Cassidy Hutchinson’s Ex-Attorney Is Staring Down The Barrel Of A Whole Lotta Trouble

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Former Deputy White House Counsel Stefan Passantino
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A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo.

Stefan Passantino Is In A World Of Hurt

When your lawyer tells you its okay to tell investigators you don’t remember when in fact you do remember …. wow.

Over the last 48 hours, things have come apart quickly for former Trump White House deputy counsel Stefan Passantino.

Monday the executive summary of the Jan. 6 committee, without naming Passantino, detailed some of what he was allegedly doing and saying when he represented former Mark Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson before the committee.

By Tuesday, Passantino — who denies any wrongdoing and says he represented Hutchinson “honorably, ethically, and fully consistent with her sole interests as she communicated them to me” — had taken a leave of absence from one of his law firms.

By late Tuesday, CNN had publicly identified Passantino as Hutchinson’s former lawyer. The NYT soon followed suit.

What in the world?

What Cassidy Hutchison Alleges

The key allegations raised against Stefan Passantino in the Jan. 6 executive summary are presumably coming from Cassidy Hutchinson herself:

Executive summary excerpt of Jan. 6 committee report

Again, Passantino is not named in the report, but the report notes this is what the witness said “about her decision to terminate a lawyer who was receiving payments for the representation from a group allied with President Trump.”

There is reason to believe the Jan. 6 committee already referred this matter to the Justice Department even before the much-publicized criminal referrals it made this week. “Much of this evidence is already known by the Department of Justice and by other prosecutorial authorities,” the committee noted in the executive summary.

“Two sources familiar with the situation tell CNN that Hutchinson has discussed the episode with the Justice Department,” the cable news network reported.

What’s Been Reported About Stefan Passantino’s Role

Some of the key bits of reporting around this episode:

  • Passantino’s representation of Hutchinson was paid for by Trump’s Save America PAC, anonymous sources told CNN. Passantino had previously represented the Trump Org.
  • Passantino was an ethics experts in the Trump White House counsel’s office and had previously served as a general counsel to Speaker Newt Gingrich.
  • Hutchinson terminated Passantino’s representation of her and replaced him with former Trump DOJ official Jody Hunt.

Reaction And Fallout Over Passantino News

  • Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) told CNN Monday: “She was advised to say that she didn’t recall something when she did. So that’s pretty serious stuff.”
  • Harry Litman: “The accusations involving Stefan Passantino — that he advised Cassidy Hutchinson to say she did not recall when in fact she did — is absolutely career ending if it pans out. Virtual instant disarmament (sic) and lucky if he stays out of jail.”
  • Ryan Goodman: “Stefan Passantino identified as lawyer Jan. 6th Committee alleged told Cassidy Hutchinson to tell Committee she did not recall details that she did. Telling a client to lie = 18 U.S.C. 1001 liability for lawyer”
  • Andrew Weissmann: “This phenomenon happens so much in political corruption investigations. Lawyers doing bidding for the boss, not the lower level client.”

At Long Last, Trump’s Tax Returns!!!

The House Ways & Means Committee voted late yesterday to release publicly six years of former President Trump’s tax returns. The tax returns won’t actually be released for a few more days, but the committee did release a report that previews some of the revelations contained in them:

  • The IRS did not perform the mandatory audits of Trump during his first two years in office.
  • The Trumps reported negative adjusted gross income in four of the six years from 2015 through 2020, according to the WSJ.
  • The Trumps paid federal taxes each year, but reported income tax liability of $750 or less in three of the six years, the WSJ reported.
  • The IRS hasn’t completed audits of the Trumps for any of those years.

TPM On TV

Hunter Walker talks with CBS News about the Meadows Texts series:

More Coverage Of The Meadows Texts

Bill Lueders at The Bulwark: “Texts reveal the wholesale embrace of madness and criminality by GOP members of Congress in the weeks surrounding January 6th.”

Minneapolis Star Tribune: “Minnesota businessman Marty Davis met Trump, pushed Meadows to fight 2020 election loss”

Key Election Protection Legislation Is On Track

It was touch and go for a while, but the provisions of the proposed Electoral Count Reform Act have made it into the giant must-pass omnibus bill Congress is racing to complete this week. It’s a huge win for advocates trying to close the potential loophole that let Trump toy with the notion that the vice president could reject the Electoral College results from the states.

Zelensky In DC

In his first trip outside of his country since the Russian invasion, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday will visit the White House and give a primetime address to Congress.

A No-Brainer On The Climate Front

In a huge win for everyone, the U.S. Postal Service will spend billions of dollars on 66,000 new electric vehicles for its fleet.

First Of Its Kind Probe

The Education Department’s civil rights enforcement division is investigating a Texas school district whose superintendent was secretly recorded ordering librarians to remove LGBTQ-themed library books.

Musk Says He Will Step Down As Twitter CEO

Don’t bet on anything Elon Musk says, but for the record: Late Tuesday, the chief twit said he would eventually step down as CEO once he found “someone foolish enough to take the job!” The very next sentence renders the whole thing even more absurd and hard to believe: “After that, I will just run the software & servers teams.”

Brand Damage

Tesla owners are embarrassed by Elon Musk.

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