Former Donald Trump staffer Cassidy Hutchinson told the House’s Jan. 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 Capitol riot, according to newly released interview transcripts.
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 in “Trump world,” as she called it, but that her financial situation had limited her options.
At one point, she agreed to be represented by Stefan Passantino, a former Trump White House ethics lawyer. She told the panel that the understanding was if she cooperated, 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” meant a group of attorneys helping Trump navigate his various legal entanglements, including Alex Cannon and Eric Herschmann.
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, 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, but 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 I Trump was looking over my shoulder,” she testified in September.
Eventually, Hutchinson was able to retain a different attorney. She said that her “breaking point” 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.
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.