Former President Donald Trump’s White House attorney Pat Cipollone testified before the House Jan. 6 committee behind closed doors on Friday.
His interview comes more than a year after the committee’s investigation into the circumstances surrounding the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol and after weeks of televised hearings. During those hearings, witnesses described Cipollone as one of the few figures to have repeatedly witnessed Trump’s efforts to nullify the 2020 election without participating. Although Cipollone appeared behind closed doors with the committee in April, it was not an official deposition.
Cipollone’s testimony may be linked in the public imagination to another former White House attorney who testified about potential crimes committed by a former president – John Dean. During the Watergate hearings, Dean testified against Richard Nixon and played a crucial role in establishing the 37th President’s guilt in the scandal.
Publicity-averse Cipollone is unlikely to follow in Dean’s footsteps, but he could provide new details about what Trump was doing in the attack on the Capitol and the political and legal efforts to undo Trump’s victory. Joe Biden.
Who is Pat Cipollone?
Former senator and two-time Republican presidential primary candidate Rick Santorum spoke to Vox on Friday about his good friend Cipollone and described the former lawyer as “a pretty straight-forward guy” who focused about his faith, his family and his work. The two met when their children went to school together and bonded over their mutual backgrounds.
“He’s a strong Catholic, I’m a strong Catholic,” Santorum said. “He’s an Italian, I’m an Italian, he’s a lawyer, I’m a lawyer. He is a conservative politician, I am a conservative politician.
Santorum clarified that no matter what father-of-10 Cipollone looks like outside of the workplace, he thinks Cipollone is a “straight shooter…the lawyer who tells you in a deposition to just answer the question and nothing more” and someone “who not only isn’t interested in fame, but would be perfectly happy to never see his name in print.”
But Cipollone will now see his name printed all over the world. It represents a shocking change from the last time the former White House attorney was the center of attention in 2019, when he helped lead Trump’s defense during his first impeachment. Then he developed a belligerent legal strategy on behalf of his client.
Even before his tenure as Trump’s White House attorney, which began in 2018, Cipollone was a stalwart of Washington’s right-wing legal establishment. He worked for Attorney General Bill Barr during his first stint in the Justice Department and served as in-house counsel for the Knights of Columbus, the prominent Catholic fraternal organization, before becoming a renowned partner in a law firm where he earned $6.7 million a year. before joining the Trump administration.
The University of Chicago law graduate’s ties to conservative circles run so deep that he was even godfather to prominent Fox News personality Laura Ingraham when she converted to Catholicism. However, he comes from a humble background. The son of an Italian immigrant, Cipollone was born in New York and raised in the Bronx before graduating from a Catholic high school in Kentucky after his father’s factory job moved there.
What the January 6 committee wants to learn from Pat Cipollone
The committee views the former White House attorney as a key witness who was in the room with Trump throughout his months of efforts to overturn the 2020 election. He could provide a first-hand account of situations including other witnesses had circumstantial knowledge and provided new information about Trump’s behavior and actions on January 6.
Cipollone’s deposition comes just over a week after former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s surprise testimony before the committee on Jan. 6, and just over two weeks after Rep. Liz Cheney (R- WY), the vice chair of the committee, implored Cipollone to testify on national television, saying, “Our evidence shows that Pat Cipollone and his office tried to do the right thing. They tried to stop a number of President Trump’s plans for January 6.
She went on to say, “We believe the American people deserve to hear from Mr. Cipollone personally. He is expected to appear before this committee, and we are trying to get his testimony. Apparently his plea was successful.
The former White House attorney has been a staple of TV hearings so far. Hutchinson testified that Cipollone repeatedly warned Trump that the former president would face legal liability if he went to the Capitol on Jan. 6, and that she heard from White House chief of staff Mark Meadows , explicitly telling Cipollone that Trump agreed with the crowd chanting “Hang Mike Pence.” outside the Capitol.
“You heard it, Pat, he thinks Mike deserves it, he doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong,” Hutchinson told Meadows. Additionally, senior Justice Department officials testified in another hearing that Cipollone also threatened to resign if Trump named Jeffrey Clark acting attorney general and helped block transition efforts.
But that only scratches the surface of what Cipollone might know as the best White House lawyer. The question is simply how much he will share.
Cipollone’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment from Vox, and a spokesperson for the Jan. 6 committee declined to comment.