EXCLUSIVE: Trump told ex-White House ethics lawyer Cassidy Hutchinson to give false testimony to committee Jan. 6, sources say


Washington
CNN

The January 6 Group In a startling allegation on Monday, a pro-Trump lawyer said he had evidence that he urged a key witness to mislead the panel about details he recalled.

Although the group declined to identify the people, CNN has learned that Stephen Passantino, the Trump White House’s top ethics lawyer, is the lawyer who allegedly instructed his then-client, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, to tell the committee. He doesn’t remember the details of what he did, sources familiar with the group’s work told CNN.

Trump’s Save America political action group funded Passantino and his law firm, Elections LLC, including paying for Hutchinson’s representation, other sources told CNN. The committee report notes that the lawyer did not inform his client who was paying for the legal services.

Summer, Hutchinson Witness the blockbuster For the group, it provides important insight into Trump’s mindset and his actions leading up to the January 6 attack on the US Capitol. Before his public testimony, Hutchinson abandoned Passantino and Got a new lawyer.

Asked about the pressure on Hutchinson after Monday’s hearing, panel member Rep. Zoe Lofgren told CNN: “When she did something she was instructed to say she didn’t remember something. So this is a very serious matter.

The episode was one of several instances in which the committee accused members of Trump’s orbit of trying to obstruct the committee’s investigation.

Two sources familiar with the situation tell CNN that Hutchinson has discussed the episode with the Justice Department. CNN previously reported Hutchinson cooperated with the Justice Department’s investigation on January 6 after becoming a key public witness in the House hearing.

CNN has reached out to the Justice Department for comment.

Passantino was not charged with a crime. He said housing investigators have not approached him for an interview.

In a statement to CNN, Passantino said he did not advise Hutchinson to mislead the committee. “I represented Ms. Hutchinson when she informed me that I was honorable, ethical, and fully aligned with her personal interests. I believed Ms. Hutchinson to be honest and cooperative with the team during the many interview sessions I represented her on.

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Stephen Bassantino is seen in a photo by law firm Michael Best.

According to his report, Passantino pointed out that it’s not uncommon for people to change lawyers “because their interests or strategies change.” He added that political groups sometimes cover client fees “at the client’s request.”

In response to the panel’s allegation that she shared her testimony with other lawyers and journalists when she told them not to, she said, “Mrs. Hutchinson’s communications with the outside world were made by his express when I was his attorney. Acknowledgment.”

On Tuesday, Passantino’s professional biography was removed from the website of the Midwest-based law firm where he was a partner — and he acknowledged in a statement that he was on leave from the firm “due to the distraction of this matter.” That firm, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, said Tuesday that it was not involved in the situation and that Hutchinson was not a client.

Passantino said he is a partner in Elections LLC.

The House Jan. 6 Committee, during hearings over the summer, He said he was worried About tampering with potential witnesses. There is CNN reported Witness Hutchinson.

“The committee is aware of several attempts by President Trump to contact select committee witnesses, and the Department of Justice is aware of at least one of those circumstances,” the committee’s brief said.

Members of the House Select Committee hold their last public hearing on December 19, 2022 when Chairman Rep.  Penny Thompson (D-MS) speaks

Later on Monday, the panel revisited the issue in an executive summary of the final report handing over the investigation to the Justice Department.

According to the report, “Counsel advised the witness that under certain circumstances, the witness may tell the panel that he did not recall facts when he was actually recalling them.”

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“When the witness raised concerns with his attorney about that approach,” according to the brief, the attorney said, “They don’t know what you know, [witness]. They don’t know that you can recall some of these things. So your saying ‘I don’t remember’ is a perfectly acceptable answer.

“The attorney advised the client about a specific issue that casts a bad light on President Trump: ‘No, no, no, no, no. We don’t want to go there. We don’t want to talk about that,'” the report said.

At the committee’s final public hearing, Lofgren said: “The witness believed this was an attempt to influence his testimony, and we are concerned that these attempts may be a tactic to prevent the committee from finding the truth.”

Lawyers must follow detailed ethical guidelines as part of their profession, including avoiding conflicts of interest that could compromise their client’s representation. According to legal ethics experts, a lawyer can distort their client’s testimony in ways that are not entirely true, and can stymie the trial.

Elections LLC, a political law practice Passantino and other Trump lawyers founded after he left the Trump White House, received regular payments from Save America PAC and other pro-Trump groups, according to the FEC filing. Save America PAC has distributed more than $150,000 in 2021 and about $275,000 in 2022 for legal advice. The firm has also worked for major Republican congressional campaigns.

This year, Trump’s Save America PAC has paid several law firms to represent witnesses at the Jan. 6 and Mar-a-Lago hearings. The problem arises only if the lawyer does not follow the client’s wishes, legal experts and professional rules say.

The panel, in its briefing Monday, provided several examples of “evidence suggesting specific efforts” that hinder their work. They noted Trump’s efforts to contact some witnesses and that many Secret Service agents hired private lawyers rather than agency-provided lawyers to represent them for free. A Secret Service driver’s attorney admitted to writing notes to the driver as they testified about what was said, according to the committee.

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The group also said it believed some witnesses, such as Trump’s former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and the former president’s daughter Ivanka Trump, were not as “outspoken or forthright” as others.

The report also said the committee believed White House staffer Anthony Arnato “gave testimony consistent with a false account” in a book written by Mark Meadows that downplayed Trump’s willingness to visit the Capitol on Jan. 6.

The committee says it plans to release forms that shed more light on the testimony of witnesses it finds questionable.

In its brief Monday, the panel provided several examples of “evidence suggesting specific efforts” that hinder their work. They noted Trump’s efforts to contact some witnesses and that many Secret Service agents hired private lawyers rather than agency-provided lawyers to represent them for free. A Secret Service driver’s attorney admitted to writing notes to the driver as they testified about what was said, according to the committee.

The group also said it believed some witnesses, such as Trump’s former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and the former president’s daughter Ivanka Trump, were not as “outspoken or forthright” as others.

The report also said the committee believed White House staffer Anthony Arnato “gave testimony consistent with a false account” in a book written by Mark Meadows that downplayed Trump’s willingness to visit the Capitol on Jan. 6.

The committee says it plans to release forms that shed more light on the testimony of witnesses it finds questionable.


This story has been updated with other possible examples of the ban identified by the team.

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