News.
The House Jan. 6 committee has said it will hold its next hearing in early July. The public hearings are expected to last until September.