Was Trump Ethics Lawyer Sick The Day They Taught 'No Witness Tampering' In Law School?

January 6
Was Trump Ethics Lawyer Sick The Day They Taught 'No Witness Tampering' In Law School?

Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson provided damning testimony to the House January 6 Select Committee about Donald Trump's unhinged attempts to hold onto power after losing the 2020 presidential election. Despite dismissing Hutchinson as a lying "social climber," Trump generously paid her legal fees — to the extent he actually pays for anything — through one of his shady money groups before she secured new representation.

Her original MAGA counsel was Stefan Passantino, Trump's White House ethics lawyer, and the January 6 committee revealed Monday that it has evidence Passantino might've pressured Hutchinson to mislead the committee about specific details she recalled. Hmm, that doesn't seem very ethical.

Committee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren told CNN, “[Hutchinson] was advised to say that she didn’t recall something when she did. So that’s pretty serious stuff.” If you watch "Law & Order," the term they use is "suborning perjury."


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During the summer, the January 6 committee raised concerns about potential witness tampering and said it was "aware of multiple efforts by President Trump to contact Select Committee witnesses. The Department of Justice is aware of at least one of those circumstances.” The committee was referring to Hutchinson, whom Passantino was no longer representing at this point. If Trump or his people were contacting her, it's hard to imagine their motives were pure.

The committee claims in its final report that Passantino "had advised the witness that the witness could, in certain circumstances, tell the Committee that she did not recall facts when she actually did recall them.”

CNN reports:

“When the witness raised concerns with her lawyer about that approach,” according to the summary, the lawyer said, “They don’t know what you know, [witness]. They don’t know that you can recall some of these things. So you saying ‘I don’t recall’ is an entirely acceptable response to this.”

“The lawyer instructed the client about 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.

It's hard to prove what someone actually remembers. Ronald Reagan famously didn't "recall" his direct involvement in Iran-Contra, though that could've been Alzheimer's more than a slippery legal strategy (maybe both!). Cassidy is 26, born when I graduated college (!), and has no known mental impairment that would prevent her from remembering events from less than two years ago.

What Hutchinson clearly recalled was a deranged madman posing as president painting the White House walls with ketchup and trying to hijack the presidential limo from the back seat. (We are reminded that certain non-Maggie-Haberman reporters from the New York Times claimed the Secret Service would testify that Hutchinson was mistaken. Oddly, they never did!) She'd also testified that Trump flipped out and threw his entire lunch at the wall when Attorney General Bill Barr told him that no significant election fraud had taken place.

These are all memorable incidents involving the president of the United States. It's not like Hutchinson was asked to recall what she streamed on Netflix on a particular night.

In a statement to CNN, Passantino insists he didn’t advise Hutchinson to mislead the committee. That's how you know he's a good lawyer. He didn't confess to felony witness tampering. You can't just learn that.

“I represented Ms. Hutchinson honorably, ethically, and fully consistent with her sole interests as she communicated them to me," Passantino said. "I believed Ms. Hutchinson was being truthful and cooperative with the Committee throughout the several interview sessions in which I represented her.”

The committee also believes other witnesses, such as Kayleigh McEnany and Ivanka Trump, weren't very "frank or direct" with them. However, one is a known liar and the other is a Trump, so no surprise there.

Passantino has not been charged with a crime. However, according to Heather Cox Richardson, he's on leave from the law firm where he was a partner and says that leave is because of “the distraction of this matter.” It's about to get even more distracting, as Los Angeles Times legal columnist Harry Litman tweets that the accusations are "career-ending" and Passantino's "denial seems to directly contradict Cassidy Hutchinson, which at this point is a bit worse than contradicting Mother Teresa. He needs to start thinking about a trade school."


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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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