Jan. 6 witness recounts pressure campaign from Trump allies

Dec 21, 2022, 7:22 PM | Updated: Dec 23, 2022, 1:07 pm
FILE - Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, is sworn i...

FILE - Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, is sworn in to testify before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 28, 2022. Hutchinson has told the House Jan. 6 committee that her first lawyer advised her against being fully forthcoming with the panel, telling her, “the less you remember, the better.” That's according to a transcript of one of her interviews released Thursday. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson described to the House Jan. 6 committee a wide-ranging pressure campaign from Donald Trump’s allies aimed at influencing her cooperation with Congress and stifling potentially damaging testimony about him.

In extraordinary closed-door testimony made public Thursday, Hutchinson recounted how those in the former president’s circle dangled job opportunities and financial assistance as she was cooperating with the committee investigating the Capitol riot and how her own lawyer — a former ethics counsel in the Trump White House — advised her against being fully forthcoming with lawmakers and told her “the less you remember, the better.”

The nine-member committee released two never-before-seen transcripts of Hutchinson’s testimony as it tries to wrap up its investigation and make its work public. The committee, which will dissolve when Republicans take over the House on Jan. 3, was also expected to release its final report Thursday.

The transcripts provide previously unknown details about what Hutchinson called the “moral struggle” — torn between the desire to speak the truth and to remain loyal to Trump — that she says she endured on the way to becoming one of the most memorable witnesses of the committee’s investigation.

In a televised hearing in June, Hutchinson went public about Trump’s actions on Jan. 6, 2021. She described his directive that magnetometers be removed from a rally of his supporters that day and detailed his angry — and ultimately rebuffed — demands to be taken by the Secret Service to the Capitol to join the crowd trying to disrupt the congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s election as president.

“In my mind this whole time I felt this moral struggle,” she said, according to the transcripts. She described a first interview with the committee in which she concealed testimony about Trump that, months later, she would deliver to a rapt hearing room.

Looking back now, she added, “It feels ridiculous, because in my heart I knew where my loyalties lied, and my loyalties lied with the truth. And I never wanted to diverge from that. You know, I never wanted or thought that I would be the witness that I have become, because I thought that more people would be willing to speak out too.”

But to hear her tell it, that testimony was never a sure thing.

Like other aides whose proximity to Trump entangled them in investigations, Hutchinson scrambled to find a lawyer after receiving a subpoena from the committee last year. Former White House officials and Trump allies worked to line up a lawyer for her despite her own discomfort at being represented by someone in “Trump world” — an affiliation she feared would make her “indebted to these people.”

She said she was contacted in February by Stefan Passantino, a former White House ethics counsel, who told her he would be her lawyer. He said she would not have to pay for his services but demurred when she asked from where the money was coming. She later learned that it was from Trump allies.

“If you want to know at the end, we’ll let you know,” she described him as saying, “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.”

As Hutchinson prepared for her first interview with the committee later that month, she said Passantino advised her to “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.”

She said that when she mentioned to him having heard about an angry outburst by Trump in which he lashed out inside the presidential vehicle at Secret Service agents over their refusal to take him to the Capitol, Passantino counseled her not to delve into that account with the committee.

“No, no, no, no, no. We don’t want to go there. We don’t want to talk about that,” she described him as saying.

Passantino, in his own statement, said that he had “represented Ms. Hutchinson honorably, ethically, and fully consistent with her sole interests as she communicated them to me.”

All the while, Hutchinson told the committee, other Trump advisers appeared to be taking a keen interest in her cooperation, as well as her financial situation and job status. She said two other lawyers allied with Trump offered in May to front her money as they tried to help her find a job and offered her a job on a campaign out West. Other Trump allies reached out with potential job opportunities.

She said Ben Williamson, a friend and an aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, had spoken with her the night before the second interview with the committee and told her: “Well, Mark wants me to let you know that he knows you’re loyal and he knows you’ll do the right thing tomorrow and that you’re going to protect him and the boss. You know, he knows that we’re all on the same team and we’re all a family.”

Williamson declined to comment Thursday.

During her first interview, she said, the committee asked Hutchinson repeatedly whether she knew anything about a kerfuffle inside the presidential SUV known as the “Beast.” She was nervous and froze and said she knew nothing about it.

But that wasn’t true.

During a break in the interview, a distressed Hutchinson told Passantino that “I’m (expletive). I just lied.” She said Passantino did not encourage her to correct the record, instead telling her, “They don’t know what you know, Cassidy. They don’t know that you can recall some of these things. So you saying ‘I don’t recall’ is an entirely acceptable response to this.”

In his statement, Passantino said he believed “Hutchinson was being truthful and cooperative with the Committee throughout the several interview sessions in which I represented her.”

By April, though, Hutchinson said she had resolved to break from the constraints of “Trump world.” She did internet research on the Watergate saga, finding resonance in the story of Alexander Butterfield, the young Richard Nixon loyalist who became a key witness against him.

She drove to the house of Alyssa Farah, a former White House official who had had her own public split from the Trump administration, and asked her to serve as a back channel to the committee because she still had more she wanted to say.

She testified publicly in June — this time accompanied by a new lawyer — and in one of the more dramatic moments of the committee’s hearings. She said she had been told that Trump had actually tried to lunge at the agent driving the SUV that took him back to the White House on Jan. 6.

Last September, she returned to the committee and privately recounted the pressure campaign. The information has also been shared with the Justice Department, where Jack Smith, a special counsel named by Attorney General Merrick Garland, is now conducting an investigation.

“I’m not sitting here trying to make myself out to be some hero. I know I handled things wrong. At least, I think I handled some things wrong in the first interview,” she said in the interview. “You know, I hate that I had this moral struggle, because it shouldn’t have existed.”

_____

Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick, Farnoush Amiri and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.

___

Follow the AP’s coverage of the Capitol insurrection at https://apnews.com/hub/capitol-siege

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, president of Purdue University, delivers remarks to hundr...
Associated Press

Ex-Indiana Gov. Daniels won’t seek state’s open Senate seat

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels announced Tuesday that he wouldn’t seek that state’s open U.S. Senate seat next year, ending weeks of speculation about whether the longtime Republican figure would enter a possibly vicious GOP primary fight with a combative defender of former President Donald Trump. The decision by the 73-year-old Daniels […]
1 day ago
FILE - Elon Musk departs the Phillip Burton Federal Building and United States Court House in San F...
Associated Press

Tesla gets Justice Department subpoena for self-driving cars

The U.S. Justice Department has requested documents from Tesla Inc. related to its Autopilot and “Full Self-Driving” features, according to a regulatory filing. “To our knowledge no government agency in any ongoing investigation has concluded that any wrongdoing occurred,” Tesla said in the filing Tuesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Austin, Texas-based electric […]
1 day ago
People work at a construction site, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023, in Miami. On Tuesday, the Labor Departm...
Associated Press

US workers’ pay slowed in the final quarter of 2022

WASHINGTON (AP) — Pay and benefits for America’s workers grew at a healthy but more gradual pace in the final three months of 2022, a third straight slowdown, which could help reassure the Federal Reserve that wage gains won’t fuel higher inflation. Wages and benefits, such as health insurance, grew 1% in the October-December quarter […]
1 day ago
Maximino Vertiz Quintanilla repairs a customer's baby Jesus statue inside his store in preparation ...
Associated Press

Broken baby Jesus statues flood restorers ahead of feast day

MEXICO CITY (AP) — It is Maximinio Vertiz’ busy season. Dozens of beloved but worn and broken baby Jesus figurines will pass through this 49-year-old craftsman’s hands, restoring them in time for their annual pilgrimage to church for a Candlemas blessing. Holding a putty knife with a steady hand, Vertiz went about this meticulous task […]
1 day ago
FILE - The mother of Khant Ngar Hein, killed during anti-government protests, mourns during his fun...
Associated Press

How Myanmar is faring 2 years after army ousted Suu Kyi

BANGKOK (AP) — Two years after Myanmar’s generals ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government, thousands of people have died in civil conflict and many more have been forced from their homes in a dire humanitarian crisis. Myanmar’s economy, once one of the fastest growing in Southeast Asia, now lags behind where it stood before […]
1 day ago
substation...
Associated Press

Puyallup man accused in substation vandalism is released from custody

A federal judge issued the order for Matthew Greenwood, 32, after renewed efforts by his attorney to get Greenwood into a drug-treatment facility.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Jan. 6 witness recounts pressure campaign from Trump allies