Voices: The problem Donald Trump didn’t see coming

Former Trump White House press aide Sarah Matthews  (AP)
Former Trump White House press aide Sarah Matthews (AP)

As America (and much of the world) saw just days ago, it’s often the observations of mid-level aides that can be the most damaging to a politician hoping to execute a cover-up.

If you look at photos of White House meetings, there’s always an outer ring of chairs populated by people who staff the decision-makers — or the principals — seated around the table. People with titles such as Special Assistant and Deputy Assistant and Assistant this-or-that will often circulate between offices while making arrangements and relaying messages between the bold-faced names they serve.

Yet those principals often forget that the young staffers  – often no older than their mid-20s – are in the room. The twentysomethings who keep Washington running are often invisible to all but a select few (usually reporters) who know to pay attention.

That’s one reason why the testimony that former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson gave at a surprise January 6 select committee hearing was so utterly devastating to Trump and his allies, not least the man she reported to, ex-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

Hutchinson was so enmeshed in Meadows’ work that she was able to listen in on meetings. She was the person who other people often would call to get to Meadows, too. What she had to say left shockwaves.

Now, another Trump White House aide has come forward to testify. Former White House Assistant Press Secretary Sarah Matthews, who resigned straight after the Capitol riot, did not have a coveted West Wing location close to the Oval Office or Chief of Staff’s office like the spot where Hutchinson spent her days. Instead, she sat in the press office, which is just a few steps from the Oval Office but still at a remove from the rest of the senior White House staff.

It’s not clear what Matthews will say when she speaks at a Select Committee hearing in the coming days. Yet she spoke up in Hutchinson’s defense even as many of her former colleagues were trying to impugn her credibility. “Anyone downplaying Cassidy Hutchinson’s role or her access in the West Wing either doesn’t understand how the Trump WH worked or is attempting to discredit her because they’re scared of how damning this testimony is,” she wrote on Twitter.

And now, just days later, CNN has reported that she, too, will testify publicly. If her defense of her former colleague is any indication as to her attitude, her appearance will not reflect well on her former bosses.