Of course, this week’s witnesses, Matthew Pottinger and Sarah Matthews will be trashed as RINO’s (Republicans in Name Only), which, today, simply means any Republican who refuses to worship at the altar of Trump…who, by any historical measure, really is a Republican in Name Only.
Most of the witnesses who have testified in these hearings have been committed, life-long, honorable Republicans, each of whom has put honor and integrity ahead of blind loyalty to the Party, or more succinctly, to the man who controls the Party. The verb controls is used advisedly rather than leads because what the former President is doing is the antithesis of leadership. Donald Trump is, to his devotees in 21st century America, as the unforgiving Pied Piper was to his followers in 13th century Hamelin. The consequences are likely to be similar.
Horrified by what they saw and heard in the West Wing of the White House on January 6th, 2021, Pottinger and Mathews resigned that evening rather than be associated with the tragic events of the day and the man who was responsible for the chaos and bloodshed at the Capitol. As a former assistant to Mark Meadows, Cassidy Hutchinson acknowledged at the prior June 28th hearing, all of the chaos was because of a long-planned and carefully curated lie. It was a lie, and everyone in the White House knew it.
Trump Svengali, Steve Bannon, had revealed the planned calumny to a gaggle of cronies just before the 2020 election. He is heard in a now famous audio recording revealing, “…That’s our strategy. He’s gonna declare himself a winner.” Bannon told the group that the plan was that Trump would declare victory on election night—even if he were losing. Bannon explained that Trump knew that the slow counting of Democratic-leaning mail-in ballots meant the returns would show early leads for him in key states. The strategy was to use this fact to assert that Trump had won while claiming that the inevitable shifts in vote totals toward Joe Biden would result from fraud. Bannon also predicted that Trump’s false declaration of victory would lead to widespread political violence, along with “crazy” efforts by Trump to stay in office.
As it has always been, Trump’s time-worn, adolescent tactic is to simply trash anyone who stands in his way or is critical of him. Whether it was John McCain, Mike Pence, or January 6th witness Cassidy Hutchinson, who worked directly for White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in the West Wing, he trashes them. Following Hutchison’s testimony on June 28th, she was predictably described by the former President as a “terrible employee,” a “total failure,” and whose “biggest job duty with us was making sure we had Diet Coke in the kitchen.”
Following efforts by Trump and his sycophants to tear down Cassidy Hutchinson after her testimony in June, Ms. Matthews tweeted, “Anyone downplaying Cassidy Hutchinson’s role or her access in the West Wing either doesn’t understand how the Trump White House worked or is attempting to discredit her because they’re scared of how damning this testimony is.”
This week’s witnesses, Mathew Pottinger and Sarah Mathews, will be harder to trash. Pottinger is a former Marine who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan during three combat deployments and served as deputy national security adviser in the Trump White House. He is simply as American as the stars and stripes, a Sousa march, and apple pie.
Sarah Matthews had previously interned for Republican Senator Rob Portman and former Republican House Speaker John Boehner. She became press secretary of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and was later hired by the Trump presidential campaign in 2019. Matthews became White House deputy press secretary in 2020.
Pottinger, whose credentials as a serious Republican and an outstanding American are above reproach, knew enough was enough when Trump savaged his extraordinarily loyal vice president. “One of my staff brought me a printout of a tweet by the President, and the tweet said something to the effect that Mike Pence, the vice president, didn’t have the courage to do what he—what should have been done,” Pottinger said. “I read that tweet and decided at that moment to resign. That’s when I knew I was leaving that day; once I read that tweet.” Pottinger understood the depth to which the former President was willing to sink in order to stay in office. Sarah Matthews will be even harder to trash as she served as a spokeswoman for Trump’s reelection campaign and then was hired as deputy press secretary in the Trump Administration.
There are, of course, other Republicans who understood where to draw the line between loyalty to the Party and loyalty to the country and to the constitution. White House Counsel Pat Cipollone knew where to draw the line, as did Republican Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, Rusty Bowers, Republican Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and Republican U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr. Then there was Trump’s director of the Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency, Chris Krebs, who the former President fired as soon as Krebs declared the election one of the securest ever. They and many others, while highly partisan, were not corruptible. Even Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Bill Stepien, walked away from the former President because he, perhaps more than anyone, knew that Trump’s claim of election fraud was simply another baseless calumny.
Also noteworthy were the scores of judges, including many Republicans and many appointed by Trump, who would not bend to Trump’s or Bannon’s shenanigans, including U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols, who presided over the just-completed trial that found Steve Bannon guilty of Contempt of Congress.
History will treat Republicans Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger well. They are genuine Profiles in Courage who understand that party loyalty sometimes demands too much. Country, they understand, comes before Party, especially when Party stands with those who plot against the country and the constitution.