Former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said Sunday on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that he is “concerned” that the January 6 Select Committee may have “overreached” with an alleged incident involving former President Donald Trump inside a vehicle.
Johnson, who served in the Obama administration, called the committee hearings a “profile in courage among women” and praised the hearing for being “choreographed exceptionally well for the attention span of the average American in 2022.”
However, he added, “I’m concerned as the former federal prosecutor in me – that gets you a lot of cred these days on television – I’m concerned that the committee may have overreached on the incident in the vehicle.”
Johnson was referring to former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony, in which she recounted a story alleging that Trump had tried to grab the steering wheel of the SUV he was in and lunged at a Secret Service agent in an attempt to join his supporters at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Johnson said of the story: “It was colorful, it was vivid, it was collateral to the central charge…and it was secondhand hearsay.”
Trump himself has denied the story, and shortly after Hutchinson’s testimony, multiple establishment news outlets reported that former White House Deputy Chief of Staff and Secret Service agent Tony Ornato denied that it ever happened and would be willing to testify under oath to that effect.
Johnson said he would have gone to the source of the story to verify it before making it public.
“The committee perhaps knows something that the rest of us don’t know. But before I went out with the second-hand hearsay, which is going to get a lot of attention, I’d want to know what the first-hand witness has to say,” he said.
“Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd added that Hutchinson’s retelling of the story was actually a “third-hand account.”
“I think by the time she told us the story was technically, we’re in our third version. It’s a third-hand account,” he said.
“It depends on how you interpret hearsay. But, you know, that testimony would not have been admissible in a courtroom,” Johnson added.
“And as you know, secret service agents don’t normally talk about what they see, what they hear from their protectees. I was a protectee of the secret service for three years. And they have to be in a position to hear and see all kinds of very sensitive things,” he said, casting further doubt on Hutchinson’s testimony.