When an alarmed Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, called the White House on Jan. 6, 2021, demanding to know why the president of the United States had suggested he was coming to the Capitol while Congress met to certify his election defeat, the person on the other end of the line had just turned 25 years old.
“I said, ‘I’ll run the traps on this,’” Cassidy Hutchinson, now 26, testified this week before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, recalling what she had told Mr. McCarthy, Republican of California. “I can assure you, we’re not coming to the Capitol.”Ms. Hutchinson’s two hours of testimony provided a riveting account of President Donald J. Trump’s mind-set and actions the day of the mob attack and situated the young aide — an assistant by title, but a gatekeeper in practice — at the very center of some of the most sensitive conversations and events of that day.It also pulled back the curtain on a little-acknowledged truth about how Washington works: The capital’s power centers may be helmed largely by the geriatric set, but they are fueled by recent college graduates, often with little to no previous job experience beyond an internship. And while many of those young players rank low on the official food chain, their proximity to the pinnacle of power gives them disproportionate influence, and a front-row seat to critical moments that can define the country.Sometimes, the interns themselves appear to be running the show.After the House investigative committee accused Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, of attempting to hand-deliver to Vice President Mike Pence a slate of false electoral votes for Mr. Trump, Mr. Johnson, 67, blamed the incident on a young underling. He claimed that an unidentified “House intern” had instructed his staff to give the list of fake electors to Mr. Pence.Other former Trump aides who have appeared in video testimony during the Jan. 6 hearings include Nick Luna, now 35, Mr. Trump’s former body man; Sarah Matthews, now 27, a former deputy White House press secretary; and Ben Williamson, now 29, like Ms. Hutchinson a former aide to Mark Meadows, the final Trump White House chief of staff.The committee has also featured some of its own young-looking investigators in videos laying out its work.