CNN’s Kasie Hunt tweeted, “Just an astonishing witness.”
The New Yorker’s Susan Glasser tweeted, “For once when someone promises ‘explosive’ testimony, this hearing delivers.”
On Fox News, anchor Bret Baier called the testimony “stunning,” while anchor Martha MacCallum called it “riveting.”
And NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss tweeted, “When in history have we ever heard testimony before Congress this shocking against a President of the United States?”
All were reacting to the testimony given Tuesday by Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Mark Meadows, President Donald Trump’s final chief of staff. Hutchinson spoke before the House selection committee investigating the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.
Glasser was right. Sometimes, the media uses words like “explosive” or “bombshell” to describe certain events, even when the events really aren’t that strong. In this case, however, the words “explosive” and “bombshell” and “stunning” don’t feel potent enough.
Then again, CBS News’ Robert Costa said, “What we just heard in this testimony wasn’t a bombshell. This was history. We are watching history unfold.”
Among Hutchinson’s claims:
- Trump knew that the crowd he amassed in Washington on Jan. 6 was armed and could turn violent, and yet he wanted security to be lowered because he knew he, personally, was in no danger. Hutchinson said that Trump said something to the effect of, “You know, I don’t (expletive) care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the (expletive) mags away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here. Let the people in. Take the (expletive) mags away.” (“Mags” are metal detectors.)
- While being driven in his car, Trump lunged to take the steering wheel away from a member of the Secret Service when he was told he could not go to the Capitol. “I’m the (expletive) president. Take me up to the Capitol now!” he said, according to Hutchinson. When Trump was told by the head of the Secret Service detail to take his hand off the steering wheel, Trump then used his free hand to lunge toward that Secret Service agent. Hutchinson testified that this was what she was told by Tony Ornato, the former White House chief of operations. The Associated Press reported Tuesday night that a “person familiar with the matter” said the driver and Ornato are willing to testify under oath that no agent was assaulted and Trump never lunged for the steering wheel.
- Other examples of Trump’s anger was him throwing a plate with ketchup on it against the wall and being “(expletive) irate” because the crowd was not big enough to listen to him speak on Jan. 6.
There was much more to Hutchinson’s testimony — and pretty much all of it appeared devastating to Trump, especially the part that Trump knew the day could turn violent.
The Atlantic’s David A. Graham wrote, “That is the most damning moment to emerge from the hearings so far. Trump’s supporters’ defense of the president’s behavior that day up until now has been that he simply wanted a peaceful demonstration, and didn’t anticipate the violence that broke out when his supporters stormed the Capitol. Some allies have denied that demonstrators were even armed. The defense has never been especially plausible, but Hutchinson’s testimony demolishes it.”
In a nutshell: Trump knew the mob was armed and could turn violent, he wanted to join them in storming the Capitol and became irate (and physical with the Secret Service) when they stopped him.
One unnamed Trump adviser told CNN, “This is a bombshell. It’s stunning. It’s shocking.”
Vanity Fair’s Bess Levin wrote, “It’s hard to say which of Hutchinson’s revelations were the most damning.”
On his Truth Social site, Trump said he “hardly know(s)” Hutchinson and called her “bad news.”
But former Trump White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said, “I know her. I don’t think she is lying.” And Baier, on Fox News, said, “Cassie Hutchison is under oath, on Capitol Hill. The president is on Truth Social making his statements.”
CNN’s Chris Cillizza wrote, “Trump comes across as a man desperately clinging to power, resistant to any attempts to curtail what he believed to be his absolute power to do whatever he wanted — up to and including remaining in office by any means necessary. It’s an ugly portrait. And, unfortunately, an accurate one.”
But what might it mean?
There wasn’t even supposed to be a hearing on Tuesday. The House select committee called it at the last minute, saying they had a surprise witness with important testimony.
That was an understatement. This was someone who was, as CBS News’ Caitlin Huey-Burns said, “a fly on the wall,” someone who saw and heard many of the things she testified about on Tuesday.
Mulvaney tweeted, “Things went very badly for the former President today. My guess is that it will get worse from here.”
New York Times political correspondent Michael C. Bender tweeted, “The talons are out in Trump World for Cassidy Hutchinson in an attempt to undermine her credibility — but there’s also a sense of dread about implications for Trump. ‘It’s a killer,’ a well-placed Trump adviser told me.”
In an analysis piece for The Washington Post, Dan Balz wrote, “Trump’s presidency and its aftermath — his actions in office and his perpetuation of the lie that the 2020 election was rife with fraud and therefore stolen — have left many Americans without the ability to be shocked or surprised, whether through fatigue or mere disinterest. In measured and careful language, Hutchinson punctured that indifference.”
As Balz noted, it will be up to the Department of Justice to determine whether Trump should face legal consequences. But this could hurt him politically. Balz wrote, “More Republicans will be asking themselves if this is the person they want as their nominee in 2024. Taken as a whole, it was devastating in the extreme.”
The hearings are not over. More will follow in July. But Tuesday? Tuesday was a stunner. Or as New York Times chief television critic James Poniewozik wrote, “It was a beast.”
Veteran journalist Wesley Lowery put it in smart perspective when he tweeted, “there’s been so much important journalism done on the Trump administration and Jan 6 – so much of it confirmed during these hearings. And also, the allegations today are groundshaking and, before today, completely unreported. Makes them even more stunning.”
