By Jeremy Herb, CNN
(CNN) — Cassidy Hutchinson warned Tuesday that her former boss Donald Trump would not have guardrails if he wins a second term as president, arguing that Trump’s violations of the Constitution after he lost the election in 2020 should be disqualifying from the White House.
“I think that Donald Trump is the most grave threat we will face to our democracy in our lifetime, and potentially in American history,” Hutchinson told CNN’s Jake Tapper in an interview Tuesday.
Hutchinson’s new book, “Enough,” details the chaos and lawlessness at the end of the Trump administration, where she had a front row seat as a top aide to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows during the former president’s efforts to overturn the election and the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.
Hutchinson, who came forward last year with damning testimony to the House committee that investigated January 6 about what was going on in the White House after the election, told Tapper that she worries the institutions of government will end up in an even worse place if Trump is elected again.
“The counts that Donald Trump is currently facing – he is facing counts of obstructing the Constitution – to me that is disqualifying. Donald Trump should be disqualified from being the president of the United States – to me that’s not a question,” Hutchinson said.
“We have to think: What would a second Trump term look like?” she asked. “Would these be the people that are running the government, the people that are currently facing indictments? Who would work for Donald Trump in the second term? That’s the question that we need to be asking or asking ourselves going into this election season.”
Meadows, Hutchinson’s former boss, is among a handful of Trump White House aides and advisers now facing criminal charges. Meadows, along with 18 other co-defendants including Trump, was indicted in the Fulton County district attorney’s sprawling racketeering case over efforts to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia. He has pleaded not guilty and is trying to move his case to federal court.
Hutchinson said that she feels sorry for Meadows being put in that situation because of his loyalty to Trump, adding she hopes that he’s “doing the right thing” and cooperating with the investigations into the former president.
“I hope that he would cooperate and uphold the oath that he swore, because he knows a lot more than I know about what happened during the November 2020 through January 2021 period,” Hutchinson said.
‘Most of us were drowning’
Meadows hired Hutchinson in 2020 after he took over as Trump’s chief of staff. In the book, she writes that Meadows told her early on that if he could “manage to keep (Trump) out of jail, I’ll have done a good job.”
“Especially in the Trump administration and in 2020, every day was a hair on fire day,” Hutchinson said when asked about Meadows’ comment. “We were swimming to stay afloat – but most of us were drowning.”
Hutchinson said she was disappointed with how Republican Party leaders reacted to Trump after the attack on the Capitol, especially House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, whom she writes she had developed a close relationship with while working in the White House legislative affairs office and then for Meadows.
“I still have a lot of respect for Kevin. I hope for the best for him as the speaker, especially as we see the chaos that’s happening on Capitol Hill right now,” Hutchinson said. “But I’m not confident he’s a good leader for the Republican Party because he’s a talking head for Donald Trump. Kevin hasn’t taken a strong stand on this, and I’m confident Kevin knows all of this is wrong.”
Not her Republican Party
Hutchinson said she still considers herself a Republican, but that she doesn’t recognize the current version of the Trump-led Republican Party. Tapper asked Hutchinson about one of the key moments from the first GOP presidential debate last month, when the Fox News moderator asked the candidates to raise their hands if they would support Trump as the nominee, even if he were convicted of the crimes he’s been charged with.
Nearly all did so, outside of Trump critics Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, and Asa Hutchinson, the former governor of Arkansas. In her interview with Tapper, Cassidy Hutchinson said she found the response disappointing and had hoped at the beginning of the debate that she would “sort of see a light at the end of the tunnel.”
“I had a lot of hope with Nikki Haley,” Hutchinson said. “I thought that she had very intelligent and well-fleshed-out answers on things. Even Mike Pence – I was really disappointed when I saw Mike Pence raise his hand.”
In the book, Hutchinson writes about her own personal struggle with Trump. She says she remained loyal to him even after the January 6 attack on the Capitol, and she had planned to move to Florida until Meadows told her in the final week of the administration there wasn’t a job for her there.
When her good friend, former White House communications director Alyssa Farah Griffin, forcefully spoke out against Trump after January 6, Hutchinson said she initially felt upset with Farah Griffin, who is now a CNN political commentator, for being disloyal.
“Saying that now, with the hindsight and experience that I’ve had, sounds ludicrous,” Hutchinson said. “But I think that’s the important part of this transformation period for me. Because on the other hand when I saw her there, there was a little bit of envy. I was proud of her for doing what she felt she had to be doing, and for using her voice.”
Had she gone to Mar-a-Lago, Hutchinson said she doesn’t know if things might have turned out differently with her decision to testify.
“If I’m being completely candid and frank, I still felt that loyalty to him at the end of the administration. And I worry that if I had gone down to Florida, then that would have only grown, and I would not have come forward,” she said. “I would hope that I would have come forward to do the right thing still. But when you’re in that environment, it becomes a lot more difficult.”
In the spring of 2022, Farah Griffin played a key role in ultimately helping Hutchinson back channel with the January 6 committee for another interview, going to the committee’s vice chair Liz Cheney so that Cheney knew what questions to ask in a third deposition, when Hutchinson was still represented by a Trump-paid attorney.
“She came to me after her first two testimonies and said, ‘There’s more I need to say, I don’t know how to go about it,’” Farah Griffin said during a panel discussion Tuesday on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper.” “What we ultimately came up with is, I said, ‘What if I can take this information to Congresswoman Liz Cheney and see if she can call you back?’ And in the meantime, we can look at trying to get you representation pro bono.”
Former Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who was a Republican on the January 6 committee and is now a CNN senior political commentator, said during the panel discussion that the plan they came up with was “a brilliant way to do it.”
‘I hadn’t liked who I was, for a while’
Hutchinson felt the pull of Trump world when she initially was given a Trump-funded lawyer for her depositions before the January 6 committee last year. Eventually, she switched lawyers and came forward to speak about everything she saw, knowing that she was facing a fierce backlash from Trump and his allies for doing so.
Before she changed lawyers and went back to the January 6 committee, Hutchinson told Tapper that she remembered speaking with a Republican member of Congress, who told her to look in the mirror and ask whether she liked what she saw.
“And I hadn’t liked who I was, for a while,” she said. “I knew in that moment I had to correct course for myself and come back to the person I wanted to be and the person I saw myself becoming when I entered public service.”
This story has been updated with additional details.
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