ABC’s Jonathan Karl interviews Sarah Matthews, left, Cassidy Hutchinson, center, and Alyssa Farah Griffin, Dec. 15, 2023, in Washington. (Lou Rocco/ABC)

(WASHINGTON) — Three women who served in former President Donald Trump’s White House are now warning against a possible second Trump term, with one of them saying it could mean “the end of American democracy as we know it.”

For the first time, former White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah Griffin, former White House deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews, and former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson sat down together with ABC News This Week co-anchor Jonathan Karl to discuss their roles in speaking out against Trump in the wake of Jan. 6.

“Fundamentally, a second Trump term could mean the end of American democracy as we know it, and I don’t say that lightly,” Griffin, now a co-host of ABC’s The View, told Karl, accusing the former president of having gone to “historic and unconstitutional lengths” in attempting to “steal a democratic election” and to stay in power.

“I’m very concerned about what the term would actually look like,” Griffin continued.

“We don’t need to speculate what a second Trump term would like because we already saw it play out,” Matthews told Karl.

“To this day, he still doubles down on the fact that he thinks that the election was stolen and fraudulent,” Matthews said, claiming Trump’s rhetoric has become “increasingly erratic,” citing his threats to skirt the Constitution and suggestions about weaponizing the Justice Department to retaliate against his political enemies.

Hutchinson, who served as a top aide to Trump’s last White House chief of staff Mark Meadows — and who stood by Trump the longest after the 2020 election — said “there’s a large portion of the population that’s not recognizing their mistakes, that’s not working to continue to better our country.”

“This is a fundamental election to continue to safeguard our institutions and our constitutional republic,” Hutchinson said. “We’re extremely fragile as a country, and so is the democratic experiment.”

This was the first time Griffin, Matthews, and Hutchinson, who all cooperated with the House select committee that investigated the Capitol attack by Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, gathered to share their experiences.

Griffin, who had resigned from her White House post on Dec. 4, 2020, sat for a private closed-door interview with the Jan. 6 committee, while Matthews, who resigned on Jan. 6, 2021, and Hutchinson, who left the White House at the end of the Trump presidency, testified publicly at televised hearings in addition to closed-door testimony. Most transcripts of the Jan. 6 committee’s closed-door witness interviews were eventually published.

The bombshell testimony from Hutchinson played a major role in the House Jan. 6 investigation, providing detailed accounts of Trump’s frame of mind surrounding the 2020 election he lost as well as the events before, during and after the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing with regard to Jan. 6.

The Trump campaign responded to ABC’s interview with a statement calling the women “ungrateful grifters” who “used the opportunities given to them by President Trump” and had gone “full Judas.”

Putting politics aside to choose democracy, they say

“Our singular focus needs to be, if he is the nominee, on making sure that he is not elected the president again next November,” said Hutchinson, once a staunch Trump defender who has become a frequent target of attacks by him and his allies since her testimony before the House Jan. 6 committee.

That is, they said, even if it means electing a Democrat as president, which is a disappointing and upsetting thought for Matthews, who has long backed Republicans.

“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 told Karl, saying she’s still hopeful that Trump can be defeated in the Republican primary but that the clock is ticking.

And because the former president has made “retribution” a major theme of his reelection campaign, Hutchinson, Matthews and Griffin, who have already faced harassment from Trump and his followers, say they fear the consequences of his rising to power again.

“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.”

“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 added of her fellow Republicans. “It’s because they know that they will face death threats, that their families will face death threats.”

Hutchinson made a reference to one of Trump’s recent most controversial comments: “The fact that he feels that he needs to lean into being a dictator alone shows that he is a weak and feeble man.”

During a town hall-style interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity earlier this month, Trump said he would not be a dictator “except for Day One.” Trump has since defended the comment as a joke and said he will not be a dictator but has faced backlash nonetheless as he repeated rhetoric that mirrored the words of past authoritarian leaders.

Griffin noted that former Vice President Mike Pence has “seen more than any of us have seen” while in office, and called on him to come forward more publicly against Trump.

“I would just hope in this moment, when we are less than a year out … that he would think about speaking out more forcefully just about the unfitness of Donald Trump,” Griffin said. “This is not about politics. It’s not about policy. It is about the character of the man who is the leader of the free world.”

Reliving Jan. 6 and the House investigation

Matthews and Hutchinson, who both lived through the Jan. 6 insurrection as White House officials, told Karl how they dealt with their conflicting emotions.

Matthews said she resigned from her post the night of Jan. 6 because she couldn’t live with herself knowing she’d have to defend the insurrection.

“I could not walk into the White House gates the next day after Jan. 6, especially as someone who is a spokesperson, because I knew that I would have to defend that and defend what we saw that day and his dereliction of duty,” Matthews said. “And I couldn’t live with myself. And so that was why I made that decision and then going forward to testify before the January 6 committee.”

Hutchinson, who was still loyal to the administration at the time, said she was upset to see Griffin on television the next day being critical of Trump.

“I still felt that sense of loyalty to the administration, and I don’t say that with pride,” Hutchinson said. “And I had — that was sort of the beginning when I had this — these split emotions about how to actually process what happened that day and how to process my own involvement in it and what I could do moving forward.”

“I was really upset with Alyssa on one hand, because we were very, very close … And there’s also the side of me where I was really proud and somewhat envious of the courage that you displayed,” Hutchinson continued.

Matthews and Hutchinson both gave credit to Griffin for connecting them with the GOP Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, the two GOP members of the Jan. 6 committee, eventually leading to their public televised testimony before the panel.

“It was all secretive,” Matthews recalled of her initial meeting with Cheney and Griffin in a “little basement office” on Capitol Hill. “We sat there for probably like, what, four or five hours or something. And I just gave her my best recollection of the events leading up to January 6 and the aftermath of the election.”

Hutchinson said she was still on the Mar-a-Lago payroll when she was contacted by Griffin about talking to the Jan. 6 committee.

“I was at this really delicate point in my so-called journey in all of this where I, I really wanted to come forward,” Hutchinson said. “But I also had concerns about — I didn’t know if there’d be any lasting implications.”

Asked about women’s roles in speaking out against Trump following the Jan. 6 insurrection, Griffin emphasized what she called the courage Hutchinson and Matthews — who are both still in their 20s — showed in stepping forward.

“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,” she continued. “They not only don’t want to be on his bad side, they also want to preserve themselves for future opportunities with him.”

“For me, it fundamentally came down to, I want to be able to look my future kids in the eye and say, when history called for it, I did the right thing and I had the courage to do it,” Griffin said. “That matters to me more than any future, you know, job or power structure that might exist if he’s president again.”

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