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How and why Cassidy Hutchinson’s J6 testimony changes have come under renewed scrutiny by Congress

Developments in the previous months have pushed the committee investigating Jan. 6 and the Democrats' investigation into that day to focus on the changes former Trump Administration aide Cassidy Hutchinson made to her sworn testimony.

Published: January 12, 2024 11:00pm

Updated: January 13, 2024 12:19am

On Monday, the House committee investigating the government response to Jan. 6 and the work of the Democrats’ eponymous committee ordered star witness Cassidy Hutchinson to preserve all communications and documents related her account of that day and her testimony before the select committee.

Of particular interest to GOP Rep. Barry Loudermilk, who chairs the House Administration Subcommittee on Oversight, are the changes in Hutchinson’s testimony throughout 2022 as she appeared before the Jan. 6 committee behind closed doors on at least four separate occasion.

"On June 28, 2022, you testified during one of the Select Committee’s primetime hearings. During this hearing you asserted that former President Donald Trump attempted to grab the steering wheel from one United States Secret Service employee driving the vehicle and lunged at another,” Loudermilk wrote to Hutchinson.

“However, in your previous three transcribed interviews on February 23, 2022, March 7, 2022, and May 17, 2022, you did not mention this interaction,” Loudermilk continued.

An analysis of Hutchinson’s transcribed interviews over the course of that year show that her account of events shifted dramatically after replacing her lawyer.

Hutchinson eventually filed an errata sheet—legal documentation that permits a witness to correct typographical errors in their previous testimony—by September with the Jan. 6 Committee. She used this sheet to modify facts alleged in her previous testimony about this specific incident, among others. Legal experts have called substantive changes unusual.

Testimony from another key witness—a former Secret Service employee and a Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations under President Trump—and Hutchinson’s own text messages contradict some of her central claims and continue to raise questions about the reliability of her "corrections," which might be characterized as changing facts she initially alleged under oath.

In September 2022, after Hutchinson testified on at least four separate occasions to the Jan. 6 Committee, she filed an errata sheet amending key details of her accounts of events on that day, according to the documentation that Just the News reviewed in November last year.

One key shift occurred in Hutchinson’s account of then-President Trump’s trip in the presidential vehicle back from the Ellipse to the White House following his speech to supporters at his “Stop the Steal” rally. This shift was referenced in Loudermilk’s letter.

In her original February 2022 deposition with the committee, Hutchinson told congressional investigators that President Trump did not challenge the Secret Service assessment that he could not follow his supporters to the Capitol on Jan. 6.

“Did you ever find out what happened with that conversation in the Beast between the President and Mr. Engel [a Secret Service official]?” Investigators asked.

“Just that Mr. Engel had relayed the message that him and Mr. Ornato had discussed previously and knowing there was no -- there were no developments that would've changed the guidance he was given before the rally had begun, that we didn't have the assets available, and that was just reconveyed to the President,” Hutchinson testified about the conversation as it was relayed to her.

Later that same year, in June Hutchinson told an altogether new story about President Trump’s reaction to the Secret Service assessment following his rally. In this new story, Hutchinson said that after the Secret Service official told President Trump that they could not go to the Capitol, he became “irate” and “lunged forward into what I believe is the—would be called the cab of the Presidential limo and went to…ran at the steering wheel.”

Hutchinson continued: “Bobby [Engle—the Secret Service official] had said, ‘Sir, I’m going to need you to take your hand off. We’re going back to the White House. That’s final.” Mr. Trump again was extremely angry at that response and used his free hand, to my understanding, to then lunge at Bobby Engle.”

You can read Hutchinson’s February and June testimonies below, which were released publicly by the Jan. 6 Committee in conjunction with its final report:

It was this anecdote that Hutchinson changed in her errata sheets to correct her previous testimony. This account of events first appeared during Hutchinson’s public, televised testimony before the Jan. 6 Committee that same month. That first set of allegations by Hutchinson made its way into the media narrative, and have so far, not been updated to recognize her later contradictions.

Additionally, testimony from Deputy Chief of Staff for Operation Anthony Ornato who also previously served with the Secret Service, contradicted Hutchinson’s new account of events in his testimony with the same committee.

