Jan. 6 Panel Subpoenas Trump WH Counsel06/30 06:17
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection issued a subpoena
Wednesday to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, whose reported
resistance to Donald Trump's schemes to overturn his 2020 election defeat has
made him a long-sought and potentially revelatory witness.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection
issued a subpoena Wednesday to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, whose
reported resistance to Donald Trump's schemes to overturn his 2020 election
defeat has made him a long-sought and potentially revelatory witness.
Cipollone is said to have stridently and repeatedly warned the former
president and his allies against their efforts to challenge the election, at
one point threatening to resign as Trump eyed a dramatic reshuffling atop the
Justice Department. One witness said Cipollone referred to a proposed letter
making false claims about voter fraud as a "murder-suicide pact." Another
witness said Cipollone had warned her that Trump was at risk of committing
"every crime imaginable."
It's the first action from the committee since Tuesday's dramatic testimony
from Cassidy Hutchinson, whose gripping account of what she saw and heard as an
aide in the White House raised new questions about whether Trump or some of his
allies could face criminal liability. As Trump's top White House lawyer,
Cipollone was present for key meetings in the turbulent weeks after the
election when Trump and associates -- including GOP lawmakers and lawyer Rudy
Giuliani -- debated and plotted ways to challenge the election.
The subpoena sets the stage for a possibly protracted legal fight between a
Congress determined to assert its authority and a former executive branch
employee privy to intimate and sensitive Oval Office deliberations. As White
House counsel, effectively the administration's chief lawyer, Cipollone could
try to argue that his conversations with the president are privileged and that
he is therefore exempt from testifying, though such claims would likely need to
be resolved in the courts.
The committee pressed ahead anyway, saying Cipollone could have information
about several efforts by Trump allies to subvert the Electoral College, from
organizing so-called alternate electors in states Biden won to trying to
appoint a loyalist as attorney general who championed false theories of voter
fraud. While Cipollone has sat for an informal interview in April, the
committee said it required his cooperation on the record after it obtained
evidence about which he was "uniquely positioned to testify."
Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, the committee's Democratic chairman, and
Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the panel's Republican vice chairwoman, suggested that
Cipollone had resisted transcribed testimony because of concerns about
executive privilege. In a statement announcing the subpoena, they said that
"any concerns Mr. Cipollone has about the institutional prerogatives of the
office he previously held are clearly outweighed by the need for his testimony."
"We are left with no choice but to issue you this subpoena," Thompson wrote
in a letter to Cipollone.
While Cipollone's words and warnings have been prominent throughout the
public hearings this month, Hutchinson shared more about his actions, revealing
that he was trying frantically in the days before Jan. 6 to prevent Trump from
going to the Capitol as the election results were certified.
On Jan. 3, Cipollone warned that there were "serious legal concerns" if
Trump accompanied the protesters to the Capitol, saying, "We need to make sure
that this doesn't happen." By the morning of Jan. 6, Cipollone was urging
Hutchinson, then an aide to chief of staff Mark Meadows, to "keep in touch"
about any possible movements by the president and "please make sure we don't go
up to the Capitol, Cassidy."
If Trump did go to the Capitol, Hutchinson recalled Cipollone saying, "we're
going to get charged with every crime imaginable." He had previously identified
obstruction of justice or defrauding the electoral count as among the
possibilities, she said.
Back at the White House as the violent insurrection unfolded that afternoon,
Hutchinson again placed Cipollone at the center of events, recounting how he at
one point came "barreling down the hallway" for an urgent conversation with
"And I remember Pat saying to him something to the effect of, the rioters
have gotten to the Capitol, Mark. We need to go down and see the president now.
And Mark looked up at him and said, he doesn't want to do anything, Pat."
Hutchinson said she also heard Meadows tell Cipollone that Trump was
sympathetic to rioters wanting to hang then-Vice President Mike Pence over his
refusal to try and stop the certification of Joe Biden's election victory.
"You heard it, Pat," Meadows told Cipollone, in her recollection. "He thinks
Mike deserves it. He doesn't think they're doing anything wrong."
The Jan. 6 committee said it issued the subpoena in order to have
Cipollone's testify on the record, something they said "other former White
House counsels have done in other congressional investigations." An
on-the-record interview would be transcribed, while informal interviews
generally are not.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, the other Republican on the committee, said
last week that Cipollone told the committee he tried to intervene when he heard
Trump was being advised by Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official
who wanted to push false claims of voter fraud. Federal agents recently seized
Clark's cell phone and conducted a search of his Virginia home.
Clark had drafted a letter for key swing states that was never sent but
would have falsely claimed the department had discovered troubling
irregularities in the election. Cipollone was quoted by one witness as having
told Trump in an Oval Office meeting that the letter was a "murder-suicide