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Key Former Trump WH Aide Testifies At Jan. 6 Committee Hearing. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired June 28, 2022 - 12:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back. We're about half an hour away from a new hearing from the January 6 Select House committee and testimony by a witness who has provided the panel with some of its biggest revelations so far. We're talking about a top aide to former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, her name is Cassidy Hutchinson.

Let me go to John King at the magic wall here. And John, what our viewers need to remember is that the January 6 hearings are not just about January 6, it's about months and months of scheming and various ways that Trump and his team tried to flip and undo democracy and Cassidy, you say, she had a front row seat to a lot of it.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She had eyes on everything, from election day through January 6, through the end of the Trump presidency. And you know this from covering the White House. Of course, the President is the central figure, Donald Trump is the central figure in this and the Chief of Staff is always very important, but sometimes it is the mid-level age, the 20 somethings who have an eye on everything.

Cassidy Hutchinson was very trusted by the Chief of Staff, the Chief of Staff trusted by the president. She took notes. She was in the meetings about everything. She's already told the Committee focusing just on that day, January 6, that she was told Trump spoke approvingly of the hang Mike Pence chants, think about that, think about that. The President spoke approvingly of the protesters screaming "hang Mike Pence" as they stormed the Capitol.

TAPPER: And there was a very real threat of violence to Mike Pence?

KING: Yes, yes. And that the President actually complained that Pence had been transported to safety on that day. So that's critical eyes on Trump on that day. But to your point, she says, and she told the Committee, Meadows and Rudy Giuliani were involved in early conversations about the fake slate of electors, that could be defrauding the United States government, taking steps, you know, or illegal to defraud the government. She says it did not -- this was not a rash judgment at the end, this started very early on. And she said again, what is their criminal intent that the White House Counsel's Office said, the pot to overturn the election was just not legally viable. It was illegal. That's a fancy loyally way, not legally viable. TAPPER: Right, this is a crime?

KING: Yeah, it was wrong. It was wrong, and you cannot do it. And she had so much more. There were conversations, again, think about this, about invoking martial law. Donald Trump was looking under every rock. What can I do? That plan won't work. What about seizing voting machines? What about appointing Sidney Powell, a conspiracy theorist as the Special Counsel? And she says, and I'm told we're going to learn more about this today, because four of the six House Republicans have denied asking the White House for pardons after the election. Here's what you told the committee previously in a deposition. And I'm told Jake, we will get more today.


CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER AIDE TO THE CHIEF OF STAFF: Mr. Gaetz and, Mr. Brooks, I know both advocated for there to be a blanket pardon for members involved in that meeting and a handful of other members that weren't at the December 21st meeting, as the preemptive pardons. Mr. Gaetz was personally pushing for a pardon. And he was doing so since early December. I'm not sure why. Mr. Gaetz had reached out to me to ask if he have a meeting with Mr. Meadows about presenting a presidential pardon.


KING: And again, Jake, she had contemporaneous notes four of the six on just the pardon question, said it's not true. The Committee says it has new information, new documents and believes now it is time for Cassidy Hutchinson to be a public witness to walk through the new information and also to dot the I's if you will and cross the T's on information like that, which is blockbuster, Jake.

TAPPER: Joining us now, two former Trump administration insiders who know Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, Olivia Troye, and the former White House Director of Strategic Communications, Alyssa Farah Griffin, thanks to both of you for being here. So Alyssa, you just talked with Cassidy Hutchinson this morning, how is she feeling about her testimony? What did she have to say?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: She's feeling good about it. I mean, I imagine she's nervous. I kind of picked up on that as anyone would be. But she's somebody who feels very strongly about public service. I considered her my best friend when I was in the West Wing. She somebody who felt strongly about serving in government, was so proud to do it. But also, she kind of wore this dual hat as a liaison to Capitol Hill. So she believes very strongly in the role that Congress plays in all this.

Now, one thing I kind of want to get ahead of because I expect that some of Trump world is going to push back on her testimony and dismiss her as a low level staffer. She was anything but she was a senior advisor to the Chief of Staff. She was a Senior Advisor for Legislative Affairs, and she was a special assistant to the president. She was so plugged in that I would often go to her as the White House Communications Director to get intel on the President's schedules, his movements, things we're considering as far as events. She's also on a first name basis with most members of congressional leadership. She would text with them, so she's seen everything. She's been in so many rooms. She was always on Air Force One. This is going to be extremely important testimony.