You can read Hutchinson’s errata sheet below:

“I don't recall that conversation taking place, nor do I recall being aware of any details that happened from the motorcade from the Ellipse to the White House,” Ornato said in response to an account that he had told a military aid that President Trump was “irate” at not being able to travel to the Capitol.

He also said that he went to the Secret Service counsel after Hutchinson’s public testimony and he was asked about his recollection of the Beast story, which he said he did not recall taking place.

“I recall, that day after Ms. Hutchinson's testimony, going to the Secret Service Counsel and being in his office and then the Secret Service spokesperson asking me about what my recollection was of that story. And I relayed that that is not a story I recollect and I don't recall that story happening and the first time hearing it is when she had said it,” Ornato told the Jan. 6 Committee.

“When you say 'that story,' you mean what Ms. Hutchinson testified about a struggle inside the vehicle that she indicated was relayed to her by you?” He was asked by one of the investigators.

“Correct,” Ornato responded.

You can read Ornato’s testimony below:

Internal Secret Service records also undercut Hutchinson’s testimony, showing that President Trump had no official plans to visit the Capitol on Jan. 6, despite alleged statements by members of Trump’s staff ahead of that day, Just the News reported last week.

There are other discrepancies that emerged between Hutchinson’s early testimony and her June 2022 deposition, including about the story of the “hang Mike Pence” chants being discussed in the White House and whether or not she had knowledge of Trump’s state of mind when it came to crafting a message for his supporters after the riot had begun as reported previously by Just the News.

On Thursday, Rep. Loudermilk told Just the News that he wants to investigate whether Hutchinson’s change in testimony is related to her failure to secure a job with the Trump operation after he left office in January 2021.

“We've had other people who were around and with the White House who have told us similar things, that she was actively trying to get a job in Mar-a-Lago and continue on with the Trump team," Loudermilk said on the "Just the News, No Noise" TV show.

“Some of them feel like that one of the reasons she turned on him is because she wasn't accepted for a position," Loudermilk said. "Now, that's just a hyperbole. I don't know. But these are things that we do want to look into,” emphasizing that he has not confirmed this information.

In fact, Hutchinson reportedly kept working for the Trump team for nine weeks after the President left the White House. She was paid by the post-presidential office from Jan. 20 to April 1, 2021, earning a salary of $90,000 according to records reviewed by Business Insider.

In the immediate aftermath of January 6, the media reported that Hutchinson might join Trump’s operation in Florida, however in a post to Truth Social, Trump said that he “personally turned her request down” to work with his operation.

A lawyer for Cassidy Hutchinson did not respond to a request for comment from Just the News about Loudermilk’s letter or her testimony.

Hutchinson's explanation for the sweeping changes centered on Trump-orbit lawyer Stefan Passantino—who represented her during early interviews with the committee. She alleged that he pressured her to stay “loyal” to Trump in her responses. Passantino has disputed Hutchinson’s allegations.

Hutchinson made the claim in a September 2022 interview with the committee, after Passantino ceased representing her in the matter and she had retained a new legal team. Hutchinson told the committee that Passantino informed her that “You're not lying if you say you don’t recall” as she prepared for her testimony to the committee.

“Everything’s going to be OK. We’re taking care of you,” Hutchinson described Passantino’s remarks the morning of her first testimony. “Just downplay your position. … It’s not fair that Mark [Meadows] put you in this position. We just want to focus on protecting the president. We all know you’re loyal. Let’s just get you in and out, and this day will be easy, I promise.”

A memo reviewed by Just the News shows that Hutchinson waived her attorney/client privilege with Passantino, opening an avenue for Loudermilk’s committee to understand the development of Hutchinson’s initial testimony.

"Pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 502(a)(1), this letter will confirm that our client, Cassidy Hutchinson, is waiving the attorney-client privilege regarding all communications with her previous counsel, Stefan Passantino, between February 7, 2022, and June 8, 2022," Hutchinson’s new lawyer wrote the committee Jan. 6 Committee Democratic Chairman Bennie Thompson.

Loudermilk previously told Just the News that he plans to dig into Hutchinson’s story and how her testimony changed, including summoning Passantino to speak with his committee, now that her attorney/client privilege has been waived.

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