Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, has become one of the most useful witnesses for the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Brendan Buck, who was an aide to former House speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), said Hutchinson “was always by [Meadows’s] side … when there were meetings you’d expect to be principal-level or very small, senior staff-level, he would always insist she was in the room.”
Buck said Hutchinson was usually a quiet presence, largely there to take notes.
“It’s just unusual to have a relatively junior aide to either be in principal-level or senior staff-level, but it was his call, so we deferred to him,” he said. “She was in every single meeting.”
Video clips from Hutchinson’s interviews have been featured by the panel during earlier hearings, but Tuesday was the first time she offered live testimony at a public hearing. She has testified for about two dozen hours over the course of multiple sessions. Hutchinson said Meadows — whom she has not talked to since leaving the White House — destroyed documents and was directly involved with efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
Hutchinson was by Meadows’s side leading up to and during the Capitol attack and often took notes in strategy sessions held between the White House and President Donald Trump’s allies in Congress about whether they should encourage “Stop the Steal” participants to march to the U.S. Capitol, and how to set up alternative slates of electors.
“Cassidy Hutchinson might turn out to be the next John Dean,” Norm Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who served as counsel to House Democrats for Trump’s first impeachment trial, told The Washington Post. Dean was the former presidential counsel who accused President Richard M. Nixon of having direct involvement in the Watergate break-in scandal to Senate investigators and federal prosecutors.
The Post reported that Hutchinson confirmed to the Jan. 6 committee that at one point Meadows said Trump had indicated support for protesters who were shouting “Hang Mike Pence!”
Videotaped testimony from Hutchinson was also central to allegations of pardon-hunting by Republican House members. The allegations were aired by the committee at Thursday’s hearing.
Hutchinson testified that she was involved with conversations about requests from GOP Reps. Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Mo Brooks (Ala.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Louie Gohmert (Tex.) and Scott Perry (Pa.), all of whom she said had sought a promise from the White House to be cleared in advance of any crimes they might be charged with. Perry had previously denied seeking a pardon, but Hutchinson insisted that Biggs also denied he sought a pardon. Gaetz tweeted last Thursday that the Jan. 6 committee is “an unconstitutional political sideshow” that is “siccing federal law enforcement on political opponents.”
According to a court filing in April, Hutchinson told congressional investigators that Meadows was warned before Jan. 6 about the threat of violence that day as supporters of Trump planned to mass at the Capitol.
Hutchinson recalled that Anthony Ornato, a senior Secret Service official who also held the role of a political adviser at the White House, “coming in and saying that we had intel reports saying that there could potentially be violence on the 6th. And Mr. Meadows said: All right. Let’s talk about it.”
Hutchinson added, “I’m not sure if he — what he did with that information internally.”
Those details were in a filing arguing that a federal court should reject Meadows’s claims of executive privilege and compel him to appear before the House Jan. 6 committee, which is continuing to build a case that Trump knowingly misled his followers about the election and pressured Vice President Mike Pence to break the law in the weeks and hours before the assault.
In what is viewed as a willingness to cooperate with the panel, Hutchinson changed attorneys just ahead of her testimony.
Her previous lawyer, Stefan Passantino, was a White House ethics lawyer early in Trump’s tenure. Hutchinson’s new lawyer, Jody Hunt, is a longtime confidant of Jeff Sessions, the former Republican senator from Alabama who served as Trump’s first attorney general and resigned in November 2018 at the president’s request.
Hutchinson interned for House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) before becoming a White House intern the summer before her senior year at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va. But the Pennington, N.J., native has not had a full-time job since leaving the White House.
After returning to college that fall, Hutchinson said being selected to work in the executive mansion brought tears to her eyes.
“As a first-generation college student, being selected to serve as an intern alongside some of the most intelligent and driven students from across the nation — many of whom attend top universities — was an honor and a tremendous growing experience,” she told her university in October 2018.
She once told her alma mater: “I have set a personal goal to pursue a path of civic significance.”
Andrew Kirkpatrick taught Hutchinson international politics at CNU and remembers her as an excellent student. He recalls her landing a White House internship being a major deal for the school’s political science department.
“CNU is an interesting place,” he said. “We don’t have the type of students who are like, ‘I’m going to go and intern for the White House,’ or ‘I’m going to be a senator in 10 years.' ”
“That’s not our typical student,” Kirkpatrick added. “But I would say of the students I had, I wasn’t completely surprised when she got it. I’d say that.”
Professors in the university’s political science department spent Tuesday texting each other about how well Hutchinson did recounting her experience as a White House staffer.
“We’re all extremely proud of the way she did, the way she performed,” Kirkpatrick said. “She’s a real credit to the university, to the political science department, and we’re just very, very proud of her.”
Her supporters and critics would probably argue that she did exactly that by becoming one of the youngest — yet least experienced — members of the White House staff. The position directly led to Hutchinson, at 25, confidently and calmly testifying that the most powerful man in the country, Trump, had been out of control and stoking an armed insurrection.
“She has been an unvarnished truth-teller, and I find her to be an encouraging and inspiring figure because she is so young and she has not allowed her idealism and belief in government to be jaded and poisoned by the people around her,” said Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), calling Hutchinson one of the committee’s most important witnesses.
Hutchinson was derisively called “Chief Cassidy” by some fellow White House staffers due to her extraordinary access and inordinate power in Trump’s White House. Her presence in legislative meetings even caught the attention of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s staff, who wondered why such a young staffer was present. Her dedication to carrying out Trump’s mission was part of the answer.
“It was her dream,” one former White House official said. “She saw the magnitude of what she was doing.”
Jacqueline Alemany, Devlin Barrett and Josh Dawsey contributed to this report.