TAPPER: Olivia, you worked with Cassidy Hutchinson too at the White House. What did the American people need to know about her?

OLIVIA TROYE, FORMER WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER TO MIKE PENCE: I did work with Cassidy. And I think like she was someone who was very dedicated to her role. And she was someone that was a very trusted confidant of Mark Meadows and to many others in the West Wing, to Allyssa's point. And so we worked very closely with her on a daily basis, wherever Mark Meadows was, Cassidy was there, and they were inseparable.

And so she was a trusted confidant. At times, I went to her to strategize on certain things on how to approach topics that were very critical to what was happening in the administration. And so I think that people need to hear from her perspective on what exactly went down. She's got the facts. She's a firsthand witness to these facts. And this is someone who is incredibly credible, because she did her job while serving in the Trump administration, loyally and unwavering -- unwaveringly.

TAPPER: So a lot of the biggest revelations that we already know about are because of her, her testimony. Trump's response to hang Mike Pence, hang Mike Pence, Meadows, burning documents, Mark Meadows, the former White House Chief of Staff, requests for pardons from members of Congress, all came from Cassidy Hutchinson. What else are we expecting to hear from her today?

GRIFFIN: Well, one thing with Cassidy is I think she didn't even fully realize how much information she had, until you sit down for these sort of depositions with the committee. I think she was privy to so much that once they started asking directed questions, she realized, oh, this kind of fills in that piece. This fills in that piece, I'd pay attention to what she knew about the pressure campaign around Georgia, Mark Meadows going down to Georgia in the days after the election was called, that will be very important.

I know, she was on email correspondences to the Department of Justice. So she's got first hand eyeballs on many things. And I also would be very curious about her TikTok on the day of January 6. She would know where the President was, who was in and out of the Oval, who was talking to him what his mood was, and of course, that infamous and horrifying line that she has reported about saying, yeah, maybe Mike Pence should be hung.

TAPPER: Yeah. Do you think there's a bit of -- I mean, this was a surprise announcement of the hearing, and we didn't know until a few hours later, who this mystery guest was, this mystery witness? Do you think that the committee as of now is meeting the moment in terms of the importance of this testimony? TROYE: I think so. And look, when it comes to Cassidy, there should be concerned about her safety. She is going to face some serious vitriol that she's already facing and will continue to face in the coming days. And her voice matters, her honesty matters. And she's going to need that support. And I think it's important to get her out there as soon as we can, if she's willing to come forward and testify truthfully.

Look, she is -- she's losing her entire political circle and world to do this, to take a stand for the truth for our country. And that is something that is rare these days, unfortunately, right? That takes courage. And I know that she'll be disparaged, and they'll miss characterize her as a person.

But I think the committee is right to have her, there in front and center to tell Americans the truth, because in this moment, it really matters. And it matters from someone like her. And so, you know, we're going to be standing in support of her. It's it comes at great cost. I've certainly been there. And when you -- when you go and tell the truth, just for telling the truth, there's really no safety net to catch you on the other side of it. And so I think that the committee realizes that she's a critical witness.

She's seen it all. She has some important things to tell. We're seeing what she's said about the pardons, the request for pardons. That's critical to know about what happened in our country's leadership. That still matters today.

TAPPER: And Alyssa, knowing her on the personal level that you know, or the close friendship that you have, is she feeling at all conflicted about today? How is she doing?

GRIFFIN: I think she's doing really well. I don't think she feels conflicted. I think it's the natural, you know, nerves that would come with this. But she's someone who saw serving in the White House is the highest honor and as a public service. She believes in the work that this committee is doing. I think she finally feels empowered to do that. She switched attorneys that's been reported.

TAPPER: Yeah, she was allied with somebody who was closer to Trump world?

GRIFFIN: Yeah, she had kind of a Trump assigned attorney and she ended up breaking off and getting her own.


