The Corruption & Redemption Of Cassidy Hutchinson
The January 6 Committee’s release includes the full transcript of Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony on September 14th. This was actually the most recent of several depositions she gave the Committee, not all of which were truthful. Hutchinson was manipulated by her “Trump-world” attorney, and by others in Trump world, to lie in prior testimony.
Hutchinson is the White House aide who eventually detailed how Trump literally fought with his Secret Service over his desire to join the crowd marching on the Capitol. She also testified to how Trump ordered magnetometers removed to allow armed MAGAs into his rally that he then encouraged to march on the Capitol. This is the story of the dishonest dealing leading up to that honest testimony.
The September 14 transcript first reveals that when the J6 Committee sought her testimony, Hutchinson initially searched for an attorney not in Trump world. However, they were simply too expensive. With deadlines to provide written discovery looming, her Trump-world contacts led her to the law firm of Michael Best and its attorney Stefan Passantino. Passantino, ironically enough, was previously an ethics attorney in the Trump Administration.
Welcome To The “Family”
The first meeting set off alarms for Hutchinson when she asked Passantino who would be paying for her legal expenses and Passantino refused to answer:
“If you want to know in the end, we’ll let you know, but we’re not telling people where the funding is coming from right now. Don’t worry, we’re taking care of you. You’re never going to get a bill for this.”
Lack of transparency from your own lawyer is a red flag. Under attorney ethical rules, regardless of who is paying the lawyer, Hutchinson is Passantino’s client and Passantino’s fiduciary loyalty must be to her above all others, even those paying Passantino.
Hutchinson realized the danger she was in by using a Trump-world attorney. In a conversation with her mother, she said, “I’m fucked . . . I am completely indebted to these people. And they will ruin my life, Mom, if I do anything that they don’t want me to do.”
Sounds like a mob witness concerned that her mob lawyers don’t have her best interest at heart. Read on. You will hear more mob-sounding talk.
In any event, Hutchinson sat down with Passantino and he asked what she knew. Hutchinson described to Passantino her conversation with Secret Service agent Ornato, where he told her about Trump’s demand to go to the Capitol and getting so angry at the Secret Service’s refusal to allow it that he reached for the agent’s neck. Her lawyer then rather directly told her to not testify about that:
“No, no, no, no, no. We don’t want to go there. We don’t want to talk about that.”
Folks, that is witness tampering.
Passantino tells a confused Hutchinson that she shouldn’t worry about this because the Committee won’t know to ask about it. Hutchinson asks where the line is, because she overheard a lot. That’s where the lawyer’s answer moves into bribing the witness:
“Look the goal is to get you in and out. Keep your answers short, sweet and simple, seven words or less. The less the Committee thinks you know the better, the quicker it’s going to go. It’s going to be painless. And then you’re going to be taken care of.”
Simple question: Does that sound like the lawyer is protecting Hutchinson’s interests, or those of another?
The “I Don’t Know” Game
Passantino then urged Hutchinson to play the “I don’t know” game unless she knew every detail, even if she knew more generally. The conversation went something like this:
Passantino: If you don’t recall something, even if you don’t recall a date, or somebody who may or may not have been in the room, that’s an entirely fine answer, and we want you to use that response as much as you deem necessary.
Hutchinson: But if I recall something, but not every little detail, can I still say “I don’t know”?
Hutchinson: But if I do remember something, just not every detail, and I say I don’t recall, wouldn’t I be perjuring myself.
Passantino: The Committee does’t know what you can and can’t recall so we want you to use that as much as we can . . . The less you remember the better.
Passantino repeatedly urged Hutchinson to claim she could not recall and repeatedly told her that it would work because the Committee can’t know what she does or doesn’t recall. This is not coaching a witness to tell the truth. This is coaching the witness to lie in a way that can’t be caught.
Passantino urged Hutchinson to prepare for the testimony by avoiding doing anything that would improve her memory: “The less you remember the better. Don’t read anything to try and jog your memory. Don’t try to put together timelines.”
Jobs Offers For Good Testimony
On the morning of her first deposition to the Committee, Hutchinson had breakfast with Passantino and he brought up that they were working to secure her a job. He suggested they have dinner after the testimony because “I want to talk to you about potential job opportunities.”
When Hutchinson sat for that first deposition she was taken aback when the very first questions involved what happened in the Presidential limo. She answered as she had been coached, that she didn’t recall. During a break she was in a panic. “I just lied,” she told her lawyer. The lawyer soothingly told her she was fine because the lie couldn’t be caught and urged her to hold firm and not give up what she knew to the Committee:
“They want there to be something. They don’t know that there is something. We’re not going to give them anything because this is not important. You’re doing fine. You’re doing exactly what you should be doing.”
A lawyer suggesting that a client not tell the truth, in sworn testimony, because the lawyer deems the truth “not important,” is simply stunning to me.
That night Passantino told Hutchinson he was going to talk to his partners about getting her a job. They then started preparing for Hutchinson’s second interview with the Committee, set for a couple of weeks later. About a week before the second interview Passantino told Hutchinson:
“We’re going to get you a really good job in Trump world. You don’t need to apply to other places. We’re going to get you taken care of. We want to keep you in the family.”
As the day of the second interview approached, Passantino gave Hutchinson contact information for Jason Miller and Justin Clark for job opportunities, telling her:
“They know you’re loyal. They want to take care of you. They have job opportunities for you. I think you’ll be really happy.”
It was Jason Miller who set Hutchinson up for an interview with the head of rogue right wing social media site Gettr.
