Cassidy Hutchinson was a superb witness at the House January 6 Committee hearing last Tuesday. As a former prosecutor, please let me count the top 10 reasons why.
- Proximity. As with real estate, good witnessing is based on location, location, location. Hutchinson’s workstation was the crowded West Wing. She was backstage at Donald Trump’s Ellipse speech, hearing conversations about weapons, magnetometers and crowd size.
- Insider knowledge. Hutchinson was no mere coffee girl. She had worked for Republican House and Senate leaders who recognized her obvious intellect, abilities and work ethic. Hutchinson had an important White House job.
- Preparation pays. Rehearsals are vital for the attorney and witness. Hutchinson had already given four depositions. Practice makes perfect.
- Outstanding supporting lawyer. Vice-Chair Rep. Liz Cheney delivered perfect segues, summations and questions. If this was a home run derby, Hutchinson would have won easily, crushing Cheney’s perfect deliveries out of the park.
- Impeccable Appearance. Evaluating Cheney and Hutchinson’s fashion choices for the New York Times, Rhonda Garelick wrote, “Everything — hair, makeup, jewelry, wardrobe and nail care — seemed to communicate calm, control and, especially, neutrality.”
- Speaking skills. No one likes listening to a witness who hems and haws. Hutchinson is blessed with a confident, soothing voice and terrific sentence structuring. Listening to her is a pleasure.
- Great demeanor. Acting natural on the witness stand can be difficult. Not so for Hutchinson. Contrary to Trump’s desperate accusation, nothing seemed phony about this witness. Hutchinson told the world of White House tablecloths flipped and porcelain plates being thrown. When Hutchinson helped the valet clean ketchup spatter, it further enhanced her credibility, not just as a witness, but as a caring, decent person.
- Statements against interest. Explaining the words and actions of work colleagues Mark Meadows, Rudy Giuliani and Pat Cipollone, Hutchinson referred to them as Mark, Rudy and Pat. They called her “Cass.” Incriminating friends and people you admired is difficult. Hutchinson has been threatened via text messages, apparently by Team Trump. Her life would have been easier if she had stayed loyal to Trump. Instead, she chose loyalty to America and the oath she took to tell the truth. This further enhances her credibility.
- Appropriate anger. Hutchinson displayed righteous indignation recalling the moments she realized the vice president’s life was seriously threatened, and then reading Trump contemporaneous tweet claiming Mike Pence lacked the “courage to do what needs to be done.” Hutchinson spoke for many citizens when she testified, “As an American, I was disgusted. It was unpatriotic. It was un-American.”
- No ulterior motive. Hutchinson is a conservative Republican who adored Trump for his conservative policies. Hutchinson’s new lawyers are rock ribbed Republicans, but not lawyers on the Team Trump payroll. It’s not like Hutchinson has become liberal.
A week has passed, and Trump media’s predominant reaction is to pretend Hutchinson’s testimony never happened.
Wondering what defense was even possible, I tuned into Denver talk radio. A morning host called Hutchinson a twerp; the opposite of what I witnessed. The afternoon drivetime host expressed dismay (starting here at 5:02) that Trump had been restrained by underlings who prevented him from going to the Capitol — where he would have calmed things down. Say what?
But what can you say? Trump’s other apparent defense will be an attack on prosecutions of political people in general. In last Wednesday’s opening segment from Brazil (Tucker Carlson is on an all-autocratic nation celebration tour), Fox News’ biggest star propagandized about a supposed Biden-Garland-directed political prosecution of Colorado’s own Tina Peters.
Carlson claimed this coordinated national effort to “target” Peters was conducted to “subvert” her election as Colorado’s next Secretary of State where she would have fixed our “rigged” elections. And just look, Carlson told his massive audience, it worked, and she was defeated in a primary.
Some Hutchinson critics point out her testimony included hearsay. But that’s perfectly fine for now. This was not a trial. Hearsay evidence is regularly utilized along the way in prosecutions. During probable cause determinations authorizing searches, arrests and criminal trials, hearsay is law enforcement’s coin of the realm.
While hearsay is presumptively inadmissible at trial, there are dozens of exclusions and exceptions including spontaneous excited utterances and adopted admissions, and others that may apply to Hutchinson’s testimony. Colorado has a statute specifically providing inconsistent statements’ admissibility not only for the purposes of impeaching a witness, but also for the purpose of establishing a fact to which his testimony and the inconsistent statement relate.
Trump loyalists and Secret Service agents Tony Ornato and Bobby Engel can confirm or deny what was said on January 6 right after returning to the White House, but they must do so under oath. If Ornato denies making those statements, he can be impeached in a court of law by his Hutchinson-reported prior statements. The same is true for statements Hutchinson attributed to Mark, Rudy and Pat. Prosecutors now have a roadmap moving up the ladder toward Trump.
Defenses and defenders are diminishing. Our defeated former president really did demand to go the Capitol. Hutchinson helped stop him. She’s heroic. Her testimony should lead to truth and accountability for those participating in Trump’s seditious conspiracy against America.
Craig Silverman is a former Denver chief deputy DA who also has worked in the media for decades. Craig is columnist at large for The Colorado Sun. He is an active Colorado trial lawyer with Craig Silverman Law, LLC, and host of The Craig Silverman Show podcast.