Cassidy Hutchinson sped out of Washington in the early morning hours, Googling “Watergate” on her phone, desperate for advice on how to be a whistleblower.
According to transcripts of her testimony released Thursday, the former Donald Trump White House aide, who would go on to be the star witness of the House Committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurgency, had remained “loyal” and “in the family” until that point.
She had no idea who was paying her attorney, but he made it clear that her job was to “protect the president.” And, she eventually told the committee, he kept dangling job opportunities and promising that she would be “taken care of” if she did her part.
However, the night before fleeing to her parents’ home in New Jersey, Hutchinson claimed she “had a mental breakdown” as the moral crisis she had been dealing with came to a head, forcing her to make a decision that would alter the course of the investigation into the 2021 Capitol attack.
Hutchinson’s explosive testimony this summer became a cornerstone of the committee’s investigation on Jan. 6. But newly released, never-before-seen transcripts of her interviews with investigators paint a new picture of a young, desperate woman torn between her conscience and some of America’s most powerful men.
“I was scared,” she testified to committee investigators last September. “At times, I felt like Donald Trump was peering over my shoulder.”
The transcripts, released ahead of the committee’s final report, provide an intimate look at the pressure Hutchinson claims she felt from Trumpworld to stay in line.
At the start of the committee’s investigation, Hutchinson, who was unemployed and unable to afford a lawyer, begged her estranged biological father for money on his doorstep one night, but he refused. One of her only regrets, she said, was asking for his assistance. Her aunt and uncle, who she described as QAnon believers — a conspiracy theory promoted by Trump supporters — were more sympathetic, and even considered refinancing their home to help, but that also fell through.
So she reluctantly agreed when Trump insiders contacted her and assured her that she would be assigned an attorney at no cost.
“I owe these people everything. “They’ll ruin my life, Mom, if I do anything they don’t want me to do,” she allegedly told her mother at one point, according to the transcripts.
She was well aware that the assistance was not without conditions.
“It was this, like, battle inside my head where, like, 80% of me constantly felt like, ‘This is bad, this is bad, this is bad. ‘I need to get out of here,’ “she explained. “But then there was 20% of me … where I was thinking, you know, like, ‘Cass, you’re overthinking this. … Perhaps they truly care about you and are attempting to make this process as simple as possible for you. Don’t be too cynical, for example.”
Her Trump-aligned lawyer, Stefan Passantino, advised her to say as little as possible to the committee investigators on January 6, she said. “We just want to focus on protecting the president. We’re all aware of your devotion. “Let’s just get you in and out,” she claimed he said, according to the transcripts.
He would dangle job opportunities on the days she was scheduled to be deposed. “We’re going to get you a great job in Trumpworld. You do not need to apply anywhere else. We’re going to take care of you. “We want you to stay in the family,” he told her.
“Let me be clear: Stefan never told me to lie “She explained to the committee. “‘I don’t want you to perjure yourself, but ‘I don’t recall’ isn’t perjury,’ he specifically told me. They have no idea what you can and cannot remember.”
Hutchinson initially followed instructions during two depositions. She felt bad for lying and tried to forget about it. “I just compartmentalised any guilt that I had and was just like, ‘Let me just move on,'” she testified.
But the dam that had been holding back her guilt burst in April. She was sitting in her Washington apartment, reading a legal document that referred to her testimony, which was riddled with obfuscations, dodges, and “I cannot recall” statements. She had a breakdown.
“So I got in my car and drove up to New Jersey, because my parents live there, and what does Cassidy do when she has problems… she doesn’t want to confront? “I try to get out — I try to get out of here,” she said later in court.
She claimed she didn’t know much about Watergate at the time, but Wikipedia quickly educated her on Nixon White House whistleblowers such as former Counsel John Dean and Alex Butterfield, the aide who helped instal — and then publicly reveal — Nixon’s taping system.
“He appeared to have a similar role and title to mine in the White House. So I’m driving around, sort of reading about him,” Hutchinson explained.
She quickly ordered two copies of Butterfield’s book, co-written with journalist Bob Woodward, and had them delivered to her parents’ house, where she devoured them.
“I once read it. Then I went back and underlined it. “Then I read it a third time and tabbed it,” she explained. “He talked about a lot of the same things I was feeling… but he did the right thing.”
“And I was like, if I’m going to pass the mirror test for the rest of my life, I need to try to fix some of this,” she said, referring to the ability to look oneself in the mirror.
She provided information to investigators in order to ensure that she would be called back for a third deposition.
She was more forthcoming when they met with her again. Passantino, her Trumpworld lawyer, was furious, she claimed, and began frantically calling his colleagues to do damage control.
Passantino, who served as Trump’s deputy White House counsel, issued a statement defending himself, claiming that the Jan. 6 committee never asked for his side of the story. He stated that he is taking a leave of absence from his law firm, Michael Best, which he claims was not involved in Hutchinson’s defence, because he does not want to be a “distraction.”
“As with all my clients during my 30 years of practise, I represented Ms. Hutchinson honourably, ethically, and fully consistent with her sole interests as she communicated them to me. “Throughout the several interview sessions in which I represented Ms. Hutchinson, I believed she was being truthful and cooperative with the Committee,” Passantino stated. “It is not uncommon for clients to switch lawyers because their interests or strategies change. It is also not unusual for a third party, such as a political committee, to pay a client’s fees at the client’s request. External communications on Ms. Hutchinson’s behalf were made with her express permission while I was her counsel.”
Hutchinson would eventually hire a new, independent pro bono lawyer and leave Trumpworld, revealing everything she knew, including the Jan. 6 incident in which Trump allegedly placed his hands on a Secret Service agent’s neck and demanded that he be taken to the Capitol.
“I’m about to be f——— nuked,” she reportedly told a committee staffer as she walked out of the third meeting.
“I’m truly sorry,” the staffer responded.
Hutchinson then walked away.