Our Best Stuff From an Explosive Week
Cassidy Hutchinson testifies before the January 6 committee.
Hello and happy Saturday! Who among you had “The January 6 committee hearings knock the overturning of Roe v. Wade off the front page” on your 2022 bingo cards?
I’ve spent more time watching congressional hearings in the last five years than in my previous 40-plus years combined. Nearly all of them promised to expose Donald Trump as power hungry, dangerous, and unfit for office. Former FBI Director James Comey testified about his firing over the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Robert Mueller, who was appointed as special counsel to take over that investigation after Comey was fired, testified about his report. While he documented many examples of contacts between Trump’s team and Russian nationals but “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government,” Mueller was also clear that his investigation did not exonerate Trump.
We sat through not one but two impeachment trials during Trump’s tenure. In the first, we watched as Trump sent disparaging tweets about Marie Yovanovitch, U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, while she was testifying, and as he criticized National Security Council staffer Lt. Col Alexander Vindman before he could even address Congress.
In the second, we saw disturbing footage of the events at the Capitol on January 6, and learned how close the mob got to Vice President Mike Pence. We heard a statement from Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler about Kevin McCarthy’s conversation with Trump in which he first denied that the rioters were his supporters and then refused McCarthy’s plea to call off the riot.
Nothing in those previous proceedings, despite their serious nature and the authoritative figures who spoke out, landed quite like the testimony Tuesday of Cassidy Hutchinson, a 26-year-old former aide to then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. She testified that Trump knew his supporters might be carrying weapons that day and didn’t care, instructing his aides to have the Secret Service “Take the effing [magnetometers] away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.” We learned that Trump was unconcerned about threats to Mike Pence’s safety, and allegedly even agreed with those chanting “Hang Mike Pence.” And we learned that he demanded to go to the Capitol, to join the crowd there.
I think there are a few reasons the January 6 hearings overall are proving more effective than earlier efforts. While both of Trump’s impeachments were undoubtedly warranted, it’s equally true that the process was nakedly political in nature. In neither case did Nancy Pelosi include any Republicans among the House impeachment managers (an especially egregious decision in the second case, when 10 House Republicans voted for impeachment). This time around, the January 6 committee includes Republicans Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. The process has been methodical and well-organized, which serves the purpose of making the material presented—both videos and testimony—even more harrowing. Time has passed and passions have cooled, and yet the images still have the power to shock. We can finally and fully analyze how close we came to disaster that day.
But Hutchinson’s testimony was powerful for another reason, beyond its details. We’ve spent the past years watching as appointed and elected officials, people with impressive backgrounds and extensive experience, sacrifice their integrity to defend a man who turned temper tantrums into constitutional crises. We also watched, during the first impeachment but especially in the wake of the 2020 election, as those who were brave enough to stand up to Trump subjected to disparagement, threats, and harassment. Cassidy Hutchinson was no doubt aware of all that, and she was even reportedly subjected to witness intimidation herself. And yet she testified, willingly. Her appearance gave us new information about Donald Trump, but it should also bring shame to those who have cravenly defended him for so long.
Thank you for reading, and I hope you have a relaxing and festive holiday weekend.
David wrote his Tuesday French Press immediately after Hutchinson delivered her testimony before the January 6 committee, and he laid out a straightforward argument for how it strengthened the legal case against Trump. He explains that the 1969 Supreme Court case Brandenburg v. Ohio set a high bar for prosecuting even speech that threatens violence and that doing so involves weighing “intentionality, likelihood, and imminence.” And then he lays out how Trump’s actions that day might well warrant prosecution. “For law enforcement to indict a former president (and perhaps the frontrunner for the 2024 GOP nomination) would set a grave and potentially dangerous precedent. But there is another precedent that is perhaps more grave and more dangerous—deciding that presidents are held to lower standards of criminal behavior than virtually any other American citizen.” For more on Hutchinson’s testimony, read Price St. Clair’s reporting from the hearing. Members can also watch the video of the Dispatch Live we recorded Tuesday night.
