Group seeks deposition of Trump-aligned lawyer for key witness Jan. 6
WASHINGTON — When Cassidy Hutchinson, the former White House aide who recounted President Donald Trump’s behavior in the lead-up to the attacks on the Capitol last year, shared how her original attorney had tried to influence her testimony. .
While represented by that attorney, Stefan Passantino, Hutchinson was less accommodating to the committee. But after hiring another lawyer, she provided more damaging details about Trump, saying Passantino had pressured her to remain loyal and protect the former president.
Now, several dozen prominent legal figures, including former presidents of the American Bar Association and the District of Columbia Bar, are seeking to revoke Passantino’s license to practice law. The move reflects an intensified investigation into whether Passantino, a former Trump White House ethics lawyer whose legal fees were covered by Trump’s political action committee, violated his own professional duty, along with a host of other ethical requirements, by advancing the interests of a third party. over his client’s.
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In a 22-page complaint filed Monday with the D.C. Board of Professional Responsibility, prominent attorneys accused Passantino of crimes including perjury, obstruction of justice, witness tampering and bribery. The latter referred in part to Hutchinson’s claim that his advice to say little to the panel was accompanied by assurances that she would get a “really good job in the ‘Trump world’.”
“The Office of Disciplinary Counsel should immediately initiate an investigation into Mr. Passantino’s conduct and, if the facts described above are confirmed, seek his resignation,” said the complaint, filed by the group Lawyers Defending American Democracy.
Ross Garber, an attorney representing Passantino, issued an eight-page response he shared last month after another group, The 65 Project, filed a narrower complaint in Georgia seeking an ethics investigation of Passantino.
The response cast that complaint as a smear and downplayed its significance because Hutchinson had not filed it — as was the case with Monday’s complaint — while pointing to parts of the transcripts that Garber said undermined various allegations against Passantino.
In closed-door and televised testimony, Hutchinson, a former aide to Trump’s White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, told the committee on Jan. 6 how the president had called armed supporters to the Capitol and was indifferent to the potential. for violence in the hours leading up to the riot on January 6, 2021.
But she also indicated that she had been far less forthcoming in previous depositions because of Passantino’s advice.
She said that when Passantino announced he was her attorney, he initially would not disclose who paid him. He then sought to influence her testimony, she said, such as by advising her to say she did not remember incidents even though she did remember some facts about them.
In December, when the committee released its Jan. 6 report, Passantino took a leave of absence from his firm, denying wrongdoing and insisting that he had represented Hutchinson “honestly, ethically and fully consistent with her sole interests when she communicated them to me.”
Lawyers Defending American Democracy also filed its complaint with disciplinary authorities in two states where Passantino is admitted to the bar, New York and Georgia, it said in a statement.
He joins a long line of Trump lawyers who have faced ethics complaints, including John Eastman, Kenneth Chesebro and Rudy Giuliani. But these complaints have typically stopped short of explicitly calling for exclusion.
Stephen Gillers, a specialist in legal ethics at New York University’s law school, said the charges against Passantino put him in a different category.
“Unlike the other Trump lawyers who crossed lines in what they did for their client, the complaint here alleges that Passantino betrayed Hutchinson by encouraging her to lie under oath and obstruct Congress,” Gillers said. “The work of other Trump lawyers hurt the nation. But it was visible and could be challenged. Passantino was allegedly prepared to sacrifice Hutchinson to protect others.”
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