Hillary Clinton speaks out
Former Secretary of State and Democratic candidate for president Hillary Clinton appeared on “CBS Mornings” on Tuesday and talked about the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“Women will die,” Clinton told co-host Gayle King.
Clinton added that she wasn’t surprised by the court’s ruling, saying, “because I think that was the goal of packing the court with justices who were on the record for many years of being against women’s constitutional rights to make decisions about our own bodies. I was deeply sorry that it actually happened. But now that it has happened, I think everybody understands that this is not necessarily the only effort that we’re going to see this court undertake to turn back the clock on civil rights and gay rights, and women’s rights beyond abortion. … This is going to, I hope, wake up a lot of Americans. I don’t care what political party or religion you are, the question is, ‘Who decides?’ Is the government going to be in your bedroom? Is the government going to be making these decisions? We are only at the beginning of this terrible travesty that this court has inflicted on us.”
As far as the hearing on Capitol Hill about Jan. 6, Clinton was asked if anything will come of it.
“I think these hearings have been incredibly powerful,” Clinton said. “I understand a lot of people pay no attention, but history pays attention. I hope the Justice Department is paying attention. I hope in these midterm elections — candidates and the Democratic Party — pay attention. Because you cannot let those who attacked our Capitol and those who urged them on to do so, act with impunity. That’s what happens in dictatorships and authoritarian regimes. … So I think it’s important that people recognize if there were ever a time to vote and to vote, literally, for your rights and our future, it’s this midterm.”
Troubling news from Texas
Here’s quite the headline in the latest story from The Washington Post’s Arelis R. Hernández and Paul Farhi: “Journalists in Uvalde are stonewalled, hassled, threatened with arrest.”
Hernández and Farhi write, “A month after 19 children and two educators were killed at Robb Elementary School, a picture is emerging of a disastrous police response, in which officers from several law enforcement agencies waited for an hour outside an unlocked classroom where children were trapped with the attacker. But journalists who have flocked to Uvalde, Tex., from across the country to tell that story have faced near-constant interference, intimidation and stonewalling from some of the same authorities — and not only bikers claiming to have police sanction.”
Earlier this month, my Poynter colleague Amaris Castillo spoke with Nora López, executive editor of the San Antonio Express-News. Talking about local authorities and bikers, López told Castillo, “In addition to the trauma of covering such an event, then to have to deal with all this harassment and attempts to stop us from reporting this story has been really disconcerting.”
The obstruction, diversion and outright hostility have continued.
Hernández and Farhi wrote, “Journalists have been threatened with arrest for ‘trespassing’ outside public buildings. They have been barred from public meetings and refused basic information about what police did during the May 24 attack. After several early, error-filled news conferences, officials have routinely turned down interview requests and refused to hold news briefings. The situation has been made even more fraught by the spider’s web of local and state agencies involved in responding to and investigating the shooting, some of which now blame each other for the chaos.”
A marathon of suffering
CNN’s chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour interviewed Olena Zelenska, Ukraine’s first lady and wife of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The war is now entering its fifth month and Zelenska tells Amanpour that what was once thought of as being a sprint is now turning into a “marathon.”
“It’s very difficult to hold on for five months,” Zelenska said. “We need to accumulate our strength, we need to save our energy. We cannot see the end of our suffering.”
Unfortunately, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has gone from being the news story of the day to a backburner issue in the United States because of a swiftly changing news cycle that is now focused on the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the hearings regarding Jan. 6.
But here is just some of the latest important news involving Russia-Ukraine:
- Washington Post columnist Ishaan Tharoor with “At crucial summits, the West squeezes Russia.”
- Also in the Post, Steve Hendrix and Serhii Korolchuk with “Rural rhythms upended by war on the road to Ukraine’s front lines.”
- For The New York Times, Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Natalia Yermak with “On Front Lines, Communication Breakdowns Prove Costly for Ukraine.”
The media’s role
NBCU News Group chairman Cesar Conde sat down with Gillian Tett, U.S. editor-at-large for the Financial Times, on Tuesday at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Tett asked Conde if he feels at all responsible or guilty for the media’s role in the polarization of the U.S.
Conde said, “The media is certainly a part of what’s happening in the country right now. It is certainly not the only piece. There is polarization in many aspects of our society right now. I think there are different aspects that are contributing. Having said that, we do believe very strongly that we need to be a positive voice, a positive force in that discussion.”
Conde also talked about combating the spread of misinformation, saying, “In our business, our fundamental focus is to ensure that we are laser-focused on facts, and make sure that we are laser-focused on accuracy. But with that mission, also, it’s important to recognize that when we make an error, we recognize it, we correct it right away and we move on. I think the second thing is we’re living in an era of misinformation and disinformation. And this has become one of the most important areas that we have to focus on. As a journalism profession and industry, facts matter. Differentiating facts from fiction is fundamental. And so ensuring that none of that creeps into any of the reporting we do is fundamental.”
- The Atlantic’s Jemele Hill with “Why I’m Talking About My Abortion.”
- For Harper’s Bazaar, Heather Havrilesky with “Winona Ryder Is Still Processing.”
- New Yorker editor David Remnick profiles the great singer in “The Gospel According to Mavis Staples.”
Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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