One of Donald Trump’s many rants about the House Select Committee hearing on Tuesday was perhaps the most revealing.
“Her body language is that of a total bull… artist,” Trump wrote, using an ellipsis to hide his long-demonstrated fondness for vulgarity. “Fantasy World!”
He’d previously posted on his personal social media site about the witness, Cassidy Hutchinson, and the hearing itself. Trump called it a “Kangaroo Court,” and Hutchinson’s writing, as seen on a note displayed during the hearing, was “that of a Whacko?” If you’ve been paying attention over the last seven years, you’ll recognize the types of complaints Trump made.
But Trump’s “body language” comment on Truth Social elicited something other than Trump Trumping. It was immediately reminiscent of the reaction to another young woman, actress Amber Heard, who recently gave high-profile testimony in a closely watched proceeding.
“Amber Heard 2.0” quickly became a Twitter trend. The intention was to portray Hutchinson as a liar and opportunist, just as supporters of Johnny Depp believed Heard to be in the recently concluded defamation trial. The comparison was aided by a hasty attempt to undermine Hutchinson’s testimony and Hutchinson herself wherever possible. And referring to the situation as “Amber Heard 2.0” is accurate: not because the two women were particularly similar, but because their reactions were.
To begin, it is necessary to acknowledge that Hutchinson’s testimony did not provide a complete picture of what occurred in the Trump White House following the election. Hutchinson testified under oath to remarkable anecdotes with compelling details, conveying what she remembered or had noted at times and things she’d been told at other times. Those details, such as what happened as Trump was leaving the Ellipse after his speech on Jan. 6, 2021, were relayed to Hutchinson by a member of Trump’s Secret Service detail, she said.
That story — about an enraged Trump demanding to be driven to the Capitol, then attempting to grab the wheel, then putting his hands on an agent sitting nearby — quickly became the focal point of the effort to discredit Hutchinson. Figures on the far right of Republican politics seized on a Daily Mail diagram of the presidential limousine. See! I couldn’t have grabbed the steering wheel! On Jan. 6, however, Trump was not in that limousine; instead, he was in a less compartmentalized SUV. Furthermore, Politico previously reported that the agent Trump allegedly accosted described to committee investigators a dispute between himself and the president in that vehicle.
According to people speaking on behalf of the Secret Service, Hutchinson’s account of what she was told is incorrect. An official from the agency stated in a statement that those present were willing to provide sworn testimony about what happened. The specifics, therefore, remain hazy.
The fact that it was necessary to begin by answering that question is, of course, the point. This disagreement is significant, both for our understanding of what happened that day and for our assessment of Hutchinson’s credibility. But Hutchinson’s credibility is dependent not on what happened, but on whether she was told those things happened, because she does not claim to have been in the vehicle. The focus on the limousine and how it is structured, as well as whether the steering wheel can be reached, is part of the familiar process of digging deep enough into a claim to find something fishy, then allowing that doubt to swim back upstream to impugn the claimant.
At the very least, this attempt to discredit Hutchinson is based on evidence. Despite her time in Republican politics, Hutchinson was also disparaged both broadly and personally, dismissed as a low-level staffer.
She has not been shown to have lied under oath, despite the MAGA world’s reaction on Wednesday morning. Those desperate to protect Trump at all costs are using a network of allies and a well-established pattern of scrutiny to try to bring Hutchinson down.
A young woman providing credible testimony against a popular public figure to whom she was once loyal — and infuriating his supporters. Amber Heard reincarnated.