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Cassidy Hutchinson: Why the Jan. 6 Committee Rushed Her Testimony

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WASHINGTON — The day before Cassidy Hutchinson was deposed for a fourth time by the Jan. 6 committee, the previous Trump White House aide received a phone message that may dramatically change the plans of the panel and write a recent chapter in American politics.

On that day in June, the caller told Ms. Hutchinson, as Liz Cheney, the committee’s vice chairwoman, later disclosed: An individual “let me know you have got your deposition tomorrow. He wants me to let you recognize he’s serious about you. He knows you’re loyal. And also you’re going to do the appropriate thing if you go in to your deposition.”

At Ms. Hutchinson’s deposition the subsequent day, committee members investigating the attack on the Capitol were so alarmed by what they considered a transparent case of witness tampering — not to say Ms. Hutchinson’s shocking account of President Donald J. Trump’s behavior on Jan. 6, 2021 — that they decided in a gathering on June 24, a Friday, to carry an emergency public hearing with Ms. Hutchinson because the surprise witness the next Tuesday.

The speed, people near the committee said, was for 2 crucial reasons: Ms. Hutchinson was under intense pressure from Trump World, and panel members believed that getting her story out in public would make her less vulnerable, attract powerful allies and be its own form of protection. The committee also had to maneuver fast, the people said, to avoid leaks of a number of the most explosive testimony ever heard on Capitol Hill.

Within the two weeks since, Ms. Hutchinson’s account of an unhinged president who urged his armed supporters to march to the Capitol, lashed out at his Secret Service detail and hurled his lunch against a wall has turned her right into a figure of each admiration and scorn — lauded by Trump critics as a Twenty first-century John Dean and attacked by Mr. Trump as a “total phony.”

Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony also pushed the committee to redouble its efforts to interview Pat A. Cipollone, Mr. Trump’s White House counsel, who appeared in private before the panel on Friday. His videotaped testimony is predicted to be shown on the committee’s next public hearing on Tuesday.

Now unemployed and sequestered with family and a security detail, Ms. Hutchinson, 26, has developed an unlikely bond with Ms. Cheney, a Wyoming Republican and onetime aide to former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell in the course of the George W. Bush administration — a crisis environment of one other era when she learned to work amongst competing male egos. More recently, as someone ostracized by her party and stripped of her leadership post for her denunciations of Mr. Trump, Ms. Cheney admires the younger woman’s willingness to risk her alliances and skilled standing by recounting what she saw in the ultimate days of the Trump White House, friends say.

“I actually have been incredibly moved by young women that I actually have met and which have come forward to testify within the Jan. 6 committee,” Ms. Cheney said in concluding a recent speech on the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

When she mentioned Ms. Hutchinson’s name, the audience erupted in applause.

The trail that led a young Trump loyalist to turn out to be a star witness against the previous president was not exactly prefigured by Ms. Hutchinson’s biography.

Key Revelations From the Jan. 6 Hearings

She grew up in Pennington, N.J., a one-square-mile village dating back to the 1600s whose most famous previous resident was Peter Benchley, the creator of “Jaws.” Her father owned a tree-trimming service.

Nobody in her family had gone to varsity, but in 2015 Ms. Hutchinson left home for Christopher Newport University, an under-the-radar liberal arts institution in Newport News, Va., with a strict dress code.

Ms. Hutchinson chosen political science as her major. She took two classes taught by the department chair on the time, Michelle Barnello.

“We have now a reasonably conservative student body, and while I believe of Cassidy as someone who was committed to Republican principles, she didn’t stand out as a hard-liner,” Dr. Barnello said.

She remembered Ms. Hutchinson as convivial but in addition determined, and that she often sat within the front row of the classroom together with her lacrosse-playing boyfriend.

In 2017, a yr after spending a summer interning for Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, Ms. Hutchinson and her boyfriend each became summer interns for Republican House members — in her case, for Representative Steve Scalise, then the bulk whip, who in June of that yr was shot while playing softball with Republican colleagues. The next spring, Ms. Hutchinson was accepted for a White House internship, a celebrated achievement at Christopher Newport. The campus website and the political science department’s Facebook page posted stories about their high-achieving junior.

By luck of the draw, Ms. Hutchinson’s internship was within the White House Office of Legislative Affairs — where, unlike the coffee-fetching and tour-guiding requirements of a Capitol Hill internship, enrollees are expected to take notes at high-level meetings and to interact with senior staff members and House members. Former Trump White House officials said Ms. Hutchinson distinguished herself from the opposite interns as a tough employee with an excellent attitude. On graduation she landed a everlasting job because the junior-most staff assistant on the House side of the Trump presidency’s legislative affairs operation, at a salary of $43,600.

“She form of got here in and took the place by storm,” said a former White House official, who like others who spoke highly of Ms. Hutchinson and asked for anonymity to avoid the general public wrath of Mr. Trump and his allies. “Just an incredibly smart and driven person. She was the kind of one who worked so hard, I often had to inform her to decelerate in order that she wouldn’t burn out.”

Throughout the first impeachment of Mr. Trump in 2019, Ms. Hutchinson was among the many handful of legislative affairs staff members tasked with shoring up support amongst disgruntled House Republicans for the embattled president. Ultimately, not certainly one of them defected, a triumph that reflected well on every White House staff member involved, including Ms. Hutchinson.

Some colleagues found it presumptuous that the young assistant so quickly got here to consult with House members by their first names. But others could see that it worked: Ms. Hutchinson, they said, developed exceptionally strong contacts with representatives during her first yr on the job.

“Trust me, no one ever sat down and said, ‘Hey, Cassidy, you’re being too chummy with the members,’” recalled one other colleague who asked for anonymity out of fear of inciting Mr. Trump. “You possibly can be certainly one of those assistants who’s rarely on the Hill. Or you would be like Cassidy, who took every advantage to assist her get a greater job in the long run.”

Which quickly occurred. Ms. Hutchinson’s backstage work in the course of the impeachment hearings put her in frequent contact with the influential chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, Representative Mark Meadows. When he became Mr. Trump’s chief of staff in March 2020, he promptly poached Ms. Hutchinson from the legislative affairs office as his special assistant.

Her influence was soon apparent. Republican aides on Capitol Hill learned that Ms. Hutchinson was the technique to get to Mr. Meadows, and that in the event that they texted him she is perhaps the one responding. She was in frequent contact on Mr. Meadows’s behalf with leading House Republicans like Representatives Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan and Elise Stefanik. One former colleague recalled that there have been times when Mr. Meadows got staff members taken off Air Force One to make room for Ms. Hutchinson.

Some staff members begrudged her rise. “I believe she became a victim of her own access and success,” said Ms. Hutchinson’s friend, Alyssa Farah Griffin, a former Trump White House communications director. “I’m sure that more senior people resented her for it.”

Early this yr, a federal marshal knocked on Ms. Hutchinson’s door and served her with a subpoena to look before the Jan. 6 committee. Unemployed and unable to pay for legal fees, she hired as her lawyer Stefan Passantino, a former Trump White House ethics lawyer. Mr. Trump’s Save America PAC paid for Mr. Passantino’s representation of Ms. Hutchinson, because it did for another witnesses called before the panel.

Mr. Passantino had extensive financial ties to Mr. Trump’s orbit. Federal Election Commission reports show that his legal compliance firm received greater than $1 million from Trump-related political motion committees within the 2021-22 election cycle, and that within the previous cycle Marjorie Taylor Greene, a staunch Trump loyalist and a House candidate on the time, paid him greater than $93,000 for his services.

Ms. Hutchinson’s first deposition to the committee was on Feb. 23, when it was not yet apparent to her that Mr. Passantino’s interests as a Trump affiliate might diverge from hers, two people near the situation said. What was clear were her disclosures that morning and in two subsequent depositions to committee members, who found them startling in addition to clear evidence of her proximity to power.

In accordance with portions of her first three depositions made public, Ms. Hutchinson said she had heard Anthony M. Ornato, the deputy White House chief of staff, warn Mr. Meadows that intelligence reports were forecasting violence several days before Jan. 6. She also testified that by late November 2020, House Republicans were already pushing a plan for Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election results.

But Ms. Hutchinson took pains to avoid speculating concerning the president. “I can’t speak to if Mr. Trump — yeah, I’ll leave it there,” she said at one point.

Over the subsequent months, Ms. Hutchinson warmed to the concept of helping the committee’s investigation, in accordance with a friend, but she didn’t detect the identical willingness in Mr. Passantino.

“She realized she couldn’t call her attorney to say, ‘Hey, I’ve got more information,’” said the friend, who requested anonymity. “He was there to insulate the large guy.”

Mr. Passantino declined to comment.

At that time Ms. Hutchinson got in contact with Ms. Griffin, who had been cooperating with the committee herself. Ms. Griffin passed on Ms. Hutchinson’s concerns to Barbara Comstock, a former Republican congresswoman and outspoken critic of Mr. Trump. In an interview, Ms. Comstock said that she could have predicted Ms. Hutchinson’s predicament, recalling how she had once talked a young man out of joining the Trump administration. “I said, ‘You’re going to find yourself paying legal bills,’” Ms. Comstock recalled.

Ms. Comstock offered to start out a legal-defense fund in order that Ms. Hutchinson wouldn’t need to depend on a lawyer paid for by Trump affiliates. But this proved unnecessary. Jody Hunt, the previous head of the Justice Department’s civil division under Jeff Sessions — Mr. Trump’s former attorney general and one other pariah in Mr. Trump’s world — offered to represent her pro bono. Mr. Hunt accompanied Ms. Hutchinson to her fourth deposition in late June, when she felt more comfortable talking about Mr. Trump’s actions on Jan. 6. Everyone agreed it was time to hurry up her public testimony.

Two realities have now taken hold for Ms. Hutchinson. One is that she is going to proceed to supply information to the Jan. 6 committee, with Mr. Hunt as her counsel and Ms. Cheney because the committee’s designated interlocutor to her.

The opposite is that an uncertain future awaits her.

A former colleague within the White House legislative affairs office who stays on friendly terms with Ms. Hutchinson said that from the moment she got her subpoena, her goal in cooperating with the committee was to search out the quickest technique to put the complete ordeal behind her.

But, the friend said, this is barely the start for her.

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