May It Please the Kangaroo Court

Oh, the thrill of being a New York Times reporter and covering the January 6 committee hearings. In a triumphant piece “contributed to by Maggie Haberman, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Chris Cameron, Carl Hulse and Peter Baker” we read that “former President Donald J. Trump, knowing his supporters were armed and threatening violence, urged them to march to the Capitol and sought to join them there, privately siding with them as they stormed the building and called for the hanging of the vice president.” Gosh, that sounds bad. Are there any details?

What the reporters describe as “the testimony” was given by 26-year-old Cassidy Hutchinson. Breathlessly (you can practically hear the reporters’ heavy breathing as they type furiously) the reporters wrote: “The testimony from the aide, Cassidy Hutchinson, was extraordinary even by the standards of Mr. Trump’s norm-busting presidency and the inquiry’s remarkable string of revelations this month. In fly-on-the-wall anecdotes delivered in a quiet voice, she described how frantic West Wing aides failed to stop Mr. Trump from encouraging the violence or persuade him to try to end it, and how the White House’s top lawyer feared that Mr. Trump might be committing crimes as he steered the country to the brink of a constitutional crisis.”

This is Woodward and Bernstein stuff—even though, of course, it’s happening in public. Will the reporters get to play themselves in the movie version? Think of . . . well, think of the money! They’ll be able to pay off their student loans—unless Joe Biden forgives all loans (except yours!) before they get the chance.

The reporters tell us that 26-year-old Cassidy Hutchinson “recalled being told of one particularly dramatic moment in which an irate Mr. Trump tried to grab the wheel of his vehicle from a Secret Service agent when he was told he could not go to the Capitol to join his supporters, an account that the former president quickly denied and that Secret Service officials said would be rebutted in forthcoming testimony.”

And then this: “Her testimony elicited praise for her willingness to speak out against Mr. Trump and was compared to some of the most consequential moments in presidential history. John W. Dean III, whose testimony during Watergate rocked the Nixon presidency, compared Ms. Hutchinson’s appearance to the stunning moment in 1973 when Alexander Butterfield, another Nixon aide, revealed in a Senate hearing the secret taping system that would lead to the president’s downfall.” Yup. This is Watergate II (bigger, really). Oh, the book. And the movie. And the money!

And they were the ones, Haberman, Kanno-Youngs, Cameron, Hulse, and Baker, to cover 26-year-old Cassidy Hutchinson’s extraordinary testimony.

Well, yes—for what that’s worth.       

What she said was certainly extraordinary. But was it really “testimony?” What is testimony? A dictionary definition is “a solemn declaration usually made orally by a witness under oath in response to interrogation by a lawyer or authorized public official.” Yes . . . but usually there’s more. After the witness “testifies,” usually in answer to questions put by lawyer A, lawyer B gets up and asks an additional set of questions to probe the veracity of the answers the witness has just given in response to questions by lawyer A.        

So how did 26-year-old Cassidy Hutchinson hold up under questioning by lawyer B? Well, actually, the January 6 committee hearing, being a kangaroo court, presented no lawyer B to interrogate 26-year-old Cassidy Hutchinson. And almost as if to trumpet the nature of the proceeding, Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), in her closing remarks, “read aloud from testimony given by two witnesses whom she declined to identify [my emphasis], in which they spoke about having been pressured by Mr. Trump’s allies to withhold information from investigators.” 

Exam question. Which is worse: “testimony” given without subsequent cross examination or “testimony” given by unidentified witnesses?

An ecstatic Bret Stephens would also write for the Times, “Maybe Hutchinson is lying, but she was under oath. Trump supporters may find it easy to dismiss Democrats like Adam Schiff or even anti-Trump conservatives like Judge J. Michael Luttig. But Hutchinson is a source from within the inner sanctum. On Tuesday, she was a picture of credibility.” Perhaps, but maybe only a cardboard cutout of credibility.

And then the unraveling began. Hutchinson had said about a note: “That’s a note that I wrote at the direction of the chief of staff on Jan. 6, likely around 3 o’clock.”

But, per the Western Journal, according to ABC News, Eric Herschmann, a former Trump White House lawyer, claims that he wrote the note and that all “sources with direct knowledge and law enforcement have and will confirm that it was written by” him. Uh oh. Things don’t look quite so bright for 26-year-old Cassidy Hutchinson, who had claimed the note’s handwriting was hers.

But there’s more: two people with good knowledge are, apparently, prepared to testify that Trump neither grabbed nor attempted to grab the steering wheel, as Hutchinson “testified.”

So much for kangaroo court testimony.

We can and should be outraged at Cheney, of course. But we should spare just a minute to feel sorry for 26-year-old Cassidy Hutchinson, a young kid who’s gotten herself into a perjury pickle. Why? We don’t know. But we can be reasonably sure that if there had been an opposing lawyer, he might have been able to dislodge her testimony and to persuade her to “alter” it (i.e., recant) before she fell into the perjury pit. Now it would seem she’s in trouble, which will grow if the Republicans take over the House of Representatives after the November election. 

But what’s the appropriate punishment for Liz Cheney who abetted this travesty? And will she ever suffer for it? In a just world, she should be given a fair trial—and then taken out and horsewhipped—as a lesson to future partisan hacks not to hold kangaroo courts.

About Daniel Oliver

Daniel Oliver is chairman of the board of the Education and Research Institute and a director of the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in San Francisco. In addition to serving as chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Reagan, he was executive editor and subsequently chairman of the board of William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review. Email him at Daniel.Oliver@TheCandidAmerican.com.

Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

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