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Last month, Cassidy Hutchinson, who used to work for President Donald J. Trump's chief of staff, said shocking things about him in court.
Last month, Cassidy Hutchinson, who used to work for President Donald J. Trump's chief of staff, said shocking things about him in court.

Why the Jan. 6 Committee Was in a Hurry About Cassidy Hutchinson

Due to being with her family and feeling safe, Ms. Hutchinson, who is 26, has formed an unlikely bond with Representative Liz Cheney, who is the vice chairwoman of the panel.

The day before the Jan. 6 committee deposed Cassidy Hutchinson for the fourth time, the former Trump White House aide got a phone call that would completely change the plans of the committee and start a new chapter in American politics.

On that day in June, the caller told Ms. Hutchinson: "Let me know you have your deposition tomorrow. He asked me to tell you that he is thinking of you. He knows you'll stick by him. And when you go in for your deposition, you'll do the right thing."

The next day, at Ms. Hutchinson's deposition, committee members looking into the attack on the Capitol were so alarmed by what they thought was a clear case of witness tampering, as well as by Ms. Hutchinson's shocking account of President Donald J. Trump's behavior on Jan. 6, 2021, that they decided in a meeting on June 24, a Friday, to hold an emergency public hearing with Ms. Hutchinson as the surprise witness the next Tuesday

People close to the committee said that the speed was because of two very important things: Ms. Hutchinson was under a lot of pressure from Trump World, and the panelists thought that telling her story to the public would make her less vulnerable, bring her powerful allies, and act as a kind of protection in and of itself. People also said that the committee had to move quickly to keep some of the most explosive testimony ever heard on Capitol Hill from getting out.

Ms. Hutchinson and Rep. Liz Cheney, who is the vice chairwoman of the Jan. 6 committee, have become close.
Ms. Hutchinson and Rep. Liz Cheney, who is the vice chairwoman of the Jan. 6 committee, have become close.

In the two weeks since, Ms. Hutchinson's story of a crazy president who told his armed supporters to march to the Capitol, yelled at his Secret Service detail, and threw his lunch against a wall has made her both a hero and a villain. Trump's critics have called her a 21st-century John Dean, while Mr. Trump has called her a "total phony."

Ms. Hutchinson's testimony also pushed the committee to try harder to talk to Mr. Trump's White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, who met with the committee in private on Friday. At the committee's next public hearing on Tuesday, his videotaped testimony is likely to be shown.

Now that she is unemployed and stuck at home with her family and a security detail, 26-year-old Ms. Hutchinson has formed an unlikely friendship with Ms. Cheney, a Wyoming Republican who used to work as an aide to former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell during the George W. Bush administration. It was during this time that she learned how to work with different male egos during a time of crisis. Friends say that Ms. Cheney admires the younger woman's willingness to put her friendships and career on the line by talking about what she saw in the last days of the Trump White House. This is because Ms. Cheney was kicked out of her party and lost her leadership position because she spoke out against Mr. Trump.

Ms. Cheney said at the end of a recent speech at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., "I have been very moved by the young women I have met and who have come forward to testify before the Jan. 6 committee."

When she said Ms. Hutchinson's name, the crowd stood up and cheered.

In 2019, there will be students at Christopher Newport University.
In 2019, there will be students at Christopher Newport University.

More Influence Than Her Age

Ms. Hutchinson's biography didn't say much about the path that led a young Trump supporter to become a star witness against the former president.

She grew up in Pennington, N.J., a one-square-mile village that has been around since the 1600s and was once home to "Jaws" author Peter Benchley. Her father ran a business that trimmed trees.

No one in her family had ever gone to college, but Ms. Hutchinson left home in 2015 to go to Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va., a small liberal arts school with a strict dress code.

Ms. Hutchinson chose to major in political science. Michelle Barnello, who was chair of the department at the time, taught her two classes.

"Our students are mostly conservative, and Cassidy didn't stand out as a hard-liner," Dr. Barnello said. "I think of her as someone who was committed to Republican principles, but she didn't seem like a hard-liner."

She remembered that Ms. Hutchinson was friendly but also determined, and that she and her lacrosse-playing boyfriend often sat in the front row of the classroom.

A year after working as an intern for Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas in 2016, Ms. Hutchinson and her boyfriend both worked as interns for Republican House members in 2017. She worked for Representative Steve Scalise, who was shot while playing softball with other Republicans in June of that year. In the spring after that, Ms. Hutchinson got a White House internship, which was a big deal at Christopher Newport. The website for the campus and the Facebook page for the political science department both had stories about a high-achieving junior.

By chance, Ms. Hutchinson's internship was in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, where, unlike on Capitol Hill, interns are expected to take notes at high-level meetings and talk to senior staff members and House members. Former people who worked in the Trump White House said that Ms. Hutchinson stood out from the other interns because she worked hard and had a good attitude. After she graduated, she got a permanent job as the least senior staff assistant on the House side of the Trump administration's legislative affairs office. She was paid $43,600 a year.

"She kind of came in and took the place by storm," said a former White House official, who, like others who spoke highly of Ms. Hutchinson, asked to remain anonymous to avoid the public wrath of Mr. Trump and his allies. "Just a very smart and hard-working person. She was the kind of person who worked so hard that I often had to tell her to slow down so she wouldn't burn out.

Ms. Hutchinson was often in touch with Congress members on behalf of Mark Meadows.
Ms. Hutchinson was often in touch with Congress members on behalf of Mark Meadows.