GRIFFIN: I think realizing that her previous attorney, I don't want to speak for her, but was probably not as cooperative with the committee as she wanted to be. So now she feels independent. She could tell the story that she wants to, and for her, this is a young woman. She's incredibly savvy. I don't want to downplay anything based on her age, but she's going into this really on her own. And to Olivia's point, I hope she has the safety net around her because she will get threats. She will get pressure, she will be -- there will be vitriol she's exposed to, but she's doing the right thing for the country. TAPPER: Something that both of know firsthand as well. The threats and the sliming that come from the mega machine. Thanks to both you for being here, I appreciate it.


Coming up next, how a surprise witness can change the dynamic of a high profile investigation? You might remember if you're of a certain age it happened in Watergate. We're going to discuss with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein after the break.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: People are checking their places you see inside the Canon Caucus Room for hearing of January 6 Select Committee, surprise hearing called just within the last 24 hours. The panel calling a surprise witness former top aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Cassidy Hutchinson. We're joined by a veteran journalist who broke the Watergate scandal Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

Bob, given the way this meeting was not planned, just called in 24 hours, how higher expectations for you?


BOB WOODWARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think it's going to add to the story but what I find interesting is, this is not static in Trump world, as we call it. Now, these hearings have going on, he's very unhappy that he has not been defended. And the people around Trump are very much concerned that he thinks he can run in 2024 on what happened in 2020. Presidential campaign has to be about the future. And they are really in this inner circle.

I know some of those people are pounding on him saying, give up this idea that the election was stolen. It just is not selling. And so just in the last week, he -- one of his railways, he, you know, he gets a massive amount of people, but he called somebody in the inner circle and said, I only said the election was stolen twice. I only had two drinks, I only had two shots of heroin. And so what does this tell you? What does it mean, I think Trump is it's slowly sinking into him. And it takes a long time for things to sink into him, that this is not selling very well. And it has to do with what this committee has done quite brilliantly, I think.

COOPER: We've all seen in the past, particularly in Watergate, how a surprise witness or a single witness can suddenly change things. I want to play probably the biggest surprise witness in the Watergate hearings, or in probably in congressional history was the White House Aide Alex Butterfield. And he testified -- I want to play a clip of him being questioned by the committee counsel and future Senator Fred Thompson. Let's just play this.


FRED THOMPSON, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Mr. Butterfield, are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the President?

ALEXANDER BUTTERFIELD, FORMER NIXON AIDE: I was aware of listening devices. Yes, sir.

THOMPSON: When were those devices placed in the Oval Office?

BUTTERFIELD: Approximately the summer of 1970, I cannot begin to recall the precise date.


COOPER: Was that known in advance? I mean, did Fred Thompson know in advance what he was going to answer or did?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, they didn't know that Butterfield even had been questioned until the weekend before that he came in. It was four days before he testified that they learned Butterfield and what he knew. I would not expect a Butterfield today.

COOPER: It's hard to tie that.

BERNSTEIN: Let's start with that. The bar is very high. There's been an awful lot of expectation raised about what Cassidy Hutchinson is going to say today, as you know, I said last week, that she was hugely important. They had more from her than they put on the air last week. But I was not told anything about the scale of this rather, that she had a lot more context that the committee already had more tape on her. But obviously this look at the big questions and how proximate she was to the President, and how proximate she was to Meadows.

And certainly the Meadows in the same question obtains. Did the President, did Meadows know or say that he had lost the election? If she heard Meadows say that? That is of huge importance, and I presume she's going to be asked about that today.

Also, does she have contemporaneous notes? She might well. Did she keep a diary? What did in fact, the leadership of the Republican Party in the Senate particularly say when she was in meetings with them, as you know, and on your broadcast, I said, look, there are 21 Republican senators who have nothing but disdain and contempt for Donald Trump and wrote it, name them on your show. And then I got a call two days later from a former senator who had just left the Senate say, Carl, the numbers more like 40.

So let's look at the context of the contempt going back to what Bob was saying that the contempt was there for Trump to begin with. But the Republicans have been craving, but she may or may not have. What did the President know? And when did he know it? What did Mark Meadows know? And when did he know it? We'll find out. But she better be pretty good given the expectation.

COOPER: It is extraordinary to contrast her willingness to testify, albeit under subpoena to so many others in Trump world who have fought this, who have pled the Fifth. WOODWARD: Yes, but a hearing like this is about momentum, and this committee has great momentum and John Dean is right, it better be big in the sense of not necessarily new but something where people can look at it.


