Three former Trump administration officials who vocally criticized the former president in the aftermath of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol in a joint interview Sunday warned he would pose a danger to democracy if reelected to a second term.
Former White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah Griffin, former White House deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews and former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson spoke to ABC News’s Jonathan Karl about their experiences cooperating with the Jan. 6 select committee and about their concerns for democracy.
“This is a fundamental election to continue to safeguard our institutions and our constitutional republic,” Hutchinson said. “But if we crumble as a nation, we’re setting an example that democracy is an experiment.”
“Fundamentally a second Trump term could mean the end of American democracy as we know it,” Griffin said, adding that the American public witnessed Trump trying to “steal a democratic election.”
“That just shows he’s willing to break every barrier to get into power and stay in power,” she added.
Former President Donald Trump is introduced to the crowd during a rally Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023, in Reno, Nev. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)
Matthews noted that Trump’s focus on returning to power has only heightened and his rhetoric has gotten “increasingly erratic,” pointing to his threats to undermine parts of the Constitution, weaponize the Justice Department and exact revenge on his political opponents.
“To this day he still doubles down on the fact that he thinks that the election was stolen and fraudulent,” Matthews said.
Hutchinson, who gave dramatic testimony to the House panel investigating Jan. 6, pointed to a recent town hall interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News in which Trump did not categorically reject the reporting that he would act as a dictator if he returns to power.
Trump told Hannity he would only be a dictator on “day one” to close the border and drill for energy resources.
“The fact that he felt that he needs to lean into being a dictator alone shows that he is a weak and feeble man who has no sense of character and integrity and has no sense of leadership,” Hutchinson said.
All three women stressed the need to focus on ensuring Trump does not return to office.
Matthews indicated she wasn’t crazy about the available choices in a presidential election likely to include Trump as the GOP candidate and President Biden as the Democratic candidate. But she suggested she would back Biden.
“I’ve never voted for a Democrat in my life, but I think that in this next election, I would put policy aside and choose democracy,” Matthews said, noting that she is still holding out hope that a different Republican might win the primaries.
“Our singular focus needs to be, if he is the nominee, on making sure that he is not elected the president again next November,” Hutchinson said.
Griffin and Matthews emphasized the credit they say Hutchinson deserves for speaking out so late in the aftermath of Jan. 6, 2021, and so early on in her career. They both said they hope more senior officials would speak out.
“For some reason, in moments that call for it, women tend to show an astonishing amount of courage, and I credit these women who are younger than me, had not as senior of titles, and stepped forward,” Griffin said.
“I think that there are a lot of people who saw some dangerous things, but they’ve made the calculation that he very well may be president again,” Griffin continued. “They not only don’t want to be on his bad side, they also want to preserve themselves for future opportunities with him.”
Still, Griffin said, people who worked in the West Wing “know how dangerous” Trump is, especially former Vice President Mike Pence, who, she said, has seen more than anyone.
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Griffin said she hopes “he would think about speaking out more forcefully” about the unfitness of Trump.
As political violence and death threats against public officials become more common, the three women all stressed the challenge many face in considering whether to speak out. Many are concerned about threats to their family that many outspoken Trump opponents have faced.
“A lot of these people won’t come forward even if privately they’ll acknowledge that Trump is unfit or will privately acknowledge that the 2020 election wasn’t stolen,” Matthews said. “It’s because they know that they will face death threats, that their families will face death threats.”
“What scares me as much as [Trump] and his retribution is the almost cult-like following he has over his most diehard supporters,” Griffin said. “The threats, the harassment, the death threats that you get when he targets you — and he’s deliberate in targeting — is really horrifying and has no place in our American discourse.”
In a statement reported by ABC, Trump responded to the prerecorded interview calling the three women “ungrateful grifters” who took jobs to benefit themselves and who have gone “full Judas.”
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