Back in 2011, President Obama issued a “Dear Colleague letter” that upended Title IX, which until that point had been largely recognized for creating educational and athletic opportunities for women. His letter offered (nominally nonbinding) guidance on how college campuses should adjudicate claims of sexual harassment and abuse. It stripped accused students of due process rights, led to unjust expulsions, and prompted hundreds of (successful) lawsuits. When Trump was elected, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos underwent a rigorous formal process to undo those changes and implement a new policy that would restore due process. Now, President Biden is seeking to undo the Trump policy and restore the Obama-era guidance. Jacob Becker analyzes the Biden plan, which was released on the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Unlike Obama, Biden will put his plan through a formal rulemaking process, including an opportunity for public notice and comment. But Becker notes how it also revives some of the most problematic measures implemented by Obama, including the “single investigator” model whereby a single “individual both investigates the accusation, performs witness interviews, gathers evidence, and produces a determination of responsibility” and eliminates the requirement for a live hearing that allows the accused to confront the accuser.
Charlotte reports on an alarming uptick of violence against Christians in Nigeria. In early June, 40 Catholics were killed in an attack on a Pentecost celebration, and on June 18, “eight more Christian worshippers were killed and 38 others were abducted in attacks on Catholic and Baptist churches.” Charlotte notes that while there were 4,650 murders of Christians in Nigeria in 2021, “it remains difficult for experts to assess whether the abductions were explicitly religiously motivated or born out of economic opportunism. In many instances, churches—particularly those with international connections—are better equipped to collect money for ransom than state governments or other institutions. Nigeria’s diverse makeup of different ethnic groups, religions, vocations further complicates efforts to identify a proximate cause for the violence.”
Jonah notes that in the wake of the Dobbs decision, many liberals are bemoaning the state of “our democracy.” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker complained that the ruling will “erode our democracy” and Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Tina Smith argued that if we let Joe Biden implement some executive orders, we can “start repairing our democracy.” Ahem, Jonah says: “The Supreme Court didn’t remove abortion from ‘our democracy,’ it tossed it back to our democracy.” But that’s not his only problem with the Democrats and democracy. He writes that he agrees with them that “hardcore MAGA candidates championing the stolen election lie are a real threat to democracy.” The problem is that Democrats are boosting—with millions and millions of dollars in ad buys—the primary campaigns of those very candidates, hoping to score easier victories in the midterms. “If Democrats really think they are fascists, maybe they should put their concern for ‘our democracy’ ahead of their desire to have more winnable seats?” he writes.
And now for the best of the rest:
In Stirewaltisms (🔒), Chris Stirewalt explains how the Supreme Court’s ruling allowing the Biden administration to end Trump’s Remain in Mexico policy for asylum seekers is “the latest unfortunate victory for the 46th president. It’s a string that runs all the way back to January 2021 when Democrats unexpectedly took control of the Senate following a matched set of surprise wins in Georgia’s Senate runoffs.”
In Uphill (🔒), Haley has a good roundup of how Congress is responding to the Dobbs decision, from Republicans exploring options for federal restrictions if they take control of Congress, to Democrats grappling with ending or modifying the filibuster, to plans to tackle legislation regarding child payments and family leave.
Who in the Middle East can contain Iran’s regional ambitions? Reuel Marc Gerecht suggests three possibilities: Iran itself, were its population to rise up in protest; Turkey, which likely lacks the military capability or appetite for conflict, and Israel. So, it’s pretty much Israel.
Flying is not a great experience right now, as most travelers can attest. In Capitolism (🔒), Scott Lincicome lays out how U.S. policy, particularly restrictions limiting the ability of foreign airlines to operate within the United States, makes things worse.
Americans are quitting their jobs in record numbers, and—especially with inflation eating up wage gains—it’s not all about the money. Workers want better treatment, and better experiences. Brent Orrell details measures that companies can take to retain employees.
On the pods: The news cycle has been relentless and punishing for … a long time it seems. On Good Faith, David and Curtis Chang offer up a break from all that despair. Megan McArdle and Jonah get into some serious business on The Remnant, but there’s also plenty of conversation about canines. And on Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah break down the Supreme Court ruling in favor of a high school football coach who was fired for praying at midfield after games.