“I’m about to be fucking nuked,” former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson reportedly told a January 6 committee staff member after meeting with investigators before her bombshell testimony to the committee in June. Her prediction turned out to be accurate.
Within hours of Hutchinson’s surprise appearance, where she testified about a furious president who encouraged his supporters to march to the Capitol, tried to grab the steering wheel of a presidential SUV and hurled his lunch against an Oval Office wall, the backlash began.
Hutchinson had instantly become one of the star witnesses of the panel. Her testimony had been devastating to her former boss. But she was attacked by Donald Trump as a “total phony”. The Secret Service, through media back-channels, rejected her second-hand account of an altercation. Indiana Republican Jim Banks accused Hutchinson of being a “sham” star witness who had offered “hearsay” to the committee. “This is the Russia hoax playbook,” he said.
According to additional transcripts of her closed-door testimony released last week, Cassidy had been conflicted ahead of the hearing and how much she had wrestled with the concept of effectively becoming a whistleblower. She’d already given two depositions in the months earlier, in which she’s played along with the Trumpworld narrative.
They also reveal how much pressure Hutchinson was placed under to remain “loyal” and “in the family” ahead of testimony that established to many that the hearings were a telling and horrific examination of the events on or around January 6.
Her lawyer had told her, “we just want to focus on protecting the president” and she was told, she informed the panel in testimony in September – two months after her public appearance – that she would be “taken care of” if only she followed their desired script.
“I was scared,” she told investigators. “I almost felt like at points Donald Trump was looking over my shoulder.”
Out-of-work, Hutchinson said she’d been unable to afford counsel. She’d asked for, and been refused, money from her estranged biological father. A request to her aunt and uncle also fell through.
In her testimony, she said she’d accepted the help of former Trump White House ethics counsel Stefan Passantino who, Hutchinson claims, encouraged her to fail to recall some events during the interviews. That claim, made under oath, could provide federal investigators with evidence of witness tampering.
“The less you remember, the better,” Hutchinson recalled Passantino telling her. “Don’t read anything to try to jog your memory. Don’t try to put together timelines … Especially if you put together timelines, we have to give those over to the committee.”
In a statement to the Washington Post this week, Passantino denied any wrongdoing. “As with all my clients during my 30 years of practice, I represented Ms Hutchinson honorably, ethically, and fully consistent with her sole interests as she communicated them to me,” he said.
Hutchinson also testified that an array of Trump officials, including her former boss and then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, had promised that loyalty would be beneficial to her. “We’re gonna get you a really good job in Trump world,” Passantino told her, Cassidy testified. “We’re gonna get you taken care of. We want to keep you in the family”.
““Look, we want to get you in, get you out,” Hutchinson said Passantino told her. “We’re going to downplay your role. You were a secretary. You had an administrative role.”
According to transcripts, Hutchinson has felt uneasy about Passantino’s advice to downplay what she knew and that she had struggled between repeating testimony she had offered in February and March, replete with “I cannot recall” statements.
Without telling Passantino, Hutchinson contacted former White House aide Alyssa Farah Griffin to ask to act as a backchannel to the committee so they could call her back in a third time and know what questions to ask her. “If I’m going to pass the mirror test for the rest of my life, I need to try to fix some of this,” she testified in September, referring to wanting to be able to look at her own reflection without feeing shame.
But, she said, she “knew in some fashion it would get back to him if I said anything he would find disloyal,” she testified. “And the prospect of that genuinely scared me. You know, I’d seen this world ruin people’s lives or try to ruin people’s careers.”
She drove home to New Jersey where she read up on Nixon White House whistleblowers, including former Counsel John Dean and Alex Butterfield, who co-authored The Last of the President’s Men with journalist Bob Woodward.
“I read it once. Then I read it again, underlined. And then I read it a third time, and I went through and tabbed it,” she said. “He talked about a lot of the same things that I felt like I was experiencing ... but he ended up doing the right thing.”
After the second session, Hutchinson said her testimony was shared with others in the Trump orbit. It was, she said, “the first clear indicator for me of he doesn’t care about what I want, he doesn’t care about what I think is best for me, he’s doing what he thinks is best for Trump and the people in Trump’s orbit”.
When the panel indicated it might want to recall her a third time, Passadino told her: “We really think this is what’s best for you, Cass. Like, this needs to end at some point, and I think it just needs to end now”.
Hutchinson later testified that she became unwilling “to let this moment completely destroy my reputation, my character, and my integrity for a cause that I was starkly opposed to”.
Hutchinson changed attorneys to Jody Hunt, a longtime confidant of Jeff Sessions, the former Republican senator from Alabama who had served as Trump’s first attorney general.
Speaking with CNN on Thursday, Griffin described Hutchinson as “a patriot who bravely upheld the oath she swore when she took a job in the White House. I’m grateful for her willingness to share the unvarnished truth with the American public”.