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Former White House counsel Cipollone to testify before Jan. 6 committee

The agreement to provide testimony on Friday follows a subpoena last week by the committee

Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone will testify Friday morning after receiving a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, according to people familiar with the matter.

It’s unclear what limits there may be on his closed-door testimony, which is scheduled for about half a day, according to one person familiar with the matter. The session will be videotaped, but there will be some limits on what he will testify to regarding direct conversations with former president Donald Trump.

Cipollone had been reluctant to testify to the committee, citing presidential privilege, but he has been regularly mentioned in the hearings and is key to a number of episodes being plumbed by the committee.

The individuals spoke about the committee’s plans on the condition of anonymity to describe private deliberations. News of the plan was earlier reported by the New York Times.

The committee issued the subpoena last week after blockbuster testimony from a former aide, Cassidy Hutchinson, identified the lawyer as having firsthand knowledge of potential criminal activity in the Trump White House.

Cassidy Hutchinson told lawmakers on June 28 that former White House counsel Pat Cipollone was concerned about “potentially obstructing justice." (Video: Reuters)

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The decision followed extensive negotiations between Cipollone and the committee, as well as sharply escalating pressure on him in recent days to testify. Committee members have come to believe the former counsel’s testimony could be critical to their investigation, given his proximity to Trump and presence during key moments before, during and after the attack on the Capitol.

Cipollone sat for an informal interview with the committee April 13, according to a letter from the panel’s chairman, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), but he has declined to cooperate further.

“In the weeks since, the Select Committee has continued to obtain evidence about which you are uniquely positioned to testify; unfortunately, however, you have declined to cooperate with us further, including by providing on-the-record testimony. We are left with no choice but to issue you this subpoena,” Thompson wrote.

A statement from Thompson and the panel’s vice chairwoman, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), said the committee’s investigation had “revealed evidence that Mr. Cipollone repeatedly raised legal and other concerns about President Trump’s activities on January 6th and in the days that preceded.”

Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone agreed to a closed-door testimony before the Jan. 6 House select committee on July 8. (Video: Mahlia Posey/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Hutchinson, in her testimony, portrayed Cipollone as one of the last firewalls blocking Trump’s efforts to overturn the elections. She testified that on the morning of Jan. 6, Cipollone came to her with an urgent request, saying “something to the effect of: ‘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.’”

Cipollone has been mentioned often over the past month as various witnesses who have appeared in the committee’s public hearings have cited his steady presence in off-the-rail meetings and sage, though at times unwelcome, legal advice. But he has remained invisible to the American public, neither agreeing to sit for taped interviews nor appearing as a live witness at a committee hearing.

A cigar smoker with deep ties in the Federalist Society, Cipollone has kept a relatively low profile since leaving the White House, eschewing high-profile media interviews and public appearances. Though he has been a fairly reliable public ally to Trump, he is not close to the former president, according to multiple people in Trump’s orbit.

For all of the loyalists Trump surrounded himself with, Cipollone was closer to an apostate in the West Wing. The lawyer repeatedly pushed back against some of Trump’s most conspiratorial ideas and told aides he needed to be in some of the meetings with outside advisers during which plans regarding the attempt to overturn the 2020 election results were discussed. Cipollone never agreed with Trump’s claims that the election was stolen, according to people who talked with him at the time. After Jan. 6, he argued against broadly distributed pardons.

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“Him and the team were always saying, ‘Oh, we’re going to resign,’ ” Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser, told investigators of Cipollone’s response to Trump’s potentially illegal activity, according to a taped deposition played in public by the committee. “ ‘We’re not going to be here if this happens, if that happens.’ So I kind of took it up to just be whining, to be honest with you.”

Trump often castigated Cipollone, saying in private that he was one of the worst lawyers of all time. He even mocked Cipollone to his face in front of other advisers, saying, “Why do I have the worst lawyer ever?”

Trump yelled that Cipollone always said no to him, according to a former senior administration official. Some former White House officials, however, have criticized the counsel’s office for not doing more to push back against Trump.