Exclusive: Trump’s former White House ethics lawyer told Cassidy Hutchinson to give misleading testimony to January 6 committee, sources say

Date:


Washington
CNN

The Jan. 6 commission made a startling claim Monday, claiming it had evidence that a Trump-backed attorney urged a key witness to mislead the commission about details they remembered.

While the committee declined to identify the people, CNN has learned that Stefan Passantino, the top ethics attorney in the Trump White House, is the attorney who allegedly advised his then-client, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, to leave the committee she didn’t remember any details she did, sources familiar with the commission’s work tell CNN.

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

Over the summer, Hutchinson came forward as a blockbuster witness to the committee, providing key insight into Trump’s state of mind and actions leading up to the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Before her public testimony, Hutchinson dropped Passantino and got a new attorney.

When asked about the pressure on Hutchinson after Monday’s hearing, committee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren told CNN: “She was advised to say she didn’t remember something when she did that. So that’s pretty serious stuff.

The episode is just one of many cases in which the committee has accused members of Trump’s job of trying to obstruct the panel’s investigation.

Two sources familiar with the situation tell CNN Hutchinson discussed the episode with the Justice Department. CNN previously reported that Hutchinson cooperated with the Justice Department’s Jan. 6 investigation after she became a key public witness in the House investigation.

CNN contacted the Justice Department for comment.

Passantino has not been charged with a crime. He said home investigators never contacted him for an interview.

In a statement to CNN, Passantino said he had not advised Hutchinson to mislead the commission. “I represented Ms. Hutchinson honorably, ethically and in full accordance with her only interests as she communicated them to me. I believed that Ms. Hutchinson was truthful and co-operated with the committee during the various interview sessions in which I represented her.

Stefan Passantino seen in a photo of the law firm Michael Best.

Passantino pointed out that it’s not uncommon for people to change lawyers “because their interests or strategies change,” his statement said. He also said political commissions sometimes cover client fees “at the request of the client”.

Responding to an accusation from the commission that he also shared her testimony with other lawyers and the press, even when she told him not to, he said authorization.”

On Tuesday, Passantino’s professional biography was removed from the website of a Midwestern law firm where he was a partner — and he acknowledged in his statement that he was on leave from the firm “given the distraction of this case.” That company, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, said on Tuesday it was not involved in the situation and that Hutchinson was not a customer.

Passantino said he remains a partner at Elections LLC.

The House Jan. 6 committee said it was concerned about possible witness tampering during summer hearings. CNN reported that the witness was Hutchinson.

The committee summary stated that the panel “is aware of multiple attempts by President Trump to contact witnesses from the selected committee. The Justice Department is aware of at least one of those circumstances.”

Chairman Rep.  Bennie Thompson (D-MS) speaks as House Select Committee members hold their final public hearing on December 19, 2022

Then on Monday, in its final report summary, the commission returned to the issue again when handing over the investigation to the Justice Department.

According to the report, “the lawyer had pointed out to the witness that in certain circumstances the witness could say to the committee that she did not remember facts when she did remember them”.

“When the witness expressed concerns about that approach,” the summary said, the lawyer said, “They don’t know what you know, [witness]. They don’t know that you can remember some of these things. So for you to say ‘I can’t remember’ is a perfectly acceptable answer to this.”

“The attorney instructed the client on a particular issue that would cast 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 commission’s final public hearing, Lofgren said, “The witness believed this was an attempt to influence her testimony, and we are concerned that these efforts may have been a strategy to prevent the commission from finding the truth.”

Lawyers must follow extensive ethical guidelines as part of their profession, including avoiding conflicts of interest that could jeopardize their representation of a client. According to legal ethics experts, a lawyer who manipulates his client’s testimony in a way that is not entirely truthful can be considered a possible obstruction of an investigation.

Elections LLC, a political law firm that Passantino and other Trump lawyers founded after he left the Trump White House, has received regular payments from Save America PAC and other Trump-backed groups, according to FEC documents. Save America PAC benefits to the company for legal counsel will total more than $150,000 in 2021 and approximately $275,000 in 2022. The company has also worked for major Republican congressional campaigns.

This year, Trump’s Save America PAC made payments to several law firms representing witnesses in the January 6 and Mar-a-Lago investigation. A problem only arises if the lawyer does not follow the wishes of the client, according to legal experts and professional rules.

The commission gave several other examples of “evidence suggesting specific attempts to hinder their work” in its summary Monday. They noted attempts by Trump to contact some witnesses, as well as multiple Secret Service agents hiring private attorneys instead of agency-supplied attorneys who would represent them for free. A Secret Service driver’s lawyer admitted to taking notes to the driver as they testified about what was said, the commission said.

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

The report also said the committee believed White House staffer Anthony Ornato gave “testimony consistent with the false account” in a book written by Mark Meadows, defying Trump’s desire to go to court on January 6. going to the Capitol trivializes.

The commission says it plans to release transcripts that will shed more light on the witness statements they found questionable.

In its Monday summary, the commission cited several other examples of “evidence suggesting specific attempts to hinder their work.” They noted attempts by Trump to contact some witnesses, as well as multiple Secret Service agents hiring private attorneys instead of agency-supplied attorneys who would represent them for free. A Secret Service driver’s lawyer admitted to taking notes to the driver as they testified about what was said, the commission said.

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

The report also said the committee believed White House staffer Anthony Ornato gave “testimony consistent with the false account” in a book written by Mark Meadows, defying Trump’s desire to go to court on January 6. going to the Capitol trivializes.

The commission says it plans to release transcripts that will shed more light on the witness statements they found questionable.


This story has been updated with other possible examples of obstruction identified by the commission.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Share post:

Popular

More like this
Related