Group Seeks Disbarment of a Trump-Aligned Lawyer for a Key Jan. 6 Witness

Prominent lawyers filed a scathing ethics complaint against Stefan Passantino, who represented Cassidy Hutchinson in the early stages of the House committee’s investigation.

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Group Seeks Disbarment of a Trump-Aligned Lawyer for a Key Jan. 6 Witness |

Cassidy Hutchinson, the former White House aide who recounted President Donald J. Trump’s conduct in the lead-up to the Capitol attack, during a hearing on Capitol Hill in June.

WASHINGTON — In appearing before the Jan. 6 committee last year, Cassidy Hutchinson, the former White House aide who recounted President Donald J. Trump’s conduct in the lead-up to the attacks on the Capitol, shared how her original lawyer had tried to influence her testimony.

While represented by that lawyer, Stefan Passantino, Ms. Cassidy told the committee she remembered little. But after hiring a different lawyer, she provided damaging details about Mr. Trump and disclosed that Mr. Passantino had pressured her to remain loyal and protect the former president.

Now, several dozen prominent legal figures, including past presidents of the American Bar Association and the District of Columbia Bar, are seeking to revoke Mr. Passantino’s license to practice law. The move reflects intensifying scrutiny over whether Mr. Passantino, a former Trump White House ethics lawyer whose legal fees were covered by Mr. Trump’s political action committee, violated his own professional duty, along with a host of other ethical requirements, by putting the interests of a third party over that of his client.

In a 22-page complaint filed on Monday with D.C.’s Board on Professional Responsibility, prominent lawyers accused Mr. Passantino of the crimes of subornation of perjury, obstruction of justice, witness tampering and bribery. The latter referred in part to Ms. Cassidy’s allegation that his advice to say little to the panel was accompanied by assurances that she would get a “really good job in ‘Trump world.’”

“The Office of Disciplinary Counsel should promptly initiate an investigation of Mr. Passantino’s conduct and, if the facts described above are confirmed, seek his disbarment,” said the complaint, filed by the group Lawyers Defending American Democracy.

Ross Garber, a lawyer representing Mr. Passantino, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But last month, when another group, The 65 Project, filed a narrower, seven-page bar complaint in Georgia seeking an investigation into Mr. Passantino, Mr. Garber called it “a transparent effort to smear a lawyer who has had a 30-year distinguished career.”

  • Timeline: On Jan. 6, 2021, 64 days after Election Day 2020, a mob of supporters of President Donald J. Trump raided the Capitol. Here is a close look at how the attack unfolded.
  • A Day of Rage: Using thousands of videos and police radio communications, a Times investigation reconstructed in detail what happened — and why.
  • Lost Lives: A bipartisan Senate report found that at least seven people died in connection with the attack.
  • Jan. 6 Attendees: To many of those who attended the Trump rally but never breached the Capitol, that date wasn’t a dark day for the nation. It was a new start.

In closed-door depositions and testimony broadcast on television, Ms. Hutchinson, a former aide to Mr. Trump’s White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, told the Jan. 6 committee how the president had urged armed supporters to the Capitol and did not care about the potential for violence in the hours leading up to the riot.

But she also indicated that she had been far less forthcoming in earlier depositions because of Mr. Passantino’s advice.

She said when Mr. Passantino announced he was her lawyer, he would not initially disclose who was paying him. He then sought to influence her testimony, she said, like by advising her to say she did not remember incidents even if she did remember some facts about them.

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In December, as the Jan. 6 committee was making public its report, Mr. Passantino took a leave of absence from his firm, denying wrongdoing and insisting that he had represented Ms. Hutchinson “honorably, ethically and fully consistent with her sole interests as she communicated them to me.”

Lawyers Defending American Democracy also filed its complaint with disciplinary authorities in two states where Mr. Passantino is admitted to the bar, New York and Georgia, it said in a statement.

He joins a long list of Trump lawyers who have faced ethical complaints, including John Eastman, Kenneth Chesebro and Rudolph W. Giuliani. But those complaints have typically stopped short of explicitly calling for disbarment.

Stephen Gillers, a specialist in legal ethics at New York University’s law school, said the allegations against Mr. 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,” Mr. Gillers said. “The work of other Trump lawyers harmed the nation. But it was visible and could be challenged. Passantino was allegedly prepared quietly to sacrifice Hutchinson to protect others.”


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