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President Trump Meets With His Cabinet At The White House
Former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone waits for the beginning of a cabinet meeting in the East Room of the White House on May 19, 2020 in Washington, D.C.Alex Wong / Getty Images, file

Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone agrees to Jan. 6 testimony

Now that former Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone has agreed to testify, remember: He's a unique figure of special significance to investigators.


There are plenty of people the Jan. 6 committee is still eager to speak to, but by any fair measure, former Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone is a unique figure of special significance to investigators.

The Republican attorney has already spoken to the House select panel, but it was an informal interview in April that covered a limited amount of ground. Last week, the committee took its interest to the next level, subpoenaing Cipollone.

It was unclear whether, and how, the attorney might comply. This morning, as NBC News reported, the answer came into sharper focus.

Pat Cipollone, who served as former President Donald Trump’s White House counsel, is expected to testify behind closed doors on Friday with the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, a person familiar with the situation said Wednesday. The interview with Cipollone will be transcribed and videotaped, according to a person familiar with the matter.

In case anyone needs a refresher, we were reminded just last week how important this witness is. When former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified, for example, his name came up 18 times.

As we discussed soon after, based on what we now know, it was Cipollone who didn’t want Trump to go to the Capitol after his speech at the Ellipse. It was Cipollone who wanted then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to intervene with Trump about the rioters. It was Cipollone who lobbied to keep dangerous lies out of Trump’s pre-riot remarks.

It was also Cipollone who warned Team Trump not to challenge the election results, even threatening to resign at one point in the post-election process.

There’s no great mystery as to why Jan. 6 investigators want — and believe they need — to talk to this guy.

To be sure, it might seem unusual for a White House counsel to offer congressional testimony, but it’s not at all unprecedented. On the contrary, former White House counsel Don McGahn — Cipollone’s predecessor in Donald Trump’s administration — testified just last year before the House Judiciary Committee.

What about attorney-client privilege? The legal dynamic is complex, and there are experts who can speak to this with more authority than I can, but as a matter of professional responsibilities, the White House counsel is not the president’s attorney. The counsel’s office represents the interests of the presidency, not the president.

While in office, Trump had plenty of lawyers representing him and his interests. Cipollone’s job was to represent the presidency as an institution and the White House’s interests.

It’s why Rep. Liz Cheney, the Republican vice chair of the Jan. 6 committee, was unsubtle in her public and private calls for Cipollone’s testimony.

Now that he’s agreed to answer questions under oath, it’s likely that Team Trump’s anxiety levels have reached a new and higher level.