Jan. 6 takeaways: Power, pressure and a ‘moral struggle’

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Jan. 6 committee is releasing dozens of witness transcripts from its investigation into the 2021 Capitol attack, including Thursday’s release of a previously unseen account from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson detailing a stunning campaign by Donald Trump’s allies encouraging her to stay “loyal” as she testified.

The House panel is racing to release its final report and other materials and wrap up its work before it is required to dissolve as the new Congress convenes in January.

Among the thousands of pages of testimony — from White House officials, the leaders of the extremist Oath Keepers and Proud Boys groups and others — the gripping account from Hutchinson, a quiet aide who had a front-row seat to the presidency, disclosed details about the Trump team’s promises and pressures.

‘YOU’RE GOING TO BE TAKEN CARE OF’

Cassidy Hutchinson was a lower-level White House aide with a big job.

As an assistant to Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, the recent college graduate sat literally in a corridor of power — a desk in the West Wing that gave her proximity to comings and goings of the presidency.

But her attorney Stefan Passantino had other plans for how she should portray her job as the committee subpoenaed for her testimony.

“We’re going to downplay your role,” Hutchinson recalled the former White House lawyer’s advice.

“You were a secretary. You had an administrative role,” she said he told her. “Keep you answers short, sweet, and simple, seven words or less. The less the committee think you know, the better, the quicker it’s going to go. It’s going to be painless. And then you’re going to be taken care of.”

Passantino in a statement Thursday said that he had “represented Ms. Hutchinson honorably.”

Hutchinson testified her lawyer 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.”

She said, “I almost felt like at points Donald Trump was looking over my shoulder.”

“I know how Trump world operates,” she said.

‘MORAL STRUGGLE’

As the Jan. 6 investigation deepened and her initial testimony became public, the aide said, an uneasy feeling set in.

Hutchinson testified she was uncomfortable with the I-don’t-recall comments she had given to the panel, and took matter into her own hands. She used a back channel through a colleague, former White House aide Alyssa Farah Griffin, to reengage with the committee. Hutchinson wanted them to know she had more to say.

Hutchinson would go on to deliver blockbuster public testimony about what happened Jan. 6 in the presidential SUV as Trump left the “Stop the Steal” rally at the White House and demanded to be taken to the Capitol as a mob loyal to him gathered.

Trump lashed out at his Secret Service team, putting his hand to the SUV driver’s throat, after being denied a trip to the Capitol, she said.

The Secret Service has publicly denied her portrayal of events.

“In my mind this whole time I felt this moral struggle,” Hutchinson said. “And, looking back now, it feels a little — not even ‘a little’ ridiculous — it feels ridiculous, because in my heart I knew where my loyalties lied, and my loyalties lied with the truth.”

She said, “You know, I never wanted or thought that I would be the witness that I have become, because I thought that more people would be willing to speak out too.”

STUDENT OF HISTORY

Hutchinson was a White House intern hired on Meadows’ staff as an aide in 2020, shortly after she graduated.

In a profile published by her alma mater, Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia, she described herself as a first-generation college graduate who called it “an honor” to be chosen for work in White House.

But the Jan. 6 committee made her a real-life student of history.

After first being subpoenaed to appear for testimony, she describes printing out transcripts from past investigations into Russian election interference to understand how it would unfold.

“I am starting to get nervous, and I drove to the Staples in Potomac Yards, Virginia, and I printed off, like, 14 or 15 of the deposition transcripts from the Russia investigation, because I was trying just to read and get in a rhythm of how to answer questions during a deposition, because I had no idea,” she told the investigators.

Later, as she was questioning her own role, she researched the Watergate hearings during Richard Nixon’s administration and bought books she read and reread in a single weekend.

“I didn’t know that much about Watergate,” she told investigators.

She reflected on the parallels between her role and that of Alexander Butterfield, a Nixon-era aide who grappled with the weight of his role.

“He talked about a lot of the same things that I felt like I was experiencing,” she testified. “The emphasis he placed on the moral questions he was asking himself resonated with me.”

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Associated Press writers Farnoush Amiri, Mary Clare Jalonick, Eric Tucker and Nomaan Merchant contributed to this report.

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