A Woman for All Seasons
After reading a portion of the just released transcript of Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony to the January 6 committee, I used bad Twitter to express an opinion about her testimony that seemed to be get some attention:
I know it’s going to happen…probably already happening. Reese Witherspoon or some other savvy Hollywood power player is going to make Cassidy Hutchinson’s story into a movie or HBO series. I’d love to be the one that does it, but that’s probably not going to happen. However, I do have this handy little blog, and I want to use the Nob to get down first and foremost my own vision for this project.
It would turn the Man for All Seasons myth on its head. In that Academy Award winning Best Picture movie Thomas More struggled to balance loyalty to his king, Henry VII, with loyalty to his Church. His king wanted More to condone the annulment of his marriage to his old wife and accept his marriage to his new wife. More refused to break with the precepts of Catholicism and the authority of the Pope to do so. The high-toned dialog of A Man for All Seasons treats the entire imbroglio as an epic, metaphysical battle for the human soul. To sustain such a lofty profile, one would have to ignore the tawdry, brutish circumstances of Henry VIII’s life and the moral priggishness and religious extremism of Thomas More’s life. Robert Bolt, the author of A Man for All Season, ignores both brilliantly…not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’ve already given my blessing to creators doing what they wish with actual life stories.
The Cassidy Hutchinson story, however, would be greatly enhanced by foregoing any attempt at whitewashing. In the transcript of her testimony we vividly see how excruciating a struggle it can be for an ordinary human to do the right thing. What follows are excerpts from her testimony that detail her deeply mixed emotions of how it was with her first Trump supplied lawyer, Stefan Passantino, representing her.
Ms. Cheney. And was there anything else at the breakfast as you were preparing for the interview that you can recall?
Ms. Hutchinson. Not that I haven’t previously stated.I think I already said this; I don’t know. For the record in case I didn’t, yeah,I just — I don’t remember raising specific issues that morning that I was nervous about, but I was telling him I was nervous that you all were going to ask me certain questions that I would recall. And he said, “Your go-to, Cass, is ‘I don’t recall.’”
He was like, “Again, if you start using that in the beginning, they’re going to realize really quick that they have better witnesses than you, and they’re not going to ask you as complicated of questions as you’re worried about.” And he was like, “Trust me. You just need to trust me on this.” So l said, “Okay.”
Ms. Cheney. Okay. So then we get into the first interview. And can you walk us through that first interview with the committee and Stefan’s interactions with you during the interview?
Ms. Hutchinson. Yes. To be completely frank, I was extremely nervous going into the first interview, for a multitude of reasons. You know, I felt like — I almost felt like at points Donald Trump was looking over my shoulder.
Because, one, I know how Trump world operates. Two, 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, like, we want to take care of you. So it’s those phrases that I had heard throughout my tenure at the White House, that I’d worked to separate myself from for a year, now I’m hearing them again.
And it’s like, oh, my gosh, now I’m sitting here with a lawyer who also represents maybe Trump on certain matters but is definitely deeply connected in Trump world.
Ms. Hutchinson. Now, don’t get me wrong, too. Like, with or without Stefan, I don’t think that I would’ve wanted to provide information that was hurtful to the President. I mean, still to this day, like, I feel bad if he’s ever embarrassed by anything that I said, but I never wanted to lie about anything. I never would’ve covered that story up, because I knew -I knew what I was told.
But, this one, there was no way out. And that’s why I was so explicit with Stefan. I was like, “I lied. I lied, I lied, I lied.” And he had said, “No. You’re fine, you’re fine.”
So then we went back into the interview, and that sort of had me rattled for a little bit. And, yeah, I’d said to him, like, “They know I know a lot.” And he said, “They don’t know you know a lot. You think they know, because you do.” He’s like, “But you’re doing the right thing.”
Ms. Hutchinson. So, that night, Stefan and I had a glass of wine at Michael Best, and he had said, you know, “I was going to call my law partners” — Terwilliger and Moran, George Terwilliger and John Moran, who were at the time representing Mr. Meadows. I think they still are; I’m not sure.
“I was going to call them tonight to let them know that you had your interview today and that you did a good job and that it’s over.” He said, “But I’m kind of having second thoughts now.” He’s like, “I’ll figure out how to handle it with my law partners, but I think I should call Terwilliger and Moran in the next couple days and say ‘Cassidy’s interview is scheduled for’ and then give the date.” He’s like, “I don’t want them to think that you went in twice, because I don’t think that will make Mark happy.” He’s like, “So I’m just going to try to downplay it and make it seem like your next second interview is your first and last interview, if that’s okay with you.”
And at the time, again, I didn’t really have any objections. I was like, “Look, you’re my lawyer. I’m going to trust that you are going to do what’s best for me.” And he said, “Okay. Great.” We briefly talked about jobs that night, nothing too substantive until -
Ms. Cheney. I’m sorry. What did he say about jobs that night?
Ms. Hutchinson. He said that he was going to talk to his law partners in that conversation and then that they would be in touch with me soon about getting employment, because he was like — Stefan said something to the effect of, “They’re dragging this out for you. This is so not fair. We want to make sure that we get you financially set up and taken care of as quickly as possible.
Ms. Hutchinson. So, then, on March 1st, we called and we were talking briefly about jobs. Like, he had texted me that he had a few good job leads, so I called him. And he began the conversation saying something like, “We’re gonna get you a really good job in Trump world. You don’t need to apply other places. We’re gonna get you taken care of. We want to keep you in the family.”