The night before Hutchinson’s second interview with the Committee (which was on March 7th) Ben Williamson, an aide to Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, called her. The conspiracy for perjury moved to a new level as Williamson told her:
“Mark wants you to know that he knows you’re loyal and that he knows you’ll do the right thing tomorrow and that you’re going to protect him and the boss. You know that he knows that we’re all on the same team and that we’re all family. Do well. Let me know how it goes.”
Hutchinson did indeed remain loyal and stick to the party line for that second interview. It did not take long, just the very next day, for the head of Gettr to contact her, enthusiastic to offer her a job. Hutchinson now says:
“it wasn’t really an interview. It was more of a, ‘we think you are perfect for this job that doesn’t really exist yet, so we’re going to work over the next few weeks on crafting a specific position for you. We’ll be in touch. And when we’re in touch you’re hired,’ type of conversation.”
Ten days later another Trump attorney ally, Pam Bondi, contacted Hutchinson using the secure communications app Signal, and the conspiracy even more directly implicated Trump.
“Matt Schlapp and I had dinner with POTUS at Mar-a-Lago last night. Call Matt next week. He has a job for you that we all think you would be great in. You’re the best. Keep it up.”
Hutchinson never did call Schlapp. Intimidated by the level things were at, Hutchinson waited for the Gettr thing to pan out. However, with her testimony, and thereby her usefulness, apparently over Gettr suddenly stopped contacting Hutchinson.
A Turning Point Of Conscience
In the meantime, Hutchinson was reaching a turning point of conscience. The trigger for that turning point was the release of the Committee’s brief on April 22d in its lawsuit seeking Mark Meadows’ testimony. Hutchinson read the brief (finding it on Twitter) and saw that it cited her testimony. Reading her less-than-honest answers made her realize (in her words), “oh my God. I have become someone I thought I would never become.”
Hutchinson describes in great detail how her angst led to a mental breakdown that eventually led her to contact Alyssa Farah, Mike Pence’s former press secretary. She told Farah her situation and asked if she could provide a back channel to the Committee to allow her to come clean. Farah agreed to do so and Hutchinson gave her some information she could proffer to the Committee.
A few days later, a concerned Passantino called Hutchinson with the “bad news” that the Committee wanted a third interview. Hutchinson indicated she wanted to cooperate with the request but Passantino told her they must demand the Committee subpoena her. “Trump world will not continue paying your legal bills if you don’t have that second subpoena.” This was the first admission that “Trump world” had been paying the legal bills. Prior to that, Passantino “was very, very secretive about that.”
More Testimony, More Job Offers
That call from Passantino was quickly followed by another, presenting Hutchinson with contacts for more job offers. Those contacts were Justin Clark and yet another Trump lawyer, Alex Cannon. Cannon not only gave her the contact information for the head of the Republican political consulting firm “Red Curve Solutions,” but also rather directly asked her if she needed money to get her “through the next couple of weeks while we work to find something steady for you.” She declined the cash offer.
Red Curve Solutions arranged an interview for May 10th, the day before the scheduled third interview. Red Curve presented her employment as a done deal:
“Justin, Alex and Stefan have said great things about you. We really want to bring you on board. We’ll let you know in a couple of weeks, like, what your position is and when you can start.”
An Interview With Truth
In the the third Committee interview, with Passantino still sitting right next to her, Hutchinson finally told the truth. This time the prior back channeling prompted very specific questions that left no wiggle room. During breaks a baffled Passantino didn’t understand how the Committee knew so precisely what to ask.
When they left the interview, New York Times columnist Maggie Haberman called Passantino while he was in a cab with Hutchinson. She had obviously gotten wind of the testimony. Hutchinson heard Passantino tell her she could run with the story, but asked her to not make a big deal of it. When he hung up he assured Hutchinson, “don’t worry about it. Maggie’s friendly to us. We’ll be fine.” Several days later Passantino would tell Hutchinson that he, “spent the whole weekend with Alex Cannon convincing Maggie Haberman to not publish the story.”
Exactly one week after her honest testimony to the Committee, Red Curve Solutions advised Hutchinson that they would not be employing her after all.
The Lawyer Gets Fired
In the meantime, the Committee sought to interview Hutchinson again, this time in the sensitive compartmented information facility (SCIF). Passantino urged her to not appear, assuring her that “contempt was a small risk but, running to the right is better for you.”
It was at this point Hutchinson determined she had to sever her relationship with Passantino and she did. She would go on to dramatically testify before the Committee in the SCIF and then later live on TV. In response to her testimony about the events in the Presidential limo, Secret Service agent Ornato would testify that . . . he could not recall.
Lessons About Trump World
Before coming clean, Hutchinson twice testified falsely, under oath, to the Committee. Hers is a story of how “Trump world” corrupts even those who are fundamentally honest when they enter it. The long list of convictions surrounding Trump establishes that she is not only person this has happened to.
In the end, she was the rare case that pulled herself out of that corruption. It was nothing but her core values that allowed her to do so. Like the few others who turned on Trump world (e.g. Michael Cohen), that world quickly vilified her.
Her initial dishonesty to the Committee was not self-initiated. It was supported by a vast conspiracy from her lawyer, to those paying Passantino, to those offering Hutchinson lucrative jobs. Passantino, and others, not only acted unethically, they suborned perjury.
One might fairly wonder if they will be prosecuted. In that regards, there is an old prosecutor’s adage: “The truth does not matter, what matters is what I can prove.” This case cannot be built on Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony alone. “He said, she said” is not sufficient. Others would have to flip. We can only hope that others will have the values that finally produced Cassidy Hutchinson’s crisis of conscience.