WASHINGTON (AP) — Two years after completing a White House summer internship, Cassidy Hutchinson was in the room where the president's top aides debated how they could overturn his election loss.
Hutchinson, 25, who served as a top aide to Mark Meadows, chief of staff to President Donald Trump, is scheduled to testify Tuesday at a surprise hearing of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.
She was known to have detailed knowledge of the inner workings of the Trump White House, including in the critical days that Trump and his advisers plotted to reverse President Joe Biden's election victory.
What's already clear in limited disclosures of her private testimony is that Hutchinson saw and heard things of potentially vital interest to both the committee and the Justice Department.
Hutchinson has described meetings with the White House counsel's office in which participants discussed the legality of substituting electors for states that went for Biden, then the president-elect, with false “alternate electors” who would select Trump. The former president and his allies tried in vain to push then-Vice President Mike Pence, who was overseeing the certification of electors on Jan. 6, to accept the false slates.
There was no widespread election fraud. Trump lost more than 60 court cases attempting to prove wrongdoing, and even his own attorney general, William Barr, said his claims were meritless.
At one December meeting, Hutchinson has testified, lawyers for Trump advised lawmakers that the plan to replace electors was not “legally sound.” She told the committee that at least five Republican members of Congress involved in plans to substitute electors sought pardons from Trump.
She also testified about Meadows' surprise trip to Georgia weeks after the election to observe an audit of the vote and meet with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
And she has said Meadows knew of reports through a Secret Service agent warning of violence on Jan. 6.
There's relatively little known about Hutchinson. Although the White House is perhaps the world’s most prestigious office building, much of the staff is young, sometimes even fresh out of college like Hutchinson. They often previously worked on the president’s campaign or the national party, and they’re distinguished by their ambition and willingness to work long hours for little pay.
They’re also critical to any administration’s machinery. They help with the logistics of media coverage, prepare for public events and answer the phones. Because they’re often within earshot as the country’s most powerful people gossip and plan, discretion is expected. Trump’s personal assistant, Madeleine Westerhout, was fired after imprudent comments at an off-the-record dinner with reporters.
“The White House is fueled by young restless energy that works all days, hours, nights to keep the operation running,” said Johanna Maska, the CEO of consulting firm Global Situation Room who served in the White House under former President Barack Obama. “Though most assistants wouldn't be in a decision-making role, they have eyes on sensitive information including schedules, notes, documents, private conversations.”
One sign of Hutchinson's possible willingness to cooperate with investigations is her choice of lawyers. She recently switched from a former Trump White House official to a veteran former Justice Department official who served as chief of staff to former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and who emerged as a key witness for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.
Jody Hunt, the new lawyer, recounted for Mueller’s team the extent to which Trump berated Sessions over his recusal from the Russia investigation and the pressure he sought to exert on the department over the probe.
In a 2018 profile published by her undergraduate alma mater, Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia, Hutchinson recalled being “brought to tears” when she received an email telling her she’d been accepted to a White House internship program.
“As a first-generation college student, being selected to serve as an intern alongside some of the most intelligent and driven students from across the nation – many of whom attend top universities – was an honor and a tremendous growing experience,” she is quoted as saying.
She says in the article that she attended numerous events hosted by Trump and often watched out her window as Marine One would depart the White House’s south lawn.
“My small contribution to the quest to maintain American prosperity and excellence is a memory I will hold as one of the honors of my life,” she said in the piece.
Associated Press writer Chris Megerian in Washington contributed to this report.
Nomaan Merchant And Eric Tucker, The Associated Press