Ms. Hutchinson. Stefan sent that email. He knew that I wanted to do the second one in person. He said, “Do you see an upside to this? Candidly, I don’t.” And then we just kind of go through it. And then he decides — he said -
Ms.Cheney. Why did you want to do it in person?
Ms. Hutchinson. I felt that if I could see you all face-to-face, it would be easier to have these conversations.
One, I really don’t like Zoom. I think Zoom is extremely impersonal, and I prefer face-to-face communication.
But I also felt that, if I were to do a second interview in person, you know, I think I articulate myself better face-to-face. It’s more emotional and personal to me. But I also thought, like — and this is going to sound quintessential and cheesy, but I also felt that, like, I would have a little bit more courage to kind of break away because you guys would be sitting in front of me, and there’d be my lawyer next to me, but there would be more people in front of me that I could talk to, where I’m not feeling like it’s him, Stefan, watching over my shoulder.
Ms. Hutchinson. Yes. And would you mind if we briefly step back just for one item on the 23rd?
Ms. Cheney. Not at all.
Ms. Hutchinson. I just wanted to make it clear for the record — and I believe I’ve sort of alluded to this, but I just want to make it a little bit more clear that, throughout my first interview, yes, there were specific instances where either he would interject or I would say “I don’t recall,” but in my mind this whole time I felt this moral struggle.
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. And I never wanted to diverge from that. 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.
But as I’m going through the first interview, I remember just in the back of my mind I was constantly thinking, like — I was trying so hard to be loyal to the President and to be loyal to Meadows and to be loyal to the Trump White House, one, becauseI felt that I had to be. I had Stefan sitting next to me, and he had never explicitly said, like, “You have to be loyal to these people, and if you’re not, these will be the repercussions,” but I knew the repercussions. I’d been in this world. I knew what I was subjecting myself to when I got into this situation, and I knew what I had to do to get through it. But in the back of my mind, too, I just kept thinking, like, “This is wrong. I don’t like who I’m being right now. I don’t like the way that I’m handling this right now.” But I just sort of reconciled that as I moved through as, “You know what? I’m getting it done. And it’s what my lawyer told me to do. Maybe it is the right thing. Maybe I am overthinking it. You know, they are talking to other people.” But I did just feel this heavy guilt, walking out of Michael Best that night.
And I told Stefan that whenI left that night. I was like, “Stefan, I feel really guilty and bad about not answering some questions today.” I was like, “I feel like I should go back and clarify some things next time.” He said, “Well, we can talk about it,” he’s like, “but you did really well today, Cass. I don’t want you to second-guess anything. We’re all really proud of you. Don’t worry. Just go home and get some sleep. We’ll talk in a couple days.”
So I just, like, for the purposes of the clarity of the record too, I’m not sitting here trying to make myself out to be some hero. I know I handled things wrong. At least, I think I handled some things wrong in the first interview. You know, I hate that I had this moral struggle, because it shouldn’t have existed. But once I got back into that world and they were, quote/unquote, “taking care of me,” I felt that I owed my allegiance to other people too. And drawing that line, for me, was nearly impossible, moving through this day. And it’s hard. Like, there were some questions I would say, like, “I don’t recall, but” — and then, as I read through the transcript, I can see, like, where I’m trying to give a little bit. And we’d take a break, and Stefan would say, “You’re doing really well, but you’re starting to answer questions that they’re not really asking yet. Maybe they won’t go there. Let’s just keep trying to taper it down a little bit. You’re doing well. Let’s wrap this up. We don’t want to make this longer than it has to be.”
So the question for me became, where do my loyalties lie? And I knew where they were, but I wasn’t equipped with people that allowed me and empowered me to be loyal to the country and to be loyal to the truth.
And whether or not what I had to share was important to the scheme of your investigation, like, I didn’t know. Again, I partially thought that it would be corroborating. I didn’t think that it would be sometimes the first that you guys had heard things or however it ended up playing out.
But, you know, I did feel like it was my obligation and my duty to share it, because I think that if you’re given a position of public power, it’s also your job, your civic responsibility, to allow the people to make decisions for themselves. And if no one’s going to do that, like, somebody has to do it.
So, anyway, that’s just — you know, it’s a sidebar, but just sort of a — my mindset that day was kind of all over the place. And, obviously, my responses are reflected in that.
And it wasn’t just that I had Stefan sitting next to me; it was almost like I felt like I had Trump looking over my shoulder. Because I knew in some fashion it would get back to him if I said anything that he would find disloyal. And the prospect of that genuinely scared me. You know, I’d seen this world ruin people’s lives or try to ruin people’s careers around D.C. all that long, but I think some of it is unique to Trump world, the level they’ll go to to tear somebody else down. I’d seen how vicious they can be.
And part of that’s politics, but a lot of it, too — you know, I obviously haven’t been around D.C. all that long, but I think some of it is unique to Trump world, the level they’ll go to to tear somebody else down. And I was scared of that.
So just, this first interview, like, that was also going on in the back of my mind. And trying to work through and deal with that was hard. But I also don’t want to underemphasize that Stefan did give me legal counsel and advice, but I took it. I didn’t have to take it. I took it. He was my lawyer, and I believed it.
So, like, I can’t pin — morally, I can’t sit here and pin all of the blame on him, because I’m also an adult that can make decisions. It was my job to accept the legal counsel that he provided me, and, you know, I did.
I would hardly change a word of any of that. Could probably be the easiest Oscar-winning screenplay anyone ever wrote.