WASHINGTON ― The Trump White House’s top lawyer, Pat Cipollone, is set to appear before the House Jan. 6 committee on Friday, which would make him the highest-ranking official from the West Wing to provide testimony to the panel.
Cipollone did not immediately respond to a request for comment on multiple media reports that he has agreed to testify behind closed doors after having previously spoken to the committee informally.
Cipollone, according to former Trump administration officials, was among the most forceful voices telling Trump on Jan. 6 that his actions that day could expose him to criminal prosecution.
According to testimony already made public by the committee, Cipollone became the bulwark against Trump’s attempts to overturn his election loss through various means, including trying to pressure the Department of Justice to send a letter falsely claiming there had been significant election fraud to states that Joe Biden had narrowly won or invoking the Insurrection Act to declare a form of martial law and seize voting machines.
His threats to resign along with others in the office became so well-known in Trump’s inner circle that even Fox News host Sean Hannity wrote in a Dec. 31, 2020, text to chief of staff Mark Meadows: “We can’t lose the entire WH counsel’s office.” And in a Jan. 5, 2021, text, he warned Meadows that “pressure” on Vice President Mike Pence would backfire: “WH counsel will leave.”
Top Trump adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner told the committee in a videotaped deposition that he personally did not think much of Cipollone’s repeated threats. “I know him and the team were always saying, ‘We are going to resign. We are not going to be there if this happened, if that happens.’ So I kind of took it to be just whining, to be honest with you,” he said.
And on Jan. 6 itself, Cipollone was the leading voice in the building telling Trump that he should not lead his mob’s attempt to coerce Pence and Congress into reversing his election loss by physically going to the Capitol with them.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to Meadows, testified last week that Cipollone told her to make sure Trump did not go to the Capitol as he wanted. “Please make sure we don’t go up to the Capitol, Cassidy. Keep in touch with me. We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen,” she said.
She also told the panel that Meadows and Cipollone discussed their failed attempt that afternoon to persuade Trump to tell his supporters to leave the building after live television reports showed they had breached police lines and broken in.
“I remember Pat saying something to the effect of, ‘Mark, we need to do something more. They’re literally calling for the vice president to be f-ing hung.’ And Mark had responded something to the effect of, ‘You heard him, Pat. He thinks Mike deserves it,’” she testified. “‘He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong,’ to which Pat said something like, ‘This is f-ing crazy.’”
Whatever information Cipollone provides to the committee could become public on Tuesday, when the committee has set its next public hearing.
The committee’s chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), and vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), have previously said the final hearings would focus on what Trump did, and failed to do, as the armed mob he assembled in Washington injured police officers and roamed the halls of the Capitol in an attempt to keep Trump in power.
Trump, despite losing the election by 7 million votes nationally and 306-232 in the Electoral College, became the first president in more than two centuries of elections to refuse to hand over power peacefully. His incitement of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol ― his last-ditch attempt to remain in office ― killed five, including one police officer, injured another 140 officers and led to four police suicides.
Nevertheless, Trump remains the dominant figure in the Republican Party and is openly speaking about running for the presidency again in 2024.
In statements on his personal social media platform, Trump has continued to lie about the election and the Jan. 6 committee’s work, calling it a “hoax” similar to previous investigations into his 2016 campaign’s acceptance of Russian assistance and his attempt to extort Ukraine into helping his 2020 campaign.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.