Watergate Figure: Jan. 6 Surprise Witness Had Better Meet 'Big Deal Standard'


There’s nothing — nothing — that generates interest in an official proceeding like an unexpected witness.

The 1992 film “A Few Good Men” runs 2 hours and 18 minutes. What do most people remember about it? The exchange where Jack Nicholson’s character, Col. Nathan Jessup, is called to the stand at the end of the court-martial the plot is based around. (If you need your memory jogged, it’s the scene where Tom Cruise’s character yells that he wants the truth; Jessup snarls back that Cruise’s character “can’t handle the truth.”)

That exchange, of course, came at the denouement of the film. In the case of Watergate, the surprise witness came almost at the exact midpoint of the two-year slow-burn dumpster fire that took down the Nixon administration.

On July 13, 1973, Alexander Butterfield — former deputy assistant to President Richard Nixon — testified before the Watergate committee that the president had a taping system in the Oval Office. The existence of those tapes would eventually be what brought the administration crashing down.

John Dean should know what a big deal this was. Dean, after all, was White House counsel in the Nixon administration; he resigned before testifying to the committee that Nixon was deeply involved in the Watergate coverup.

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Now, as the Democrats’ committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol incursion prepares to hear from a surprise witness of its own, Dean warned via Twitter that it had “better be a big deal,” noting there’s a “very high historical standard” for unannounced witnesses.

(Here at The Western Journal, we’ll keep readers abreast of the latest moves from the Democrats’ Jan. 6 committee, all with news and analysis you’re not going to read from mainstream media outlets. If you support our conservative, Christian coverage of the major events of today and how they’re important to you, please consider subscribing.)

Dean’s tweets came after the House Jan. 6 committee announced Monday it would reconvene Tuesday to “present recently obtained evidence and receive witness testimony,” according to The Washington Post.

The committee was supposed to be on hiatus until after the Fourth of July.

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“It was not immediately clear whom the committee plans to interview and what topics lawmakers intend to focus on. The decision announced on Monday was shrouded in secrecy, with staff and committee members explicitly asked to go dark and not speak with media, according to two people involved with the investigation,” the Post reported Monday evening.

The announcement certainly sounds Jessup-ian in nature — but if the committee doesn’t follow through with some “you can’t handle the truth”-ish testimony, Dean said, it’d be better if they just pushed it off.

“BETTER BE A BIG DEAL: There was only one surprise witness during the Senate Watergate Committee hearings,” Dean wrote.

“On July 16, 1973 an unannounced witness appeared: Alex Butterfield, who testified to Nixon’s secret taping system — forever changing history!”

“BIG DEAL STANDARD: The January 6 Committee is dealing with a very high historical standard in springing a surprise hearing and witness tomorrow,” he continued. “If it is not really important information it’s going to hurt the credibility of this committee! Cancel now if you can’t match!”

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Keep in mind, Dean isn’t exactly a fan of former President Donald Trump. He authored a book titled “Authoritarian Nightmare: Trump and His Followers” and told CNN earlier this month that Trump “makes Richard Nixon look pretty good by comparison.”

It remains to be seen what evidence is presented on Tuesday — but, if a report published late Monday night by Politico is accurate, the identity of the witness won’t exactly put too many jaws on the floor.

The report said that Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, is the surprise witness — although it’s still not certain what evidence she would be presenting.

There are clues, mind you: Hutchinson changed her attorney earlier this month, for instance, dropping a Trump administration ethics lawyer and hiring an ally of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from all matters related to Russia in early 2017 incensed Trump and led to an acrimonious relationship between the two.

In addition, Hutchinson might be able to testify about some of the events of the day.

“It’s unclear why the panel expedited Hutchinson’s hearing, or whether she will appear alongside other significant witnesses,” Politico reported. “Hutchinson was present during meetings between Meadows and multiple House Republicans who aided Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election.

“Snippets of her video deposition supported the committee’s contention that several of those Republicans later sought presidential pardons.”

The report said that Hutchinson “also provided testimony to the committee that Meadows burned some of his papers after a meeting with Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), who was advocating for Trump to replace the leadership of the Justice Department in service of his effort to remain in power.”

“Lengthy excerpts of Hutchinson’s testimony have already been made public as part of the committee’s litigation against Meadows, who sued to block a subpoena for his own testimony and records,” Politico said.

In addition, she testified about Trump’s whereabouts on Jan. 6 and said Meadows waved her off during a phone call he fielded during the rally.

“I know that he was on several calls during the rally. And I went over to meet with him at one point, and he had just waved me away, which is out of the ordinary,” she had testified.

However, this is hardly Meadows himself — or for that matter, former Vice President Mike Pence, who the committee had hoped would talk to them. We’ll certainly see what Hutchinson has to offer, if she is indeed the surprise witness — but it’s unlikely to live up to the expectations on left-bubble social media, where one can find dreck like this:

Rumor has it someone hasn’t read the Constitution.

The problem is that the Democrats desperately need this to meet the “big deal standard” Dean is talking about. No, Hutchinson doesn’t need to prove “Trump wasn’t actually elected in 2016 and they will be nullifying that election,” but they need someone who will at least move the needle on Jan. 6 coverage.

While the media has been breathlessly pumping the committee’s work up, a Politico reporter told NBC News’ Chuck Todd last week that Democrats are privately saying the hearings are having no effect.

“I’ve talked to two separate Democratic members of Congress in the last couple weeks about Jan. 6 — obviously, I can’t say who — and both of them have said, offhandedly, nobody gives a bleep about Jan. 6 when they are talking about their districts and the way that elections play out,” said Politico national correspondent Betsy Woodruff Swan.

If America doesn’t give a bleep after Hutchinson’s Tuesday hearing, they’re unlikely to give a bleep, period.

This is the committee that has cried wolf repeatedly — and if it eventually comes across one, which seems unlikely, their pleas will fall on deaf ears.

If whatever transpires Tuesday doesn’t meet the “big deal standard,” expect the thudding sound to echo all the way through November’s midterms, drowning out a lot of other noise along the way.

CORRECTION, June 28, 2022: An earlier version of this article included an incorrect reference to John Dean’s position in the Nixon administration. He was White House counsel.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture