The former Trump White House ethics lawyer who allegedly urged Cassidy Hutchinson to mislead the House Jan. 6 committee has, perhaps unsurprisingly, suffered reputational damage. But he's not to blame, according to a legal filing that claims it’s the committee’s fault, to the tune of $67 million.
Stefan Passantino filed a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which lets people sue the government over alleged wrongdoing by government workers. The lawyer contends the House committee that investigated the deadly 2021 insurrection pushed a false narrative about him. Passantino has since parted ways with his law firm, and his law license is under scrutiny.
For a brief refresher on this saga, let’s refer back to an NBC News report from December, which explained:
[Hutchinson] didn’t even know who was paying her own lawyer, but he made it clear that her job was to “protect the president.” And he kept dangling job opportunities and promising that she would be “taken care of” if she did her part, she ultimately told the committee. ...
Her Trump-allied lawyer, Stefan Passantino, counseled her to say as little as possible to Jan. 6 committee investigators, she said. “We just want to focus on protecting the president. We all know you’re loyal. Let’s just get you in and out,” she said he told her.
Represented by a new lawyer unbound to the Trump world, Hutchinson, a former Trump White House aide, was more forthcoming to the committee, providing damning testimony about the former president and the events surrounding the Capitol attack. As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Wednesday:
At a hearing last summer, Hutchinson testified that Trump wanted to go to the Capitol himself after a rally that preceded the attack. She said Secret Service agents refused to take him because it wasn’t safe, and Trump became so angry that he lunged at one of the agents and tried to grab the steering wheel of the vehicle he was sitting in. Other witnesses said Trump was angry about not being allowed to go to the Capitol, but they did not confirm he lunged at an agent.
According to Passantino’s tort claim, however, the committee “acted against him in an effort to destroy his reputation and career in support of a pre-ordained political and legal narrative against the forty-fifth President of the United States, Donald J. Trump.” He cites CNN reporting on his alleged instruction to Hutchinson — a report he characterized as misleading — and claims the committee leaked information to the network. Passantino contests Hutchinson’s characterizations of his legal counsel to her.
Not having been privy to Hutchinson and Passantino’s private conversations, I can’t speak to the particulars of what he told her and what she told him. What I do know is that I haven’t thought about Passantino much recently, so if this claim to avenge his ailing reputation via millions of government dollars winds up failing, then all it will have it done is remind us of Hutchinson’s allegations against him in the meanwhile.