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Betsy Woodruff Swan

Hutchinson, former Meadows aide, replaces lawyer on cusp of Jan. 6 hearings

Former Mark Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson, right, dances with then-White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany after a rally on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Swanton, Ohio. Jan. 6 select committee members have praised Hutchinson for providing extensive testimony behind closed doors. | Alex Brandon/AP Photo

Cassidy Hutchinson — a top aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows during the Trump era — has parted ways with her lawyer and brought on new representation. Her new lawyer, Jody Hunt of Alston Bird, confirmed the move to POLITICO.

The change in counsel signals an increased willingness from Hutchinson to cooperate fully with the Jan. 6 select committee's probe, according to a person familiar with her thinking. The panel has signaled that it views her as a key witness.

Hutchinson’s former attorney, Stefan Passantino, has deep Trump World connections. Her new lawyer, Jody Hunt, is a longtime close ally of Jeff Sessions and served as his chief of staff when the former attorney general enraged Trump by recusing from the Russia probe.

Select committee members have praised Hutchinson for providing extensive testimony behind closed doors, over the course of three depositions and under two different subpoenas. The Jan. 6 panel is expected to call her in for live testimony during a public hearing.

It’s unusual, though not unheard of, for people involved in high-profile congressional probes to change counsel. Hutchinson is a uniquely important witness because she has shared information about Meadows, who has refused to sit for an interview with the select panel.

Hutchinson has told investigators that Meadows was warned of potential violence before Jan. 6 and that he burned papers in his office weeks after the 2020 election. She's also relayed that Meadows told aides of Trump, during the riot, expressing a positive view of hanging then-Vice President Mike Pence.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a select committee member, told The Washington Post earlier this month that Hutchinson “certainly rendered truthful testimony” to the panel.

Passantino, Hutchinson's former attorney, was the Trump White House’s chief ethics lawyer. And Passantino’s firm, Michael Best, has Trump World connections; its president is former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, and Justin Clark — also a top Trump World lawyer — is currently on leave from the firm, according to its website.

Attorney Alex Cannon, who worked on the Trump campaign and with Trump’s legal team after his presidency, is also a lawyer at the firm.

Passantino declined to comment.

Hutchinson has brought on Hunt, of Alston Bird, just before the Jan. 6 committee’s first major hearing on Thursday night. He was Sessions’ chief of staff during the first year of the Trump administration, then became head of the Justice Department’s civil division.

Hunt has generally kept a low public profile, but on Twitter he has publicly defended Sessions’ decision to recuse from the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election — a recusal that infuriated Trump.

William Jordan, a partner at the same firm as Hunt, is also representing Hutchinson.

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