Pat Cipollone meets with the January 6 committee behind closed doors on Friday | CNN Politics


The House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection is expected to question Trump’s White House attorney Pat Cipollone in a closed-door interview on Friday about what he witnessed in the final days of Donald Trump’s administration when the former president and his allies tried to overturn the election.

The interview is being videotaped and could be shown at future hearings, including one on Tuesday on how the violent mob came together and the role of extremist groups, as well as another hearing – which did not yet to be scheduled – on the 187 minutes of Trump’s inaction as rioters stormed the US Capitol.

Cipollone began his interview with the committee on Friday morning and did not respond to questions from CNN as he entered the room. His appearance is the result of months of negotiations between his attorneys and the panel over what topics can be discussed. He had already met informally with the committee in April.

Cipollone was among a handful of people who hung out with Trump as he watched the Capitol riot unfold on television from a dining room next to the Oval Office, according to two sources familiar with the Trump investigation. panel. The committee heard from other witnesses who said Cipollone, along with other senior Trump advisers, including Ivanka Trump and Dan Scavino, were with the president at various times during this time.

Like others who were present and testified before the committee, Cipollone could help shed light on Trump’s state of mind as the violence unfolded. Trump’s White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, for example, said she overheard conversation in the dining room at one point about rioters chanting “hang Mike Pence.”

Cipollone’s presence in the dining room — which several witnesses described to the committee — underscores why the committee is seeking his official testimony as a key fact witness.

Cipollone’s concerns about executive privilege surrounding the role of White House counsel could lead him to limit his cooperation with the committee, according to people familiar with his thinking.

The committee has sought to piece together a full account of what Trump was doing on January 6, who he spoke to and how he responded to the violence in real time. The panel relied heavily on testimony to do so due to a gap of several hours in the White House archives during this period, CNN previously reported.

Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, a committee member, pushed back against claims of privilege that Cipollone might assert on CNN earlier this week.

“Well, the executive privilege is held by the current president, who hasn’t asserted it when it comes to finding information about the January 6 conspiracy,” Lofgren said. “The solicitor-client privilege could be asserted. But, remember, the presidency is his client, not Mr. