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THE OTHER SIDE: Cassidy Hutchinson turned around just in time

Unlike Butch and Sundance, we should all be very grateful that Cassidy Hutchinson managed to turn around just in time to defy Trump Land and to live another day and tell us the truth.

The Library of Congress’ National Film Registry has declared 1969’s “Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid” “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

I couldn’t help but think about that film and the excruciating ambush awaiting Paul Newman and Robert Redford as I read a New York Times story describing how Cassidy Hutchinson’s first attorney led her into a legal cul-de-sac. Unlike Butch and Sundance, Cassidy finally turned around to live and testify another day before the House Select Committee to Investigate January 6, 2021. With her riveting and remarkably revealing appearance, she, too, almost immediately assumed cultural and historical significance.

The Times story sent me on a many weeks’ journey through the hundreds of pages of testimony Cassidy Hutchinson had given over many months before the Select Committee. The transcripts offer a rare opportunity to see how different her earliest testimony was from what we all watched live on television.

Her experience offers a look at the extraordinary ways Trumpland mobilized to protect their Boss and ensure that his and their dreadful secrets remained secret. Hutchinson’s boss at the White House was Mark Meadows, the President’s Chief of Staff, whose job was serving and protecting President Trump. And her job was protecting and serving Mark Meadows. The fascinating—but sadly no longer surprising—reality is that, because she was a 25-year-old still-young woman in a political world run by older men, no one quite figured out how well she was doing her job. They saw a glorified secretary while she was a dynamic, competent problem-solver whom Meadows relied on far more than he might acknowledge. She was at the very center of what was happening in Trumpland, in constant contact with influential Republicans and traveling with Meadows and Trump. She was, as we learned, privy to most of the critically significant events before, during, and after the January 6 insurrection.

Loyal to her two bosses, Cassidy Hutchinson was a committed participant, a partisan. Her family lived in Trump World: her mother and mostly estranged father were believers, her aunt and uncle were attracted to Q. And like so many, Cassidy Hutchinson wanted to believe and still held out hope that perhaps they’d find the convincing evidence to prove that Donald had really won and Biden really lost. She wanted to believe that perhaps they could all continue to occupy the White House—that she’d still have her job. Even after January 6, she still considered joining the Trump team in Florida. But unlike so many of her fellow travelers, she had merely misplaced, not lost her conscience.

Having previously addressed some of the conclusions of the Select Committee in “Insurrection 101” and the nexus between Trumpian lying and escalating stupidity in “Wonderland 2.0,” I’d now like to share some of the details of Cassidy Hutchinson’s extraordinary evolution.

As we quickly learn, the self-assured whistle blower the world saw when she testified live on June 28, 2022, was months in the making. As the Department of Justice began to prosecute the violent invaders of the Capitol and the House Select Committee began its arduous task of accumulating evidence, members of Trump World began hurrying to find lawyers. And Trump World mobilized to provide lawyers for those who were subpoenaed. Sympathetic attorneys could help ensure their clients wouldn’t unnecessarily implicate or suggest that the Trump team, and especially their Boss, had engaged in any illegal and unethical behavior.

As CNN reported, “While declining to use his own war chest to cover the sky-high legal bills that some of his current and former aides are facing, Trump’s team has instead been working with American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp … Schlapp told CNN that he is ‘in communication with [Trump’s] team’ about who can and cannot take advantage of the legal fund, which he said has raised ‘over seven figures’ from donors. While Schlapp has not yet rejected any requests … ‘We are certainly not going to assist anyone who agrees with the mission of the committee and is aiding and abetting the committee.’”

On November 21, 2021, Cassie Hutchinson learned she was likely to be called before the Committee. Since the election, she had slowly been trying to find a new life, thinking she might move to the corporate world. She began her search for an attorney hoping she could find someone both outside of Trump World and sympathetic to her limited financial reality. She explains: “So the first person I had reached out to was Liz Horning, who worked in the White House Counsel’s Office … because I knew that she would have attorney connections in D.C.” Hutchinson ended up interviewing somewhere between 45 and 50 lawyers. She then settled on Andrew White believing “they would be able to work something out, likely pro bono or at an extremely low cost.”

Remember the notion that Cassidy Hutchinson, such a young woman, really couldn’t have been that important? It seems that prejudice was more widespread in Trump World than she imagined. At dinner, she thanked Liz Horning for her help with Andrew White. Liz, now working for former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, told Cassidy that her soon-to-be-husband Derek Lyons, a former White House staff secretary, had himself recently appeared before the Committee. Liz “talked about Derek’s interview a little bit, and that’s the first that I had heard somebody telling me that the committee was asking questions about me. And she said, ‘But don’t worry. Derek talked it down a little bit, like the committee has the wrong idea about all of this. He’s taking care of you. Don’t worry. Like we’re all on the same page about that.’ And I remember thinking … what is there that needs to be taken care of, like.’ And she said, ‘Well, they just think that you’re—that you have a lot more insight than you do on things.’” (Emphasis added.)

Served a subpoena on January 26, Cassidy brought it to finalize her arrangement with White, who then presented her with a retainer agreement calling for $150,000, which sent her searching once more for an attorney who would work pro bono or take a reduced fee.

This time Liz told her: “Well, we pretty much exhausted our resources finding attorneys, like, in non-Trump-world-related attorneys …” The next day, Liz suggested she reach out to Matt Schlapp who “was running the First America Fund … and said that she was going to like potentially reach out to Trump world people for me if I hadn’t found someone in the next few days.”

Hutchinson testified that when she met with attorney Bob Driscoll on January 28, this was “the first that I had heard … if I was going to retain him, he would want Trump world to pay the legal bills, because he had clients that were also being represented before the January 6th Committee who were having their legal bills paid for by Trump world.” (Emphasis added.)

Filling out applications with Schlapp’s organizations and Liz Horning’s intervention led to a phone call from Eric Herschmann, one of President Trump’s impeachment attorneys, and someone Cassidy knew from the administration. Herschmann told her something like this: “Hey, I’m so sorry that we haven’t taken care of you yet. We didn’t know you didn’t have an attorney yet. Why didn’t you reach out sooner? Well, don’t worry about that now… I’ll call you in a couple of days to connect you with somebody.”

That somebody turned out to be Alex Cannon, whom she had never met before, and soon after, Hutchinson says:

“[Stefan Passantino] had called and let me know that he was my attorney … My document deadline date at that time was, I believe, Tuesday, February 8th.

“I let him know that, and I was like, ‘I probably should sign an engagement letter.’

“And he said, ‘No, no, no. We’re not doing that. Don’t worry. We have you taken care of.’

.     .     .

“‘Would you mind letting me know where the funding for this is coming from? I want to thank them. I want to thank whoever it is, because I’m just trying to kind of like figure things out.’

“And he said, ‘If you want to know at the end, we’ll let you know, but we’re not telling people where funding is coming from right now. Don’t worry, we’re taking care of you. Like, you’re never going to get a bill for this, so if that’s what you’re worried about.’

“I was like, ‘Okay. That’s what I was worried about.’ Wasn’t the only thing I was worried about.” (Emphasis added.)

Hutchinson’s first two interviews were conducted before the Committee remotely on February 23, 2022 and March 7, 2022. If you watched her testify live, you might find it exceedingly strange—even painful—to read the transcripts from these first appearances:

Cassidy Hutchinson and Stefan Passantino before the House Select Committee in their second interview on Monday, March 7, 2022. Video image courtesy of the House Committee, Exhibit 305.

Here’s the back and forth when she was asked about a White House planning meeting for the January 6 rally:

Q: “Could you just tell us, back on the meeting on the 2nd, Ms. Hutchinson, why did Mr. Meadows and Mr. Giuliani want to encourage people to go to the Capitol?”

MS. HUTCHINSON: “I’m not sure it was so much that they wanted to encourage people to go to the Capitol or if it was an idea that had been started—that people had started to float around. You know, I don’t want to speculate on Mr. Meadows’ intentions with it, just—I’m not sure of his insight and what was going on inside of his head at that time. But, you know, I—knowing Mr. Giuliani and his relationship with the President, I think that Mr. Meadows … wanted his insight about what he should encourage or kind of backtrack on in case Mr. Giuliani didn’t perceive it as a good idea for the President to engage in.”

MS. CHENEY: “… I was trying to get a sense of some more detail on that meeting about the shift itself and why Mr. Meadows thought that the boss wanted people to go to the Capitol.”

MS. HUTCHINSON: “Um, can I consult with my attorney for a moment? Thank you.”

MS. CHENEY: “Sure.” [Discussion off the record.]

MR. PASSANTINO: “Thank you for letting us do that. And I apologize we were doing that question back and forth. Do you mind asking—and, again, sort of part of the issue was I don’t know that she necessarily said that there was necessarily a shift. I just want to make sure that we’re getting sort of her recollection on what things happened. But, with that, certainly take it in whatever direction you wanted to do. We apologize for that …”

Q: “To elaborate on that, what’s your understanding from that meeting or others of the purpose of marching to the Capitol on January the 6th?”

A: “I’m not sure specifically, other than, you know, just to have a crowd present for the purposes of what the rally was for that day, was just to, you know, have patriotic discussions about the electoral count that was happening at the Capitol that day. …” (Emphasis added.)

On Monday, March 7, 2022, she was asked:

Q: “Do you remember anything about the fact that Mr. Trump said there was going to be a protest that will be wild?”

A: “Yes … I’d call it more as, like, tongue-in-cheek comments or, you know, them discussing contents of tweets. You know, Mr. Meadows would sometimes weigh in on tweets that Mr. Trump was going to put out or tweets that Mr. Scavino had drafted. I don’t remember the term ‘wild’ being thrown around at this time …”

Q: “But you don’t remember any discussion specifically about what Mr. Trump meant when he said ‘will be wild.’ Is that fair?

A: “In the context of this tweet, no … And, again. I’m not attributing it to the term ‘wild,’ but he was excited about the big crowd, he was excited that his supporters were coming out to the rally on the 6th, so, you know, take that comment as you will. I know that there will probably be individuals that misconstrue what I am intending to say, and that’s really my goal, for that not to happen, but he was looking forward to his supporters being here, just as he had for most of his rallies …” (Emphasis added.)

The questions shift to the morning of January 6, where Cassidy and the President and others are in the Speakers’ tent behind the stage on the Ellipse, and her text messages with former Deputy Chief of Staff Tony Ornato, the man who headed President Trump’s security detail:

Q: “Later in those messages you say: ‘The crowd looks good from this vantage point. As long as we get the shot. He was fucking furious.’ Who’s the ‘he’ there that was furious?”

A: “Mr. Trump.”

Q: “And that furious, that fury, is that based on what you had perceived in the tent before the speech?”

A: “Yes, but—and I’m trying to be deliberate with the way I answer your question, because I don’t want to—I don’t want to not answer your question … Mr. Ornato and I had discussed, as I had previously mentioned, logistical plans for the rally … we wanted to make sure that we were able to get enough of Mr. Trump’s supporters into the designated area as possible … And Mr. Trump always wanted to be inclusive and have as much space for his people as physically possible in the proximity that we were given …

Q: “And the next message from Mr. Ornato says: ‘He doesn’t get it that people on the monument side don’t want to come in. They can see things from there and don’t have to go through the mags.’ Does that refer to magnetometers that the Secret Service or others used to check people for weapons and other devices? … Did you ever find out why people didn’t want to go through the magnetometers on January 6th?”

MR. PASSANTINO: “I mean, if you can speak for the public.”

MS. HUTCHINSON: “Yeah. Yeah, I don’t want to be the public spokesperson here for that … But I do know from general feedback … One—on one side, there are people that wanted to start—walk to the Capitol before the rally had ended. And then there was another side that there were people trying to get in but they couldn’t because they had American flags, and you can’t have I think it was a poster over 16 by 24. So if you had an item that you didn’t want to forfeit to the Secret Service, you couldn’t—you weren’t permitted entry into the rally …”

MR. [REDACTED]: “… did you or Mr. Ornato have reason to think that people didn’t want to go through the magnetometers because they had weapons or bear spray or any other potentially dangerous equipment?”

MR. PASSANTINO: “To the extent you didn’t already answer that, but—”

MS. HUTCHINSON: “… people brought items that were not permitted entry by Secret Service guidance. Some of them were American flags. Some of them could have been bear spray. I forget the other one that you just mentioned, but—and if they weren’t willing to give up control and possession of those items, they weren’t permitted entry, which is typical for any security event, especially one that’s held under the jurisdiction of Secret Service …”

Q: “Do you remember any specific items that any of those people mentioned to you, and specifically dangerous items, not the flags or the poster boards?”

A: “I don’t recall the word ‘dangerous’ being thrown around in association with the items specifically, but I remember, generally speaking, there were individuals who had, you know, American flags that were too large, which in my opinion is irrelevant, but it’s not a dangerous item … I just remember pocketknives, generally speaking, had been mentioned …”

Q: “What about firearms, do you remember any reports of firearms coming in?”

A: “Not that I can recall specifically that morning or at the rally site …”

Q: “Okay. So do you recall discussion with the President specifically, either with you or hearing about it, where he was concerned about the shot, the visual …”

A: “… it’s not out of the ordinary for Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump is very hands-on and involved in the planning of his events. He is a man that’s very involved in the media, as I’m sure you all know, which, again, is one of his unique characteristics … So for him to have insight and eyes and ears on how this was being planned operationally is not out of the ordinary for him at all. We had these conversations for nearly every single rally that we had during the campaign … He didn’t want people to feel left out. He didn’t want people to feel that there wasn’t an effort made to get them in. He wanted to make sure that everybody had gotten into the rally that had traveled far to come see him speak had been permitted an opportunity to enter …” (Emphasis added.)

Reading this it’s so easy to forget that Cassidy Hutchison was at the very center of what was about to happen at the Capitol, that she had heard multiple times about the threatened violence, and that she was one of the few who had learned about the secret plans of the President to join the marchers to the Capitol.

Then, when asked about the President’s desire to drive down after his speech and join the demonstrators at the Capitol, Hutchinson does her best to avoid revealing what she had actually learned about the Off The Record (OTR) trip:

Q: “… when your text here says, ‘He also kept mentioning OTR to Capitol,’ did you hear him say that in the tent before the speech, I want to go to the Capitol …?”

A: “I overheard him ask … can we make one more call just to make sure we can’t do the Capitol? It wasn’t anything of like substantive intent on his end. It was just following up on conversations that he’d previously had in the days leading up to the 6th …”

Q: “Is it your understanding that the President accepted that, then, that he would not be going to the Capitol that day?”

A: “I think Mr. Trump—Mr. Trump accepted it from Mr. Engel, yes. He still was frustrated that we couldn’t figure out a way to get up there, but those frustrations were aired for a couple days leading up to the rally. There wasn’t anything new that happened in the—to my knowledge, there was nothing that happened in the motorcade from the Ellipse back up to the White House that was out of touch or a new development from the conversations that had ensued in the days prior.” (Emphasis added.)

Former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone (left) when asked about the President and January 6. Video image courtesy of the House Committee, Exhibit 710.

The questions then turned to the role of White House Counsel Pat Cippolone and any legal concerns he might have about the President going to the Capitol on January 6:

MS. HUTCHINSON: “… I remember Mr. Cipollone pulling me aside and saying: Hey, you know, can I grab Mark for a couple minutes before he leaves today. I want to talk to him about going up to the Capitol …”

MS. CHENEY: “Okay. And did you have any further discussions with Mr. Meadows about Mr. Cipollone’s concerns?”

MS. HUTCHINSON: “Not that I can recall about Mr. Cipollone’s concerns, no …”

MS. CHENEY: “And did he give you any more details about his legal concerns?”

MS. HUTCHINSON: “He did not. And I had implicit trust in Pat to only elevate what needed to be elevated to Mark …”

Q: “Did you learn that the President was reluctant to send out a message to address the situation at the Capitol on January the 6th?”

A: “The information that was made available to me wasn’t necessarily that the President was expressing reluctance; it’s that the President was being strategic and selective with how he was going to relay this message … there were so many people in and out of the Oval dining room that afternoon and he wanted to make sure that it was a fine-tuned group of people that he was listening to and a group of advisors that he trusted … I wasn’t in the room for any of those conversations …” (Emphasis added.)

The questions turned to the reactions of people in the White House, including the President to the ongoing violence at the Capitol:

Q: “Did anybody express frustration that nobody had said anything yet or hadn’t said the right thing yet at any point that afternoon?”

A: “I recall people reacting in a personal way, and everybody’s reactions, I believe, were a little bit different … Again, I’m hesitant to say they all were expressing frustration because I don’t want to speak on their behalf. That’s their responsibility. It’s not my role, and that’s not why I’m here today. I don’t want to attribute an emotional reaction to them that I’m not sure that they would pin as accurate. I don’t know if they would have been upset or frustrated or angry …”

Q: “Yeah. Ms. Hutchinson, I’m just asking you what you heard or saw, your observation of their demeanor, of the — not just verbatim what they said but the emotional state or their behavior …”

A: “May I please have a moment to speak with my attorney?”

MR. [REDACTED]: “Yeah, sure.”

MR. PASSANTINO: “And we’ve been going about two hours too, so we’ll go and come back, but at some point sooner. I’d like to take a break …. But, respectfully, on a super emotional day, she’s described I think in great detail but is just reluctant to speak for other people … She’s described, you know—and, again it’s her testimony, not mine. She said people wanted to see the chief, people wanted action, you know. But do understand why she’s trying to be as careful as she’s trying to be—which is she doesn’t want to speak for other people. And she’s here to tell you what she saw, heard, smelled, touched, did. But getting in the heads of other people is a really tough ask for her …”

Q: “Yes. Totally understand. Maybe it’s easier just to ask you how you felt. Did you feel frustrated?”

A: “Yes, at times. But, you know, I don’t believe—and my attorney or you all can correct me if I’m wrong in this assessment. You know, my emotions I don’t believe are pertinent to the facts of this case. I would be willing to discuss my emotions and my feelings that afternoon, but at the end of the day, the way that the day transpired, it’s irrelevant to what happened that day, and I just don’t see it as an important sticking point and an issue of particular relevance for us to sit here and continue discussing

.     .     .

“I was not happy at all with what happened that day. I—it was terrible, and I think that everybody that violated the law that day should be held to the highest accountability under the law. I was upset and frustrated that there wasn’t a reaction a little bit sooner … I think that certain people could have been better at gatekeeping who he saw and who he received counsel and advice from … And it was unpatriotic what happened. And I was upset at the message that this was relaying, and I also felt that it was out of line and uncharacteristic of the President’s movement. And I was upset that, knowing what was happening at the Capitol, that this would likely be the legacy for years to come …” (Emphasis added.)

U.S. Capitol Police Body Cam Footage of January 6 violence. Image courtesy of the House Select Committee, Exhibit EXH VC5.

Questioning continued on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, with the Committee asking about the President’s activities back in the White House as the violence continued.

President Trump’s January 6 Tweet about VP Pence. Image courtesy of the House Select Committee, Exhibit VC14.

MS. CHENEY: “… the committee has a witness who has told us that they believe you heard the President say, quote, ‘Mike Pence deserves to be fucking hung’ close quote.”

MS. HUTCHINSON: “… I don’t—I don’t know if that’s the verbatim quote … I remember seeing that tweet. I don’t remember if that was before or after the chants, though …”

Mark Meadows had gone down to the Oval Dining Room, leaving his phone with Cassidy. When Jim Jordan called, she brought the phone with her to the Dining Room:

MS. HUTCHINSON: “So I opened the door. They were watching TV. I’d heard them speaking about Mr. Pence, but I was more focused on kind of getting Mr. Meadows’ attention … A couple minutes later, Mr. Meadows had come back with at least Mr. Cipollone, I believe Mr. Herschmann was there … Mr. Meadows had said to the attorney—attorneys—I guess what you had said about Mr. Pence.”

MS. CHENEY: “Tell us please.”

MS. HUTCHINSON: “That the President was having a conversation of—that there’s a chance that they are being [inaudible] viable or justified. And Mr. Meadows had looked at the attorneys and asked if there is anything that—”

MR. PASSANTINO: “And, again, none of this that you talked about relates to attorney-client privileged communication, so I’m—I don’t have a problem with any of that. Just be cautious if your conversation is about to turn to legal advice that might have been provided by Mr. Cipollone or Mr. Herschmann to Mr. Meadows. That is something that I think we are still asserting a privilege as to nothing that Representative Cheney is asking about pertains to attorney-client advice. I’m just cautioning you because we might be on the brink of that, I just want to keep that in your mind. But that is not instructing you not to answer these questions.”

MS. CHENEY: No, I’m just—I want to make sure we are clear about what Mr. Meadows said President Trump said.

MS. HUTCHINSON: “I’m more comfortable with the verbatim quote because my memory is sharp, but I don’t think it is that sharp where I can remember every — every word … But I recall Mr. Meadows coming back saying that Mr. Trump had hypothetically potentially said that maybe perhaps the chants were justified, he’s not doing the right thing, he’s not a true patriot, maybe our supporters have the right idea, and not really adding additional commentary at that point …” (Emphasis added.)

Thankfully, all this hedging, all this bobbing and weaving, the long strung-out rambling answers, and the inability to recall exactly what was said and what was done had taken a great toll on Cassidy Hutchinson. And it was only until this discomfort became undeniable and unsustainable that she decided to push past her all-too-legitimate fear and decided to replace Stefan Passantino and hire new attorneys.

With Jody Hunt beside her on September 14, 2022, Cassidy Hutchinson began her detailed attempt to set the record straight. She explained the strategy that Passantino had devised to shape and distort her testimony.

Early on she had asked him:

“… my mind operates almost like an Outlook calendar where I have blocks of time, but I need dates in front of me … ‘[So] could we print off a calendar really quick?’

“And he said, ‘Well, what do you need a calendar for?’ …

“‘I want to make sure that I’m getting the dates right with these things?

“He goes, ‘No, no, no … 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. Everyone’s on the same page about this … We’re completely happy to be taking care of you now. We had no idea that you weren’t being taken care of this last year. So we’re really happy that you reached back out to us. But the less you remember, the better, don’t think that you should be filling in any calendars or anything.’” (Emphasis added.)

And she guessed that the “everyone” were likely Justin Clark, Alex Cannon, and Eric Herschmann, who were involved with Elections, LLC, and Trump’s PACs. Later, Passantino had told her that, unless she was “extremely unwilling for him to share, he said it would be natural for him to have to share that information with the people that he works with that are his partners that are involved in Trump world.”

He often reminded her about the limitations to remembering “if you had just overheard conversations that happened, you don’t need to testify to that.” She explained:

“So I said, ‘Okay.’ I told Stefan that day about the incident that happened in the Beast … [and] this conversation with Tony Ornato when we got back from the rally that day, and he told me that the President tried to wrap his hands around Bobby’s neck and strangle him because he wouldn’t take him to the Capitol.’

“And Stefan said, ‘No, no, no, no, no.’ I remember he, like, sat back in his chair, and he’s like, ‘No, no, no, no, no. We don’t want to go there. We don’t want to talk about that … They have no way of knowing that. Nobody would ever’—he said, ‘Did you ever tell anybody about that?’

“I said, ‘No, I’ve never told anybody about that.’

“And he said, ‘Well, I don’t think that Tony would have told anybody about that.’ And he’s like, ‘That’s an example of one of those stories that is just going to give the committee a headline. It’s not important to anything that actually happened on that day. It’s a headline … I don’t want you to be the one to have to tell that story … 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. You’re going to be done. It’s going to be off of your hands.’ …

“’Your go-to, Cass, is “I don’t recall” … if you start using that in the beginning, they’re going to realize really quick that they have better witnesses than you, and they’re not going to ask you as complicated of questions as you’re worried about.’ And he was like, ‘Trust me. You just need to trust me on this.’ So I said, ‘Okay.’” (Emphasis added.)

Cassidy told the Committee that if Passantino wasn’t happy with the line of questioning, he’d either stall the interaction by asking for a break, hoping that when they returned they’d decide to move onto another line of questioning, or he’d try to invoke attorney-client privilege using Pat Cipollone, or he’d try interjecting with comments or questions.

Cassidy admitted how self-conscious, even fearful she was testifying:

“I almost felt like at points Donald Trump was looking over my shoulder. Because, one, I know how Trump world operates. Two, Stefan had already kind of planted the seeds of, we know you’re loyal, like, we know you’re going to do the right thing, we know you’re on Team Trump, like, we want to take care of you. So it’s those phrases that I had heard throughout my tenure at the White House, that I’d worked to separate myself from for a year, now I’m hearing them again. And it’s like, oh, my gosh, now I’m sitting here with a lawyer who also represents maybe Trump on certain matters but is definitely deeply connected in Trump world …” (Emphasis added.)

Cassidy Hutchinson was willing to take responsibility for her actions:

“I was extremely uncomfortable with the situation. I was not happy to be in this situation. But there was always a part of me that was grateful at least. You know, I don’t want to try to erase that part of history, my history with the committee. Like, I don’t love admitting that now. It’s uncomfortable to admit now, because I look back and I’m like, why was I even grateful? But I was grateful that I had somebody, because I was ready to reach out to the committee and represent myself, and I was scared to do that. And they did pull through for me, and I did like Eric. So I—you know, it was this, like, battle inside my head where, like, 80 percent of me constantly felt like, ‘This is bad, this is bad, this is bad. I need to get out of this situation, but I can’t now, I can’t now. I’m indebted. I am done.’”

She provided a clear example of how torn she was. During a break in the questioning, after she was asked about the incident in the Beast, Cassidy told Passantino:

“‘Stefan, I am fucked.’

“And he was like, ‘Don’t freak out. You’re fine.’

“I said, ‘No, Stefan, I’m fucked. I just lied.’

“And he said, ‘You didn’t lie.’

“I said, ‘No, Stefan. Do you know how many times they just asked me that question? I just lied.’

“And he said, ‘They don’t know what you know, Cassidy. They don’t know that you can recall some of these things … They’re prodding. 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 great.’

.   .    .    

“I was so stressed and worried, but I also know in the back of my mind, I was like, this is exactly what I was worried about, which was feeling like I couldn’t be forthcoming when I wanted to be. Now, don’t get me wrong, too. Like, with or without Stefan, I don’t think that I would’ve wanted to provide information that was hurtful to the President. I mean, still to this day, like, I feel bad if he’s ever embarrassed by anything that I said, but I never wanted to lie about anything. I never would’ve covered that story up … And I remember thinking like, I felt like I had sold myself, and I felt boxed in and that I was under a microscope with them again where I had worked for the last year at that point to sort of distance myself, to no one’s fault necessarily, but to take a step back and just recalibrate myself after the end of the administration.” (Emphasis added.)

When it became crystal clear the Committee wanted Cassidy Hutchinson to appear for a third interview, in a SCIF, a secure room where they might discuss sensitive matters, possibly about to ask her to appear in a live televised hearing, “[Passantino] called me and said something to the effect of, ‘Trump World is not going to pay your legal bills if you don’t have a subpoena to go on further into the interview.’ So that was my first, like, where it had kind of—I had known, but that was the proof, and it clicked with the funding was coming from Trump World …”

Then on June 6, Passantino raised the strategy of refusing to testify further:

“He said, ‘With DOJ refusing to hold Mark and Scavino in contempt and with the committee talking about you to the press again, I don’t see why we do anything more with them. There’s a small element of risk to refusing to cooperate, but I think it’s the best move for you. Do you agree?’

