Stefani Reynolds/getty Cassidy Hutchinson
Since Cassidy Hutchinson's shocking testimony that Donald Trump was aware his supporters were armed in D.C. on Jan. 6, and that he lunged at his Secret Service detail in the car in an attempt to reach the Capitol that day, her life has taken a dramatic turn.
"Safety precautions are being taken," a friend tells PEOPLE in this week's issue, on newsstands nationwide Friday. "She went into this knowing her life would change."
Due to her appearance last week before the House committee investigating the insurrection at the Capitol, Hutchinson has received threats. She's also faced attacks from anonymous sources disputing some of her testimony, but at least two anonymous Secret Service agents have corroborated it.
Still, "she's doing remarkably well," former White House communications director Alyssa Farah Griffin, now a CNN commentator, tells PEOPLE. "I think she went into it with open eyes."
It has been a head-spinning several years for the 25-year-old Hutchinson. As a senior at Virginia's Christopher Newport University in 2018, Hutchinson, a first-generation college student from New Jersey, told her school paper: "I have set a personal goal to pursue a path of civic significance."
facebook A photo of Cassidy Hutchinson shared by her alma mater's Department of Political Science
Soon after graduation, she was clearly on that path, joining the White House in 2019 and immediately becoming a standout as an advisor to Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
"She was a workhorse," says Farah Griffin. "Everyone in the West Wing liked her. Everyone knew her. She was regularly in by 7:00 AM and very often staying past midnight."
According to a friend, Hutchinson "believed in the Trump agenda but was devastated by what she saw once she was there."
"It was a mix of everything," the friend continues, "from the lack of structure to the infighting to the backstabbing and witnessing the character of the president that many went in admiring and realizing he is mean-spirited."
Still in her early 20s at the time, Hutchinson had a maturity that belied her years, recalls Farah Griffin.
"We'd go out for drinks, and Kayleigh (McEnany, a former Trump White House press secretary) would join us," says the 33-year-old Farah Griffin. "And it never felt like we were with someone younger than us."
Alex Brandon/AP/Shutterstock Kayleigh McEnany and Cassidy Hutchinson dance to 'YMCA' at a Trump 2020 rally
The "very outgoing" Hutchinson "loved being in the White House," she says. "It was a dream come true."
"There were a couple of times that Cassidy and I, throughout traveling together, we had a lot of trips together, we'd say like, 'Can you believe this is our lives?' in a way that was grateful," Farah Griffin recalls, "but also acknowledging the magnitude of the moments we were in."
Hutchinson's decision to speak, her former political science professor, Rachel Bitecofer, tells PEOPLE, "was at great personal expense. To break a tribal identity is exceedingly difficult."
As for the future, Hutchinson, who is single, is going to "explore a number of options, but also probably going to give herself a little bit of time to decompress," says Farah Griffin. "I know she's going to have opportunities."
"I've prepped the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to give congressional testimony," she continues, "and they couldn't do it with the same level of poise and just sophistication and knowledge and calm that she did."
Hutchinson's decision to speak has also already inspired others to come forward, according to committee member Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who tells CNN, "She's going to go down in history."