Cassidy Hutchinson dropped out of sight last year after she testified in damning detail in a nationally televised committee hearing about President Donald J. Trump’s actions during and after the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021. Facing blistering social media attacks from Mr. Trump and threats from his supporters, she retreated from Washington and cut off contacts with her former White House world.
Some 15 months later, the one-time staff member in Mr. Trump’s West Wing is back into the maelstrom with the publication of “Enough,” a memoir about her time as a top aide to Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s last chief of staff. On a recent Sunday morning, she spoke in the kitchen of her Washington high-rise with the blinds to her living room window open, a recent development in her reclusive life.
“I would like not to be a hermit,” she said. But, she added, “I am not a victim in any of this. I did what I did and I knew what I was getting myself into.”
If anything, becoming a target of the right after publicly disclosing what she had learned in the White House was perhaps the least surprising thing that Ms. Hutchinson had encountered over the past three years. Some of her most vivid testimony to the Jan. 6 committee was her description of an enraged Mr. Trump hurling his plate of lunch across the room after hearing Attorney General William P. Barr say he saw no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.
“I grabbed a towel and started wiping the ketchup off of the wall to help the valet out,” Ms. Hutchinson testified.
Both in print and in the conversation in her high rise, Ms. Hutchinson described a journey down a political rabbit hole that might have tested the psychological stamina of a more seasoned operative. It was one in which loyalty to Mr. Trump surmounted all else, to the point where White House staffers routinely laid “leak traps” in hopes of discovering who was feeding information to the media. Once Mr. Meadows asked Ms. Hutchinson if she would “take a bullet” for the president. (Perhaps in the thigh, she nervously joked in reply.)
It was, by her telling, an administration awash in paranoia, with Mr. Meadows and others refusing to dispose of daily litter in “burn bags” for fear that someone from the “deep state” might intercept the contents. Instead, she writes, Mr. Meadows burned so many documents in his fireplace in the final days of the Trump presidency that his wife complained to Ms. Hutchinson about how expensive it had become to dry-clean the “bonfire” aroma from his suits.
For all its obsession with secrecy, the Trump White House was also strangely unpoliced, she writes, particularly in the waning days of the administration. On Jan. 15, 2021, Ms. Hutchinson encountered Mike Lindell, the conspiracy-minded My Pillow entrepreneur, roaming the building unescorted, declaring, “We can still win.”
She saw Representative Matt Gaetz, a far-right Florida Republican and a Trump ally under federal investigation at the time for sex trafficking, show up without an appointment to lobby Mr. Meadows for a pardon. (Justice Department officials ended the investigation earlier this year after determining they could not make a strong enough case in court, people familiar with the matter said.)
And she writes that Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor who has pleaded not guilty to racketeering and conspiracy charges for trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia, groped her under her skirt “like a wolf closing in on its prey” in a tent behind Mr. Trump’s speech to supporters on the Ellipse on Jan. 6, 2021.
“I feel his frozen fingers trail up my thigh,” she writes, then recounts how she stormed away. In an interview on Newsmax, Mr. Giuliani called the claim “completely absurd.”
But what most defined Ms. Hutchinson’s swift ascent and sudden estrangement were her two superiors, Mr. Meadows and Mr. Trump. Coming from a working-class and politically disengaged family in Pennington, N.J., Ms. Hutchinson was a college sophomore when she first attended a Trump rally in April 2017.
“I was maybe six rows from the stage,” she recalled, “and I was surrounded by all these people I felt I could relate to.” That included the president, whose coarse and boastful rhetoric sounded to her like her father, a self-employed landscaper and aficionado of “The Apprentice,” Mr. Trump’s long-running reality show.
Even today, Ms. Hutchinson seems somewhat at pains to understand how she fell so deeply in the sway of a president she now describes as “dangerous to our democracy.” To Jonathan Karp, the president of Simon & Schuster, which is publishing “Enough,” Ms. Hutchinson’s continued inner conflicts are understandable: “This book is about trauma, and about trying to overcome trauma. And it was written in the white heat of the moment.”
Her collaborator on the project, Mark Salter, the author and longtime consigliere of Senator John McCain, did not disguise to Ms. Hutchinson his contempt for Mr. Trump. “She put in that line in the book, ‘I adored the president,’” Mr. Salter recalled in an interview. “I told her, ‘That makes me wince.’ But it’s hard to blame her. She was in a pretty heady situation for her age. When I was 24, I was still smoking dope and pounding railroad spikes.”
Ms. Hutchinson landed in the White House after two internships on Capitol Hill and then a third in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, where her organizational skills caught the notice of senior staffers. Straight out of college in June 2019, Ms. Hutchinson became a White House legislative staff assistant.
Two months into the job, she found herself in conversation with a key Trump ally on the Hill, Representative Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican and then the House Freedom Caucus chairman, who hugged her and took down her personal contact information. The two began to talk almost daily.
When Mr. Meadows became Mr. Trump’s chief of staff in March 2020, he asked Ms. Hutchinson to join him in the West Wing. “You’re going to be my eyes and ears,” he said, adding, “I want you with me all the time.”
By her account and that of former colleagues, Ms. Hutchinson zealously dedicated herself to her two bosses. She could be brusque to junior aides who did not perform up to her standards, and colleagues viewed her as enthralled by her access to power. She readily excused Mr. Trump’s shortcomings, blaming herself and other staffers for his tantrums, all the way up to the end of his presidency.
“In my mind at the time,” she said, “I felt like Jan. 6 largely happened because we didn’t do enough to stop it.”
During the interview, Ms. Hutchinson recalled the final Trump rally she attended, in Rome, Ga., two days before the 2020 election, and how starkly different her reaction was from the first such event she had attended only three and a half years earlier.
“I’m getting goose bumps thinking about it,” she said. “I was weaving in and out of the crowd. I remember thinking, ‘Why do I feel so disconnected from everything that’s going on?’ Just looking at everyone looking at this man onstage the way I had. But now I’m on the other side of it, thinking, ‘They’re being fooled by him.’”
Even so, she stayed after the election and after Jan. 6. Though she regarded Mr. Trump’s conduct that day as worthy of impeachment, she nonetheless sought a job with the former president at Mar-a-Lago. Suspected by Mr. Trump of having been insufficiently loyal, Mr. Meadows informed her that her prospects there looked dim. For fully a year, she entertained vague ambitions of being a chief of staff to a CEO or perhaps a lobbyist at a place like Amazon.
Then, in February last year, federal marshals delivered her a subpoena to appear before the Jan. 6 committee.
From that moment, Ms. Hutchinson said, she drew the blinds in her apartment, feeling deeply alone and unsure of what awaited her. Today, she admits to nervousness about how the world will react as she returns to it. Mr. Salter said there was reason to believe she would rise above her self-doubt.
“I watched her testimony a million times,” he said. “I’m sure she was a wreck. But you could not tell.”