“I said, ‘Did they reach out about a live hearing? I don’t want to gamble with being held in contempt, Stefan. I’m sorry, but I just don’t think I can do it … and I ended it with, ‘I’m sorry. I’m not trying to be difficult.’

“I sat there—and I had deliberated this internally for a couple weeks at this point, but this was my breaking point, and I was like, I need to sever my attorney-client relationship with Stefan, with or without a new attorney. Because his rationale was: ‘They’re using you … Contempt is a small risk, but running to the right is better for you’—I took that as FOX News, Trump world. Republicans—I’m going to use air quotes around ‘Republicans’—are going to defend you, they’re going to blast the committee for holding you in contempt … And I kept reiterating to him, ‘But, Stefan, if they do prosecute me, I theoretically could go to prison, right?’

“And he said, ‘Cassidy, DOJ will not prosecute you over being held in contempt when you’ve already given the committee so much. You need to trust me on this. This is the best option for you.’….

“‘Stefan, I really don’t want to gamble with this.’

“He said, ‘Well, just keep giving it some thought. I’ll talk with some people too. But 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.’

“And I in my mind thought, ‘This does need to end now,’ ‘this’ being our attorney-client relationship.” (Emphasis added.)

Again, Cassidy Hutchinson wouldn’t minimize her responsibility for agreeing to work with Passantino and for her past inaccurate testimony: “I want to make this clear to you: Stefan never told me to lie. He specifically told me, ‘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.’”

Both choices were excruciatingly difficult: facing the Committee without an attorney or relying on a Trump World attorney who was asking her to do things she wasn’t comfortable doing:

“I don’t like to categorize the world, the Trump world in this way, but in a lot of scenarios that I have been privy to, once you are looped in, especially financially with them, there sort of is no turning back. And, you know, even the days after I had secured him as my counsel on February 7th, I remember having a conversation with my mom a few days later. And my mom and I are close. We’re not extremely close. And I hadn’t really talked to her about a lot of this throughout this period. Like, she knew I was looking for attorneys, and she asked me, like, ‘Aren’t you really happy? Like, this is great. I’m so happy that, like, they connected you with someone.’

“And I remember saying to her, like, kind of snarly laughing, saying, ‘No, I’m fucked.’

“And she was like, ‘What? What do you mean?’

“And I was like, ‘No. I am completely indebted to these people,’ and I was like, ‘And they will ruin my life. Mom, if I do anything that they don’t want me to do.’

“And she was like, ‘Well, what would you possibly do?’ She was like, ‘There is nothing that they can do to you.’

“And, at that point, I just remember being like, I can’t delve into these conversations. But that was always a thought in the back of my mind, and I was scared …”

She continued:

“I followed his bad legal advice; I took his bad legal advice. I will own that. But my character and my integrity mean more to me than anything. And to be held in contempt in Congress over an issue that I am passionate about and that I had been steered in what, in my opinion, was the wrong direction for the past 5 months when I was trying to correct course myself, because my lawyer, I knew, wasn’t going to help me—it was clear for a long time that 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 that I was starkly opposed to …” (Emphasis added.)

So let’s end with some of her public testimony and what she actually remembered hearing in the Speaker’s tent at the Ellipse on January 6:

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: “I recall Tony and I having a conversation with Mark probably around 10 a.m., 10:15 a.m. where I remember Tony mentioning knives, guns in the form of pistols and rifles, bear spray, body armor, spears, and flagpoles … And I remember distinctly Mark not looking up from his phone, right? I remember Tony finishing his explanation and it taking a few seconds for Mark to say his name.

“Because I almost said, Mark, did you hear him? And then Mark chimed in. It was like, Alright, anything else? Still looking down at his phone. And Tony looked at me and I looked at Tony and he—Tony said no, Sir. Do you have any questions? He’s like, what are you hearing? And I looked at Tony and I was like, Sir he just told you about what was happening down at the rallies.

“And he was like yeah, yeah. I know. And then he looked up and said have you talked to the President? And Tony said yes, Sir. He’s aware. And he said Alright. Good.”

LIZ CHENEY: “He asked Tony if Tony had informed the President—”


LIZ CHENEY: “… So Miss Hutchinson, is it your understanding that Mr. Ornato told the President about weapons at the rally on the morning of January 6th?”

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: “That’s what Mr. Ornato relayed to me …”

LIZ CHENEY: “Ms. Hutchinson, we’re going to show now an exchange of texts between you and Deputy Chief of Staff Ornato … In one text you write: ‘But the crowd looks good from this vantage point. As long as we get the shot. He was effing furious.’ And the text messages also stress that President Trump kept mentioning the OTR, an off the record movement. We’re going to come back and ask you about that in a minute. But could you tell us, first of all, who it is in the text who was furious?”

