Butterfield’s revelations about the Nixon tapes changed the trajectory of the Watergate scandal and helped lead to the president’s resignation.
With her surprise testimony at Tuesday’s hearing of the House Jan. 6 committee, former Trump aide Cassidy Hutchinson broke open the inside story of the coup plotting that was underway at the White House before and during the insurrection and in the process suddenly raised Donald Trump’s legal jeopardy.
Above all, Hutchinson, a former aide to Mark Meadows, Trump’s White House chief of staff, showed that the president knew that many of his supporters who marched on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, were armed and dangerous, and still encouraged them to march on Congress. He even sought to go to the U.S. Capitol himself to lead the armed mob in person and lunged at a Secret Service agent to try to take control of his presidential limousine.
Hutchinson’s stunning testimony, the most dramatic since the House hearings started, recalls that of Alexander Butterfield, the White House aide during Watergate who revealed to the Senate Watergate Committee that President Richard Nixon had a taping system in place in the Oval Office. Butterfield’s testimony suddenly changed the trajectory of the Watergate scandal and helped lead to Nixon’s 1974 resignation.
The January 6 hearings have disclosed far more than was previously known about Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, raising questions about why the Justice Department has not been as aggressive in its own inquiry. The success of the House hearings may finally be forcing the Justice Department to intensify its criminal investigation. Last week, the FBI raided the home of Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official who sought to help Trump pressure state officials not to certify Joe Biden’s win in Georgia; the Justice Department also seized the phone of John Eastman, a lawyer for Trump who wrote memos urging then-Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the presidential election during the congressional certification process.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Hutchinson painted a vivid picture of Trump’s insane behavior as he sought to prevent Biden from assuming office. He had incited the mob during a speech outside the White House, urging his supporters to go up to the Capitol while Congress was in the process of certifying the election. The crowd followed his directions and marched to the Capitol.
Immediately after his speech, he tried to grab the steering wheel of his limousine from the Secret Service agent who was driving in order to go to the Capitol himself.
By that time, Trump was already furious that the Secret Service was refusing to let his heavily armed supporters into the secured area outside the White House. Hutchinson testified that Trump said that “they’re not here to hurt me. Take the fucking mags away,” referring to the metal detectors used to check for weapons. “Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.”
Beyond January 6, Hutchinson also revealed that Trump was mentally unbalanced throughout the months in which he sought to overturn the election. She said that on December 1, 2020, Trump threw a plate with ketchup on it against a wall in the White House when he found out that Attorney General William Barr had just told the press that there was no significant voter fraud during the presidential election. She added that Trump had thrown objects in the White House before, including inside the Oval Office.
Hutchinson also said that Meadows did almost nothing to try to rein in Trump during the insurrection and later sought a presidential pardon.
Hutchinson’s testimony came as Rep. Liz Cheney, the Wyoming Republican who is vice chair of the House committee, said that there is evidence of witness tampering against others speaking to the committee. She said several witnesses have received phone calls and messages in which people have tried to pressure them before testifying.