Stefan Passantino, a Washington D.C. attorney who represented former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson before the House Select Committee on Jan. 6, is suing the lower chamber for lawmakers’ political assassination of Passantino’s legal career.
On Monday, Passantino filed a Federal Tort Claims Act Complaint against the January 6th Committee over the panel’s abuse of power undermining legal ethics to pursue a political narrative. Hutchinson, according to the complaint, was co-opted by members of the Select Committee to circumvent Passantino and orchestrate a defamatory operation against the longtime D.C. attorney as a vehicle of witness intimidation amid proceedings.
Hutchinson became the Jan. 6 Committee’s star witness last summer after the former assistant to Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows offered bombshell testimony over White House events as the Capitol riot unfolded. At one of the committee’s several televised hearings, Hutchinson claimed former President Donald Trump tried to violently hijack the presidential limousine to drive himself to the riot down Pennsylvania Avenue. The testimony, which relied entirely on third-party conversations, was immediately contradicted when her sources went on the record to refute her claims. A whole series of claims by Hutchinson in her more than two-hour appearance were contradicted days later.
Hutchinson had a change in legal representation days before her public testimony.
Passantino, who served as White House deputy counsel in the first two years of the Trump administration, was Hutchinson’s lawyer up until the former White House staffer took the national spotlight at her televised hearing. Hutchinson was connected with Passantino after she turned to Trump’s political action committee, the Save America PAC, to finance legal representation upon her first subpoena from the House probe.
Hutchinson sat for three deposition interviews with the committee before the public appearance. According to the complaint, Hutchinson had begun to coordinate with members of the Jan. 6 Committee without Passantino’s knowledge after the second interview.
“The Committee, through a backchannel directly to Mr. Passantino’s client, in total disregard for the attorney-client relationship,” the complaint reads, “convinced Mr. Passantino’s client to sit for additional interviews and give incredible testimony that could then be peddled by national news media friendly to the Committee to damage Mr. Passantino.”
Several months later, CNN reported that Passantino pressured Hutchinson to slant her testimony favorably to Trump.
“Cassidy Hutchinson told the January 6 committee she felt pressure from Trump allies not to talk and instead risk ‘contempt,'” the network headline reads.
The story relies on transcripts of Hutchinson’s follow-up interviews with the Jan. 6 Committee in September selectively leaked to smear Passantino.
“Passantino repeatedly urged her to downplay her role in the White House and to say she did not recall events,” CNN reported. “She said that Passantino and other Trump associates dangled job offers around the time of her first two depositions with the committee, while her lawyer and others told her to remain loyal to Trump she would be ‘taken care of.'”
Passantino was blindsided by the testimony, according to the complaint filed against the House of Representatives on Monday seeking $67 million in damages. Days after CNN’s story dropped, Passantino, who has since been in private practice after leaving the Trump administration in 2018, was forced to take a leave of absence from his private law firm. Major legal groups have also begun calling for Passantino’s disbarment.
While the Jan. 6 Committee depicted Passantino as a pro-Trump sycophant, Passantino is on record in the New York Times condemning the Republican campaign’s lawsuits against Dominion voting machines.
Passantino’s complaint alleges the Jan. 6 Committee violated due process by co-opting his client against him and ultimately derailing a tenured legal career for political purposes. Passantino also denies any legal advice provided to Hutchinson could constitute alleged intimidation.
“Ms. Hutchinson never told Passantino that she wanted a ‘non-Trump’ lawyer or that she had any sensitivity about Mr. Passantino’s previous work in the Trump White House,” reads the complaint. “She did not express reservations to Mr. Passantino about him being paid by a Trump-related PAC; instead, she had solicited that funding herself.”
The Jan. 6 Committee never called Passantino in for an interview before the panel published Hutchinson’s transcripts in December naming him as a Trump attorney who allegedly engaged in witness intimidation. Lawmakers, however, ran with the allegation to bolster the credibility of their debunked star witness over the course of the panel’s criminal investigation conducted in violation of House rules.