The secret support system for former aides taking on Trump: The other women

The women felt each other’s amazement as they watched. They were also worried about Hutchinson, understanding that as soon as she left that courtroom, she would face intense media scrutiny, nasty messages and encounters online and, sometimes, in person. , and the loneliness of being a Republican in Washington. who denounces former President Donald Trump. After all, they each experienced it themselves.

After the procedure was completed, they also contacted Hutchinson.

“I was so nervous watching her,” Griffin said. “But she immediately had such a commanding presence – I was beyond proud to see my friend stand up in front of the world and speak the truth when so many others were too cowardly to do so.”

The January 6 committee hearings were among the most dramatic and significant congressional investigations into the conduct of a White House in our nation’s history. They reflect months of research, painstaking work by investigators and testimony from dozens of Trump officials, law enforcement officers and election experts. But a key element has been a small club of women who have provided critical testimony and created a support structure for each other to fight the intense backlash it has produced.

The small group includes a current and former member of Congress, long-exiled aides from Trumpland and those who only recently decided it was time to take a break. In phone calls and texts, they shared advice on how to report harassment on social media, passed on advice on safety and security measures – such as the benefits of wearing a baseball cap while walking in an airport – and calmed each other’s nerves. family members.

“It’s a lonely space to come forward and part of that for me was making sure they knew that even if he feels lonely – they’re bullying, they’re bullying, they want to make you feel like he’s not. There’s no one left in the world, that’s kind of the point – for me it was important that they knew that I wasn’t going to waver and there would be others,” Troye said.

The “lonely little girl’s club,” as one woman described it, is largely made up of former aides to Trump who were disillusioned with his presidency. Griffin, his former communications director, resigned in December 2020 and has been critical of Trump ever since. Troye erupted earlier, in the middle of the first impeachment process, when it was revealed that Trump had pressured Ukrainian officials to smear Hunter Biden. Hutchinson’s crack came after Trump left, when she was subpoenaed by the committee for her direct knowledge of what happened at the White House on Jan. 6. Matthews, who served as deputy press secretary under Kayleigh McEnany, broke with the Trump White House that day as Trump failed to quell riots on Capitol Hill.

Having found themselves largely in the same political space – persona non grata in the professional infrastructure through which they made their careers – they formed their own quasi-support network.

There is no central line of communication. But by phone and text, they kept in touch regularly throughout the Jan. 6 committee hearings. In interviews, they emphasized that they were not seeking information or trying to influence the committee’s deliberations. Instead, they are constantly reminded that at one of the most intense times of their young lives – Hutchinson is 26, Matthews is 27, Griffin is 33, and Troye and Grisham are 45 – they are not not alone.

After Hutchinson’s testimony, several of the women said they formed what they called a kind of informal “rapid response” unit – defending her on TV and on Twitter against attacks from the right, who consider women as traitors to Trump, and the left, who wonder how they could have served a president whose shortcomings were so evident to them in real time.

“It’s a very unique group that went through such a specific and critical moment in history together and I think we feel connected by that and incredibly protective of each other,” Griffin said.

At the heart of the group’s formation is a belief — particularly unique in these circumstances but true in other crisis points for Washington DC — that female political operatives carry different burdens than their male colleagues. This manifested in the death threats and defamations they faced, sometimes from random social media users.

“You are a traitor. You need to be raped. We know where you live bitch. Ur af—ing Rino,” read a series of recent Instagram posts left on one of the women’s accounts and shared with POLITICO.

There are also the derogatory messages posted on social media by Trump himself.

“His body language is that of a total bull….artist. Fantasy world!” Trump posted on his Truth Social social media platform during Hutchinson’s testimony.

But it has also been internalized by the group as a form of frustration that women like Hutchinson and Matthews – who only recently started their careers wide-eyed and loyal to the conservative cause – are stepping up to speak out, while that their older male colleagues have settled back into Washington life. In particular, it gnawed at them that former White House attorney Pat Cipollone dragged his feet to testify (and only did so in private, although it was recorded) until Hutchinson was first.

“It’s empowering but also so disheartening to see these men in Congress who are so scared of one man that they won’t do the right thing,” said Stephanie Grisham, a disgruntled former Trump press secretary, who has been in contact with Troye. and also appeared in media hits alongside other band members. “And then you have this small group of us led in some way by Liz Cheney – not formally – knowing and experiencing threats of all kinds. I completely understand what each of these women is going through. It’s a tough storm to ride out. You feel like the world is against you.

To help them navigate these waters, the group relied on those who have seen rough waters before. Former Republican Representative Barbara Comstock, an early critic of Trump, said she got to know Troye and Griffin as fellow conservatives over the past year. A Virginia attorney, she told Griffin she would be happy to help Hutchinson with any legal support to speak out.

“Friends have contacted me to say they want to support these women because they are the kind of women on their feet that we all wish we had on staff and hope we are as staff or members. And they know you can feel lonely when you wake up,” Comstock said. She noted that as a mother, she would have been “pretty ticked” that Cipollone, who has a daughter in Hutchinson’s age range, “had to be dragged into testifying after Cassidy.”

“But I guess cleaning up Trump’s mess – ketchup and all – is supposed to be women’s work!” Comstock added, in reference to Hutchinson’s testimony, that Trump, in a fit of rage on Jan. 6, threw a plate with ketchup on the floor, which Hutchinson attempted to clean. Trump denied the episode.

In addition to Comstock, the group also viewed Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney, vice chair of the Jan. 6 committee, as an inspiration. The congresswoman spoke with both Griffin and Hutchinson. And in a speech earlier this month at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., she praised them — but not in name — and others for speaking out.

“It’s especially young women, young women who instinctively seem to understand the peril of this moment to our democracy, and young women who know it will be up to them to save it,” Cheney said. “And I was incredibly moved by the young women I met who came forward to testify before the January 6 Committee. Some of them are young women who have worked on the Trump campaign, some have worked in the Trump White House, others have worked in offices on Capitol Hill, all of whom knew immediately that what happened passed that day was never to happen again.

Despite Cheney’s support, the experience was downright unpleasant. The women have been accused of speaking out in order to advance their careers or get opportunities to appear on cable television. Their former colleagues – and even some of their family members – stopped talking to them. Their job prospects dwindled, although they said Comstock had tried to help on that front. A thread of fear is now woven into their lives, as when associates offer their homes as a place of refuge to await the fallout of a hearing.

There are also better and more uplifting moments. Troye said she was encouraged by the random mothers who contacted her to express their admiration for Hutchinson for her testimony.

“Mrs. Troye, please tell Mrs. Hutchinson that I want my two daughters to grow up with her courage,” a direct message on Twitter read.

But above all, as the January 6 hearings progressed, a feeling of surrealism crept in. They are young. Normally, they would start their careers or move towards the arcs of their professional achievements. Instead, they’ve been thrust into central roles in a historical drama — a drama that could very well determine the future of American governance.

They spent their careers as Republicans never having imagined they would find themselves alone on a political island – alienated from their party and largely alone.

“When I met Alyssa before an interview with Jake Tapper before going to Cassidy’s hearing, we talked about it,” Troye recalled. “’Did you ever imagine that we would be sitting here in this situation like this?’ Never.”

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