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Hutchinson says she was told, ‘The less you remember, the better’

If you thought there wasn't anything more to learn from Cassidy Hutchinson's Jan. 6 committee testimony, think again.


Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, was entirely unknown to most Americans — right up until late June, when she delivered stunning testimony during a televised House Jan. 6 committee hearing. By any fair measure, the Republican became one of the most important witnesses in the committee’s investigation.

With this in mind, when the bipartisan panel prepared to release transcripts of her sworn testimony, it was tempting to think there just wasn’t much more to learn from Hutchinson. Those assumptions, however, were wrong. The Associated Press reported:

Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson told the House Jan. 6 committee that her first lawyer advised her against being fully forthcoming with the panel, telling her it was acceptable to testify that she did not recall certain events when she actually did and that “the less you remember, the better,” according to a transcript of one of her interviews released Thursday.

There were some indications that something like this was coming. At this week’s Jan. 6 committee meeting, for example, Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren alerted the public to an alleged effort to influence the testimony of key witnesses.

“[O]ne lawyer told a witness, the witness could in certain circumstances tell the committee that she didn’t recall facts when she actually did recall them,” Lofgren said. “That lawyer also did not disclose who was paying for the lawyer’s representation, despite questions from the client seeking that information.” The client was told, “We’re not telling people where funding is coming from right now.”

Today’s news filled in the gaps — and kept going.

The lawyer in question is Stefan Passantino, who, in the recent past, was responsible for policing ethics rules in Donald Trump’s White House. As regular readers know, he also worked for the Trump Organization and spent some time trying to help the Republican keep his tax returns hidden.

But Passantino, who recently took a leave of absence from his law firm, is likely to be far better known now for his representation of Hutchinson.

For example, in addition to memorable legal advice such as “the less you remember, the better,” when Hutchinson recounted the story about the then-president trying to grab a steering wheel on Jan. 6 after being told he couldn’t join rioters on Capitol Hill, she said Passantino told her, “No, no, no, no, no. We don’t want to go there. We don’t want to talk about that.”

The transcripts are worth reading in their entirety, in part to appreciate the scope of the pressure the young aide felt. Hutchinson testified that she felt like Trump "was looking over my shoulder,” adding, “I know how Trump world operates. Stefan had already kind of planted the seeds of, ‘We know you’re loyal,’ like, ‘We know you’re going to do the right thing, We know you’re on Team Trump, we want to take care of you.’”

Hutchinson also worried about having a lawyer paid for by Team Trump. She recalled a conversation with her mother in which she said, “They will ruin my life, Mom, if I do anything they don’t want me to do.”

To her credit, Hutchinson nevertheless changed lawyers and did what they didn’t want her to. “Because my lawyer, I knew wasn’t going to help me — it was clear for a long time that he was not representing my interests in how he knew I wanted to facilitate my relationship with the committee,” she said. “But I was not going to let this moment completely destroy my reputation, my character, and my integrity for a cause that I was starkly opposed to.”

Let’s also not lose sight of the significance of her former boss. Over the summer, Rep. Liz Cheney, the Republican vice chair of the Jan. 6 committee, alerted the public to a highly provocative message: “[A person] let me know you have your deposition tomorrow. He wants me to let you know that he’s thinking about you,” the message said. “He knows you’re loyal, and you’re going to do the right thing when you go in for your deposition.”

As of today, all of this has been fleshed out. Hutchinson recalled an exchange she had with Ben Williamson, a Meadows spokesperson, who allegedly spoke to her the night before a June 23 interview with the committee.

“Well, Mark [Meadows] 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,” Hutchinson testified, recalling what she heard from Williamson.

All of these transcripts have been turned over to the Justice Department, too. I have a hunch some of the key players’ attorneys are painfully aware of that right now.

For his part, Passantino, in a statement of his own, said that he “represented Ms. Hutchinson honorably, ethically, and fully consistent with her sole interests as she communicated them to me.” Referring to her initial testimony, before she changed legal representation, Passantino added that he believed “Hutchinson was being truthful and cooperative with the Committee throughout the several interview sessions in which I represented her.”