And this is driven by emotions. Is this somebody you can identify with? This young woman comes in. She's in a tough position over 50 years, Carl and I've used sources like is Watergate, the bookkeeper who would have ever thought the bookkeeper. Carl figured that out and you have to kind of cover the landscape in this committee has done this and they found somebody who I think may be the sole full witness.

COOPER: Yeah, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, thank you very much. The hearing begins just minutes from now. CNN's live coverage continues after a quick break.



TAPPER: Welcome back, the January 6 Select House Committee will convene just minutes from now and call what we believe will be one of its most important witnesses yet. That witness is Cassidy Hutchinson. She was a very close aide to Trump's final White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Hutchinson has already provided the panel behind closed doors with significant revelations.

Now, Hutchinson has agreed to testify live to share what she knows in front of an international television audience. As we await the start of the hearing. Let me bring in Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, Mark Meadows, the former White House Chief of Staff, he's got to be feeling not so great right now.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, of all the people who are going to be watching this testimony very closely, Jake, obviously Mark Meadows is one of those because he kept Cassidy Hutchinson, so close to him, involving him in so much of his schedule and what he was doing in his final months of the Trump administration that now of course, she's going before the committee to really testify about everything that she knew.

Obviously, that raises a lot of concerns for people like Mark Meadows and some of these people in his orbit are telling my colleague Gabby Orr that he is maybe reconsidering, you know, it could come back to haunt him just how close he kept Cassidy Hutchinson to him. And, Jake, we should note ahead of this testimony today. You heard Alyssa Farah earlier talking about how some people were trying to downplay the role that Cassidy Hutchinson had in the West Wing, had in Trump's orbit.

At least some of her former colleagues are defending her including one former Deputy White House Press Secretary who worked under Kayleigh McEnany that Sarah Matthews who was also testified before the January 6 committee, and she tweeted Jake that she wanted to say how much admiration she had for the tremendous bravery that she believes Cassidy Hutchinson is showing by going before the committee saying that she is facing harassment and threats. But he's choosing to put the country first, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much. Let's back to -- go back to Pamela Brown on the Hill. Pamela, tell us more about Cassidy Hutchinson's cooperation with the Select House Committee?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, I'm told that Cassidy Hutchinson came forward in the last 10 days with new information. We know at that time, she'd had a new lawyer Jody Hunt, she had switched from Stefan Passantino, who she felt like was too close to the Trump World to Jody Hunt. And so in the last 10 days, she came forward with this new information.

Now, why that is, besides the lawyer change is unclear, because even before she switched lawyers, she'd already testified for 20 hours to the committee behind closed doors. Now, a source familiar with the matter tells me that Cassidy Hutchinson mostly used her work phone and email in the White House in those final days when she was right in the thick of it, as Trump and his outlets tried to overturn the election results, but she also used her personal phone. And those records, those text messages. Those emails from her personal phone have been turned over to the Committee. We'll see today, if we see any of that.

TAPPER: All right. Pamela Brown, thanks so much. As we wait for this key witness Cassidy Hutchinson and the members of the committee to come into the hearing room, let's talk about what we're expecting. And Jamie Gangel, let me start with you because she's given us a lot of information. She's given the American people a lot of information about what she's seen behind closed doors. President Trump expressing agreement with the hang Mike Pence sentiment and much more. Is there going to be anything new today?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I am told by multiple sources involved with the investigation that there is going to be a lot that is new. I don't think sources with the committee want to call someone a star witness in less they're going to deliver and what we've seen from the committee really hearing after hearing is they've under promised and over delivered. I am told that today is going to be as you said a bad day for Donald Trump and his former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. This is someone who was in the room all the time, and will have a lot of information about January 6.

KING: And remember she was an eyewitness to this alleged plot between Congressman Scott Perry Mark Meadows and the Trump White House to get Jeff Clark installed as the Acting Attorney General, because Jeff Clark was willing to do what Mr. Rosen and Mr. Donoghue were not and I'm told that she has more detailed information on that as well as more detailed information again. She testified previously from the deposition about she says six Republican members of Congress, six House Republicans requested pardons.