Former aides warn of ‘running out of time’ to prevent Trump re-election

The re-election of Donald Trump in 2024 could “end American democracy as we know it”, according to three women who worked for him in the White House during his chaotic term in office.

All three gave testimony to the US House committee investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat as well as the 6 January Capitol attack staged by his supporters. And they warned in an unprecedented television interview on Sunday that time was short to prevent a second Trump administration in which they insist his behavior would be much worse.

“People in general have short memories, and might forget the chaos of the Trump years,” Sarah Matthews, a former deputy White House press secretary who resigned on the day of the deadly Capitol riot, said on ABC’s This Week.

“They also might not just be paying attention to what he’s saying now – and the threat to democracy that exists. It does really concern me if he makes it to the general [election] that he could win. I’m still hopeful that we can defeat him in the primaries, but we’re running out of time.”

Matthews was joined in the interview by former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, a key witness against Trump during the House committee’s public hearings in 2022, and Alyssa Farah Griffin, his former communications director, who said she dreaded him returning to office.

“Fundamentally, a second Trump term could mean the end of American democracy as we know it, and I don’t say that lightly,” Griffin said.

“We all witnessed him trying to steal a democratic election before and go into historic and unconstitutional lengths to do so. That just shows he’s willing to basically break every barrier to get into power and to stay into power.

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“What scares me as much as him and his retribution is the almost cult-like following he has, the threats, the harassment, the death threats that you get when he targets you, is really horrifying and has no place in our American discourse.”

About two days before the interview aired, someone placed a fake emergency call to police that prompted armed officers to arrive at the home of Maine’s secretary of state, Shenna Bellows, after she removed Trump from the state’s presidential primary under the US constitution’s insurrection clause. Bellows was not home when the attempted “swatting” call was made.

Hutchinson, ex-aide to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, said voters needed to believe Trump when he said he would be a dictator on his first day back in the White House.

“The fact that he feels that he needs to lean into being a dictator alone shows that he is a weak and feeble man,” she said.

Matthews, meanwhile, said Trump had already signaled what his second administration would look like.

“We don’t need to speculate because we already saw it play out,” she said.

“To this day, he still doubles down on the fact that he thinks that the election was stolen and fraudulent. And his rhetoric has just gotten increasingly erratic. He’s literally called for things like doing away with parts of the constitution, [and] wanting to weaponize the department of justice to enact revenge on his political enemies.

Get all the latest updates from court as Trump faces several criminal cases, starting later this year.

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“I knew that coming forward and speaking out against Donald Trump I could … face security threats, or death threats, online harassment. Despite all the personal sacrifice, I knew that ultimately it was the right thing to do. I just would encourage others to come forward because they’re running out of time in order to try to stop Trump from being in the Oval Office again.”

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The courage of the three women in speaking against Trump was a recurrent theme in the interview by This Week’s co-anchor Jonathan Karl. Martin and Hutchinson spoke of secret meetings in the basement of the Capitol with Liz Cheney, one of only two Republicans who sat on the House committee, and their loss of friendships with others in the Trump White House who felt the women had betrayed them.

“There were critical parts of history that the public would not know if not for Cassidy Hutchinson,” Griffin said.

“Other senior officials witnessed them, but did not come forward. They did not testify, whether it was credible threats about the attack on the Capitol, that people showing up that day were going to be armed, that there was a scheme to try to stop the vice-president certifying the election.

“I credit these women who are younger than me and had not as senior of titles, and stepped forward. For me, I want to be able to look my future kids in the eye and say when history called, I did the right thing, and I had the courage to do it.

“That matters to me more than any future job or power structure that might exist if he’s president again.”