Stefan Passantonio and Cassidy Hutchinson
Dear Commons Community,
Former Donald Trump staffer Cassidy Hutchinson told the House’s January 6 select committee that allies of the former president told her to hide her full knowledge of the White House goings-on at the time of the 2021 Capitol riot, according to newly released interview transcripts.
At the same time, Hutchinson said, people in Trump’s orbit dangled jobs in front of her ― jobs that were withdrawn as she continued cooperating with the committee.
Hutchinson, who was an aide to former chief of staff Mark Meadows, sat for sworn interviews with the Jan. 6 committee over two days in September, adding to previous testimony she’d given the panel. Beginning with questions about her legal representation, Hutchinson explained she had not initially wanted to retain an attorney from “Trump world,” as she and others repeatedly called it, but that her financial situation had limited her options. As reported by the Huffington Post, the Associated Press and other news media.
At one point, she agreed to be represented by Stefan Passantino, a former Trump White House ethics lawyer. She told the panel the understanding was that if she listened to him, she would be “taken care of.”
“[Passantino] said, ‘Look, we want to get you in, get you out. We’re going to downplay your role. You were a secretary … everyone’s on the same page about this. … The less you remember, the better,’” Hutchinson told the committee.
She later clarified that she believed “everyone” referred to a group of attorneys helping Trump navigate his various legal entanglements, including Alex Cannon and Eric Herschmann.
Hutchinson was unemployed at the time, but Passantino discouraged her from finding a new job on her own when she said she’d sent out some applications.
“We’re gonna get you a really good job in Trump world,” Hutchinson said she was told. “You don’t need to apply other places. We’re gonna get you taken care of. We want to keep you in the family.”
Hutchinson said she received offers to work at Gettr, the right-wing social media site founded by former Trump aide Jason Miller, and Red Curve Solutions, a firm founded by Bradley Crate, who also happens to be the treasurer of Trump’s 2024 campaign. Hutchinson said both jobs seemed to have been made up for her benefit, and that the offers were rescinded as she continued to cooperate with the Jan. 6 committee.
On Monday, the committee said the Justice Department should investigate whether the bad legal advice and job offers amounted to interfering with their witness.
“The witness believed this was an effort to affect her testimony, and we are concerned that these efforts may have been a strategy to prevent the committee from finding the truth,” committee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said.
Loyalty was a consistent theme throughout Hutchinson’s conversation with the panel in September. She knew that perceived disloyalty to Trump, and those in his orbit, could land her in hot water, but she struggled with the moral weight of the pressure to withhold truth.
Hutchinson said that Passantino specifically told her not to say anything about an incident in the presidential limousine on Jan. 6, 2021, that became part of her explosive public hearing testimony this summer.
“I said something to Stefan like, ‘Yeah, I had this conversation with Tony Ornato when we got back from the rally that day, and he told me the President tried to wrap his hands around Bobby’s neck and strangle him because he wouldn’t take him to the Capitol,’” Hutchinson testified, referring to Secret Service Agent Robert Engel. Ornato is a former Secret Service assistant director and former White House deputy chief of staff.
Trump had allegedly wanted to go to the Capitol with his supporters, who went on to break into the building and assault law enforcement.
“And Stefan said, ‘No, no, no, no, no,’” Hutchinson testified. She said he did not want her to bring the alleged incident to light.
Later, she emphasized that Passantino never told her explicitly to lie ― instead, he advised her to lean on the phrase “I don’t recall.”
Hutchinson said she felt trepidation around the whole situation, and that she worried about perjuring herself. She told the committee that she had said to her mother, “I’m fucked.”
“I am completely indebted to these people,” Hutchinson recalled telling her mother. “And they will ruin my life, Mom, if I do anything that they don’t want me to do.”
At one point, her estranged aunt and uncle, who are QAnon supporters, discussed refinancing their home to offer her the financial independence she needed to hire her own attorney, Hutchinson told the committee. At another point, she drove to the home of her biological father ― a man with whom she had little relationship ― and “begged” him for help, knowing that he was a Trump supporter. He told her no.
In her first deposition with the committee, held in late February 2022, Hutchinson said she was “extremely nervous.”
“I almost felt like at points Trump was looking over my shoulder,” she testified in September.
She ended up dwelling on what she said ― or didn’t say ― in her first two depositions in the weeks that followed.
Hutchinson described feeling adrift at the time. She ended up ordering two copies of “The Last of the President’s Men,” a book by journalist Bob Woodward and Alexander Butterfield, an aide to former President Richard Nixon, about his role in the Watergate scandal. Hutchinson was looking for clues about what to do.
She met with a friend, Trump White House alum Alyssa Farah, and strategized. The pair decided it would be a good idea to privately communicate to the committee that Hutchinson knew more than she’d let on so far, leading to a third interview with the panel.
Eventually, in early June, Hutchinson was able to retain different attorneys. She said her “breaking point” with Passantino was being told that she should stop cooperating with the Jan. 6 committee and risk being held in contempt, which could have brought criminal charges she was not prepared to face. By the time she severed their attorney-client relationship, Hutchinson said, it had “been clear for a long time” that Passantino did not have her best interests at heart.
Passantino took a leave of absence from his firm, Michael Best & Friedrich, following the release of Hutchinson’s transcripts, according to Bloomberg Law. The attorney asserted in a statement that he had represented Hutchinson “honorably, ethically, and fully consistent with her sole interests as she communicated them to me,” the outlet reported.
Ms. Hutchinson is to be commended for telling the truth. Passantoino and the rest of the Trump slime should be pilliored.