Students of political history and readers old enough to remember the Senate Watergate hearings will recall John W. Dean III. Dean was the first administration official to appear before the Senate and accuse president Richard Nixon of direct involvement with the Watergate burglary and subsequent cover-up. Nixon vigorously denied Dean’s accusations, and since Dean had no corroboration beyond his notes it all came down to Dean’s word against the president’s.
Not even Dean’s own attorney knew for sure that Dean was telling the truth. After all, he had a motive for lying. Dean was a major figure in the planning and subsequent coverup of the burglary and stood to avoid significant jail time by cooperating with prosecutors against the president.
So Dean’s lawyer carefully watched John Dean’s reaction to the revelation that conversations in the Oval Office were taped. That was the moment he knew Dean was telling the truth: Dean was delighted to learn of the Watergate tapes. As it happened, Dean’s accusations were largely substantiated by those tapes.
As you can see, comparisons in the press between Cassidy Hutchinson and John Dean are not entirely apt. But then, “history doesn’t repeat but it does rhyme,” as they say. Ms. Hutchinson had no criminal involvement in the planning nor the execution of the January 6th insurrection, and for that reason, she has no motive for betraying the president. So the absence of tapes isn’t quite as potentially exculpatory for Trump as it might have been for Nixon.
Nevertheless, the denials have begun. Donald Trump Jr. retweeted his girlfriend’s tweet, “January 6th Committee ‘witness’ Cassidy Hutchinson basically claimed that President Trump was a Ninja.” This is in response to the revelation by Ms. Hutchinson that Donald Trump lunged for the steering wheel of the SUV he was riding in, in a failed attempt to force the driver to take him to the Capitol. Junior also posted a clip from the movie, “White House Down” showing the presidential limo being driven wildly across the White House lawn.
The House Judiciary GOP account, run by Jim Jordan, predictably tweeted, “It’s literally all hearsay evidence. What a joke.” To be clear, these lawyers should know better. Hutchinson’s testimony is not hearsay. It’s direct testimony under oath of something she witnessed personally. They know perfectly well that this is not hearsay. Naturally, anyone who has any problems with Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony is perfectly free to come to the January 6 Committee and testify otherwise — under oath.
Ms. Hutchinson revealed that Trump knew the insurrectionists were armed and he was fine with it because he knew they weren’t going to turn those weapons on him. He was okay with the idea of Mike Pence being hanged for not stopping the vote count. He had a tantrum and threw his lunch against the wall when he learned Bill Barr told the press that he thought there was no fraud in the 2020 election. She revealed that Trump wanted to float pardons for the rioters and that the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers were mentioned during White House planning for January 6th.
Donald Trump’s response to all this was hilariously predictable. “I hardly know who this person, Cassidy Hutchinson, is,” Trump wrote on his social media platform, Truth, “other than I heard very negative things about her (a total phony and ‘leaker’).” It is a known Trump formula: deny knowing the person well or even at all, then disparage their character.
Of course, vigorous denials of John Dean’s testimony were made by the Nixon White House as well. One might say it is a common response and scarcely surprising. But it might prove interesting to learn what they choose to deny and what they choose to remain silent about.
There is one thing Cassidy Hutchinson may share perfectly in common with John W. Dean III. Just as Dean’s testimony brought Nixon down, her testimony may be the final straw that brings Trump down. In that way the comparison between Dean and Hutchinson will be completely apt, and in the end that may be all anyone cares about. It will remain for history to unfold as it always does, and for us to sit on the sidelines and watch and hope. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.