During the first attempt to impeach President Trump in 2019, Ms. Hutchinson was one of a small group of legislative affairs staffers whose job it was to get angry House Republicans to back the president. In the end, not a single one of them left, which was a success that reflected well on Ms. Hutchinson and every other White House worker who was involved.

Some people in the House thought it was rude that the young assistant started calling people by their first names so quickly. But other people could see it was working: They said that in her first year on the job, Ms. Hutchinson made very strong connections with representatives.

"Trust me, nobody ever sat down and said, 'Hey, Cassidy, you're too friendly with the members,'" said a colleague who asked not to be named because he didn't want to anger Mr. Trump. "You can be an assistant who rarely goes to Capitol Hill. Or you could be like Cassidy, who took every chance to help her get a better job in the future.

Which happened very quickly. During the impeachment hearings, Ms. Hutchinson worked backstage, which put her in touch with Representative Mark Meadows, the powerful chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. When he became Mr. Trump's chief of staff in March 2020, he quickly hired Ms. Hutchinson as his special assistant from the legislative affairs office.

Her influence was clear right away. Republican staffers on Capitol Hill found out that Ms. Hutchinson was the way to reach Mr. Meadows and that if they texted him, she might be the one to respond. She talked to House Republicans like Representatives Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan, and Elise Stefanik a lot on Mr. Meadows's behalf. One of Mr. Meadows's former coworkers said that there were times when he got staff members off Air Force One to make room for Ms. Hutchinson.

Some staff members begrudged her rise. Alyssa Farah Griffin, a friend of Ms. Hutchinson and a former communications director in the Trump White House, said, "I think she became a victim of her own access and success." "I'm sure that the people above her were angry about it."

At first, Ms. Hutchinson tried hard not to make assumptions about Mr. Trump.
At first, Ms. Hutchinson tried hard not to make assumptions about Mr. Trump.

A New Lawyer

A federal marshal went to Ms. Hutchinson's door early this year and gave her a subpoena to appear before the Jan. 6 committee. Since she was out of work and couldn't pay for a lawyer, she hired Stefan Passantino, a former ethics lawyer for the Trump White House. Ms. Hutchinson's lawyer, Mr. Passantino, was paid for by Mr. Trump's Save America PAC, just like the lawyers for some of the other witnesses who were called before the panel.

Mr. Passantino had many business relationships with people in Mr. Trump's circle. Reports from the Federal Election Commission show that Trump-related political action committees gave his legal compliance firm more than $1 million in the 2021-22 election cycle. In the previous election cycle, Marjorie Taylor Greene, a strong Trump supporter who was running for the House at the time, paid him more than $93,000 for his services.

Two people close to the situation say that Ms. Hutchinson's first deposition to the committee was on February 23. At that time, it was not clear to her that Mr. Passantino's interests as a Trump associate might be different from hers. What was clear were the things she said that morning and in two depositions to committee members after that. They were shocking and showed that she was close to power.

Parts of her first three depositions that have been made public show that Ms. Hutchinson said she heard Anthony M. Ornato, the deputy chief of staff at the White House, tell Mr. Meadows that intelligence reports predicted violence a few days before Jan. 6. She also said that by the end of November 2020, Republicans in the House were already pushing for Vice President Mike Pence to change the results of the election.

But Ms. Hutchinson was careful not to make any guesses about the president. At one point, she said, "I can't say if Mr. Trump — yeah, I'll leave it there."

Trump's critics have called Ms. Hutchinson a 21st-century John Dean, while Mr. Trump has called her a "total phony."
Trump's critics have called Ms. Hutchinson a 21st-century John Dean, while Mr. Trump has called her a "total phony."

A friend said that over the next few months, Ms. Hutchinson became more interested in helping the committee's investigation, but she did not see the same interest in Mr. Passantino.

"She realized she couldn't call her lawyer to say, 'Hey, I have more information,'" said the friend, who asked to remain anonymous. "He was there to protect the big guy from the cold."

Mr. Passantino declined to comment.

Ms. Hutchinson then got in touch with Ms. Griffin, who had already been helping the committee. Ms. Griffin told former Republican congresswoman Barbara Comstock what Ms. Hutchinson was worried about. Ms. Comstock is a vocal critic of Mr. Trump. Ms. Comstock said in an interview that she could have seen Ms. Hutchinson's situation coming because she had once talked a young man out of joining the Trump administration. "I told her, 'You'll end up paying legal fees,'" Ms. Comstock remembered.

Ms. Comstock offered to start a fund to help pay for Ms. Hutchinson's legal defense so that she wouldn't have to rely on a lawyer who was paid for by Trump supporters. But this didn't work out. Jody Hunt, who was in charge of the civil division of the Justice Department under Trump's former attorney general and another pariah in Trump's world, Jeff Sessions, offered to represent her for free. Mr. Hunt went with Ms. Hutchinson to her fourth deposition at the end of June, when she felt more at ease talking about what Mr. Trump did on January 6. Everyone agreed that her public testimony needed to go faster.

Ms. Hutchinson now has to deal with two facts. One is that she will keep giving information to the Jan. 6 committee, with Mr. Hunt as her lawyer and Ms. Cheney as the person the committee has chosen to talk to her.

The other is that she doesn't know what her future will be like.

A former coworker in the White House legislative affairs office who is still friendly with Ms. Hutchinson said that from the moment she got her subpoena, her goal in working with the committee was to find the quickest way to put the whole thing behind her.

But, the friend said, she's just getting started.


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