Cassidy Hutchinson’s September 2022 depositions have great dramatic impact
I assume all listeners at least know about the riveting testimony of former White House Aide, Cassidy Hutchinson, before the January 6 Committee that was broadcast on TV last June. Many saw it live, still more have seen it since on You Tube. [It is available here.]
I myself saw much of it live and agreed it was dramatic and very useful. But just recently I have dived into reading two days’ worth of depositions that she gave to the Committee three months later in September of last year. I believe there is a helluva story here --- way beyond what was revealed in the live testimony before Congress.
The first thing to understand about Cassidy Hutchinson is that she is very young – she is 26 years old. She graduated from college with a major in political science and American studies in 2019. In the summer of 2016 she worked as an intern for Senator Ted Cruz. In the summer of 2017, she worked for Representative Steve Scalise. Her first stop after graduation was as a White House intern in the summer of 2019. In early 2020, when Mark Meadows became Chief of Staff to Donald Trump, he hired Ms. Hutchinson as an aide. From that perch she ended up able to observe many actions of former President Trump as well as Meadows and other staffers. Notice the pattern here. She is a Republican through and through, and had no trouble taking jobs in the worlds of right-wing members of that party. To the extent that she connected her professional post-college activities with politics, she was comfortable in that world, including in the Trump White House.
The beauty of the September transcript is that it details, in sometimes painful testimony, how she came to see the necessity of breaking with Trump’s world. The result was what the nation saw in June. Now don’t get me wrong. I consider what she testified to orally as extremely important in documenting significant facts. She quoted many individuals who told her that Trump had been told repeatedly that he had lost the election and that he knew that. She also testified that the January 6 so-called “spontaneous demonstration” – the march to the Capitol—was planned by Trump in advance:
[For the various steps taken by Trump to overturn the 2020 Presidential election which culminated in the January 6 insurrection, see Finian O’Toole, “Dress Rehearsal: Trump’s attempt almost two years ago to undermine the 202 election reads today like a blueprint drawn for a future autocrat,” The New York Review of Books (January 19, 2023) available here.]
She also told stories of Trump’s demand that the magnetometers be taken down so his armed supporters could crowd in closer to the speechifying at the January 6 pre-march rally – “They are not here to hurt me …” – She told of the fury Trump displayed when the Secret Service refused to drive him to the Capitol so he could march in --- sort of like Mussolini when he and his blackshirts marched on Rome and took over the government in 1922 without firing a shot. And there were other unbelievably valuable pieces of information presented by her.
However, I believe that all that significant useful information should not overshadow the incredible human drama that unfolded during the two days of sworn depositions she gave the committee three months later in September.
I have not yet had the time read all of the material carefully --- but I learned a great deal. For anyone who wants to (and the two days of transcript cover over 260 pages) they can be found at the following websites:
https://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/23506040/cassidy-hutchinson-january-6-transcript-september-14-2022.pdf and https://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/23506086/cassidy-hutchinson-january-6-transcript-september-15-2022.pdf.
For those who do not want to read all 260 pages, there are some good journalistic accounts including Barsha Roy, “She better be protected well”: Explosive Cassidy Hutchinson transcript goes viral in wake of Mark Meadows revelations,” (December 29, 2022) available here. Or check out this piece from Esquire: Charles Pierce, “Cassidy Hutchinson Saved Herself from the Fire: The same one that Mark Meadows was apparently throwing all those documents into,” (December 28, 2022) available here.
These are some of my take-aways. When it looked like she would be subpoenaed to testify before the January 6 Committee, she tried to find lawyers who were not in “Trump world” because she had a fear that if she chose lawyers with that bent, they might encourage her to shade the truth. Having seen how things happened around the White House, she was afraid of what might happen if she told the truth but also at the same time she afraid NOT to tell the truth.
