Cassidy Hutchinson transcript details efforts to downplay her Jan. 6 testimony

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Newly released transcripts from the House Jan. 6 committee’s interviews with star witness Cassidy Hutchinson detail the efforts by what she referred to as “Trump World” to diminish the impact of her testimony and withhold information from investigators.

The transcript details Hutchinson’s fraught journey in securing legal counsel after being subpoenaed by the panel in February. It details what pushed her to switch attorneys, a change that led her to be more forthcoming with the panel in her testimony.

It also provides new information on efforts to contact her before her testimony that members of the panel publicly said they believed counted as witness intimidation.

The two September transcripts came well after Hutchinson, an aide to both White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former President Trump, offered explosive testimony about Trump’s efforts to reach the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, after speaking to a heavily armed crowd of supporters.

Hutchinson described an early meeting with her first lawyer Stefan Passantino, who she said declined to tell her up front who was paying to secure him on her behalf.

Read former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s full testimony

Hutchinson also said Passantino rebuffed her efforts to review her calendar and told the 26-year-old they would need to downplay her role at the White House — a line of argument that would be echoed in subsequent GOP attacks on Hutchinson’s highly critical public testimony of Trump.

“Look, we want to get you in, get you out. We’re going to downplay your role. You were a secretary. You had an administrative role,” Hutchinson said Passantino told her, according to the transcript.

“The less you remember, the better,” Hutchinson said Passantino told her.

Hutchinson’s testimony also says Passantino encouraged her not to tell a secondhand story she had heard about Trump lunging at his security detail and grabbing for the steering wheel after being told he could not join his supporters at the Capitol.

Passantino told her that was former Secret Service agent and White House deputy chief of staff Tony Ornato’s story to tell. Hutchinson had initially heard the story from Ornato, she told the Jan. 6 panel in one of the most stunning moments of her summer testimony.

“No, no, no, no, no. We don’t want to go there. We don’t want to talk about that,” Hutchinson said Passantino told her, according to the transcript.

At one point during her first round of depositions with the committee, Passantino encouraged her to say she didn’t recall entire events even if she was struggling to remember small details, Hutchinson states in the testimony released by the panel.

“I don’t want you to perjure yourself, but ‘I don’t recall’ isn’t perjury. They don’t know what you can and can’t recall,” Hutchinson said Passantino told her.

Reached for comment on Thursday, Passantino said, “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.”

Hutchinson also describes the anxiety she felt in taking Passantino’s services pro bono, relaying how she explained to her mother why she was not relieved to be getting free legal advice through the Trump network.

“I’m f—ed,” she told her mother. “I am completely indebted to these people. … They will ruin my life, Mom, if I do anything they don’t want me to do.”

She would go on to explain to the committee, “once you are looped in, especially financially with them, there’s no turning back,” according to the transcript.

Hutchinson says a Meadows aide, Ben Williamson, called her before her testimony, telling Hutchinson that Meadows “knows you’re loyal and knows you’ll do the right thing tomorrow and that you’re going to protect him and the boss,” according to the testimony released by the panel.

It is this call that members of the panel suggested publicly, without naming Williamson, could have been witness intimidation.

“I think most Americans know that attempting to influence witnesses to testify untruthfully presents very serious concerns,” panel Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said shortly after showing a portion of Hutchinson’s testimony about her call with Williamson.

Williamson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The transcript also goes into great detail about Hutchinson’s efforts to find a job throughout her interactions with the committee, with Passantino and others in the Trump network promising to connect her with those who could help her land a gig after months of being unemployed following Trump’s loss.

“We’re going to get you a really good job in Trump World. You don’t need to apply other places. We’re gonna get you taken care of. We want to keep you in the family,” Passantino said, according to Hutchinson.

But as time went on, Hutchinson describes becoming increasingly alarmed about Passantino’s legal advice. At one point she approached former White House communications director Alyssa Farah Griffin, asking her to serve as a backchannel to the committee as she wished to relay more information about the motorcade incident after Trump’s rally speech on Jan. 6 and other incidents where she has been encouraged not to be forthcoming.

According to Hutchinson, Passantino seemed surprised when she was called back to speak with the panel for a third time. At that point, he indicated that it was funding tied to Trump that was paying for his work and that he didn’t think he could justify more cooperation if it wasn’t compelled by the committee, Hutchinson said in her testimony.

“Trump World will not continue paying your legal bills if you don’t have that second subpoena,” he told her.

During the third interview with the Jan. 6 panel, Hutchinson relayed more of what she knew about the motorcade incident.

“I was trying to be as forthcoming as I was. I was not holding back,” she says in the transcript.

“This was the first instance where I sort of took matters into my own hands, and, you know, did what I had done. I was personally at peace with most of it.”

Hutchinson ultimately decided to break with Passantino when he downplayed the risk of criminal prosecution when she began to fear she may be held in contempt if she didn’t further cooperate with the committee.

“Contempt is a small risk,” he reportedly told her.

She told him she was getting new attorneys and refused to take further phone calls from him, according to the transcript.

Passantino has since taken a leave of absence from his law firm.

“I believed Ms. Hutchinson was being truthful and cooperative with the committee throughout the several interview sessions in which I represented her. It is not uncommon for clients to change lawyers because their interests or strategies change. It is also not uncommon for a third-party, including a political committee, to cover a client’s fees at the client’s request,” he said.

At one point during her September interviews, Hutchinson apologized to the panel for the time it took her to relay all she knew.

“I followed his bad legal advice; I took his bad legal advice. I own that. But my character and integrity mean more to me than anything,” she told the committee, per the transcript.

“It was clear for a long time he was not representing my interests in how he knew I wanted to facilitate my relationship with the committee. But I was not going to let this moment completely destroy my reputation, my character, and my integrity for a cause I was completely opposed to,” she said.

–Updated at 2:22 p.m. 

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