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: “The he in that text that I was referring to was the President.”

LIZ CHENEY: “And why was he furious, Miss Hutchinson? …”

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: “When we were in the offstage announce area tent behind the stage he was very concerned about the shot, meaning the photograph that we would get, because the rally space wasn’t full … And he felt the mags were at fault for not letting everybody in … he wanted it full and he was angry that we weren’t letting people through the mags with weapons, what the Secret Service deemed as weapons and are—are weapons.

“But when we were in the offstage announce tent, I was part of a conversation—I was in—I was in the vicinity of a conversation where I overheard the President say something to the effect of, you know, I—I don’t effing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the effing mags away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here. Let the people in. Take the effing mags away.”

LIZ CHENEY: “Just to be clear, Ms. Hutchinson, is it your understanding that the President wanted to take the mags away and said that the armed individuals were not there to hurt him?”

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: “That’s a fair assessment.”

LIZ CHENEY: “…Were you aware of concerns that White House Counsel Pat Cipollone or Eric Herschmann had about the language President Trump used in his ellipse speech?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: “… In my conversations with Mr. Herschmann, he had relayed that we would be foolish to include language that had been included at the President’s request, which had lines along—to the effect of fight for Trump. We’re going to march the Capitol. I’ll be there with you. Fight for me. Fight for what we’re doing. Fight for the movement. Things about the Vice President at the time too. Both Mr. Herschmann and White House counsel’s office were urging the speechwriters to not include that language for legal concerns, and also for the optics of what it could portray the president wanting to do that day …”

LIZ CHENEY: “Thank you. And let’s turn back now to the president’s plans to travel to the Capitol on January 6th. We know that White House Counsel Pat Cipollone was concerned about the legal implications of such a trip, and he agreed with the Secret Service that it shouldn’t happen. Ms. Hutchinson, did you have any conversations with Pat Cipollone about his concerns about the president going to the Capitol on January 6th?”

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: “On January 3rd, Mr. Cipollone had approached me knowing that Mark had raised the prospect of going up to the Capitol on January 6th. Mr. Cipollone and I had a brief private conversation where he said to me we need to make sure that this doesn’t happen. This would be a legally a terrible idea for us. We’re—we have serious legal concerns if we go up to the Capitol that day …”

LIZ CHENEY: “And we understand, Ms. Hutchinson, that you also spoke to Mr. Cipollone on the morning of the 6th as you were about to go to the rally on the Ellipse, and Mr. Cipollone said something to you like make sure the movement to the Capitol does not happen. Is that correct?”

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: “That’s correct. I saw Mr. Cipollone right before I walked out onto West Exec that morning, and Mr. Cipollone said something to the effect of please make sure we don’t go up to the Capitol, Cassidy. Keep in touch with me. We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen.”

LIZ CHENEY: “And do you remember which crimes Mr. Cipollone was concerned with?”

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: “In the days leading up to the 6th, we had conversations about potentially obstructing justice or defrauding the electoral count.” (Emphasis added.)

Cassidy Hutchinson Testimony during Live Hearing. Image courtesy of the House Select Committee Exhibit EXH VC3.

Then the testimony turned toward what Cassidy Hutchison had been told about the President’s attempt to join the marchers at the Capitol:

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: “When I returned to the White House, I walked upstairs towards the chief of staff’s office, and I noticed Mr. Ornato … [He] quickly waved me to go into his office … shut the door, and I noticed Bobby Engel, who was the head of Mr. Trump’s security detail, sitting in a chair, just looking somewhat discombobulated and a little lost … Tony proceeded to tell me that when the president got in the beast … he thought that they were going up to the Capitol. And when Bobby had relayed to him we’re not, we don’t have the assets to do it, it’s not secure, we’re going back to the West Wing, the president had a very strong, a very angry response to that.

“Tony described him as being irate. The president said something to the effect of I’m the effing president, take me up to the Capitol now, to which Bobby responded, sir, we have to go back to the West Wing. The president reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel. Mr. Engel grabbed his arm, said, sir, you need to take your hand off the steering wheel.

“We’re going back to the West Wing. We’re not going to the Capitol. Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge towards Bobby Engel. And Mr.—when Mr. Ornato had recounted this story to me, he had motioned towards his clavicles.” (Emphasis added.)

Cassidy Hutchinson had good reason to be afraid of what the ex-President’s men might do to her if they felt she had betrayed Donald Trump. And unlike Butch and Sundance, we should all be very grateful that Cassidy Hutchinson managed to turn around just in time to defy Trump Land and to live another day and tell us the truth.


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