But, of course, she had no money and no lawyer would work for free. So, she ended up with Trump world lawyers who clearly (as the events unfolded during 2021 and into 2022) were more interested in protecting Trump than in looking out for her interests. As I read of her exchanges as she recalled it in her depositions, I became more and more incensed. Here is one exchange when they were doing deposition prep and she asked whether she should prepare a calendar and time line. The lawyer said “No, No, No. Look, we want to get you in, get you out. We’re going to downplay your role. You were a secretary. You had an administrative role. Everyone’s on the same page about this. It’s extremely unfair that they’re” [“they’re” being the committee] “that the committee is putting you in this position in the first place. You really have nothing to do with any of this. It’s Mark’s [Meadows] fault that you’re even involved in this. We’re completely happy to be taking care of you now. We had no idea that you weren’t being taken care of this last year.” (page 30 of the September 14 transcript).
In the course of her deposition we meet Trumpist lawyer Stefan Passantino. Here’s one exchange as remembered by Ms. Hutchinson: “So that’s when he sort of sort of had went into the “don’t recalls.” And he said, “If you don’t 100 percent recall something, even if you don’t recall a date or somebody whom you may or may not have been in the room, that’s an entirely fine answer, and we want you to use that response as much as you deem necessary.” [she responded to Passantino] “But if I do recall something but not every little detail, Stefan, can I still say I don’t recall?” And he had said, “Yes.” And I said, “But if I do remember things but not every little detail, and I say I don’t recall, wouldn’t I be perjuring myself?” and he had – Stefan had said something to the effect of, “The committee doesn’t know what you can and can’t recall, so we want to be able to use that as much as we can.” (p. 36 from the September 14 transcript.)
Notice how this guy is talking to her, encouraging her to “not remember” things and dismissing the danger that it would be considered perjury, even as she was telling herself of course it’s perjury since she did remember.
Then, there are the constant promises from Passantino and others that she’d be “taken care of” --- as in she’d get a good job once she continued to stonewall the Committee. There’s a special place in Hell for a lawyer purporting to represent the best interest of a client while in fact manipulating a young person to commit crimes in defense of “the boss.” I hope he gets disbarred. (His name has been completely removed from the website of his law firm from which he has taken a “leave of absence.”)
There is a very interesting discussion of how Ms. Hutchinson came to break free from what she later called “bad legal advice” from the Trumpist lawyers. She ended up reaching out to a friend, Alyssa Farah and through her made back-channel contact with Representative Liz Cheney and ultimately broke off all contacts with Passantino and secured the services (pro bono) of independent lawyers who were not in “Trump world.”
[Ms. Hutchinson’s deposition introduces this meeting with Alyssa Farah on page 85 and it is not till page 109 that she finally breaks with Passantino. There is unbelievably dramatic detail and dialogue in those pages of testimony. During this time Passantino is trying to keep her from further cooperation with the Committee, even at one point saying that the danger of a contempt prosecution is quite remote. Meanwhile, of course she is saying to him that she might go to jail! Another running story are the various job possibilities dangled before her though she never gets a firm offer --- they are apparently waiting to see if she will remain “loyal.”]
In the September depositions, Ms. Hutchinson acknowledged that in her earliest testimony (before her public testimony in June) when she was represented by “Trump world” lawyers, she did commit perjury – claiming lack of memory when her memory in fact was very clear. How she worried, wrestled with herself and ultimately decided to come clean is the stuff of drama. Also quite revealing is despite her youth, Ms. Hutchinson did not attempt to excuse her failings in those earlier depositions. She admitted she had lied and took full personal responsibility. It’s for people like the rest of us to put the blame on the Trumpists who used her cruelly for their own nefarious ends.
I certainly hope that an outstanding filmmaker television writer will take these transcripts, make a deal with Ms. Hutchinson and tell her story --- the words on the computer screen from the depositions are unbelievably dramatic. Imagine what the dialogue will be in the hands of a Tony Kushner or Steven Spielberg?
Michael Meeropol is professor emeritus of Economics at Western New England University. He is the author with Howard and Paul Sherman of the recently published second edition of Principles of Macroeconomics: Activist vs. Austerity Policies
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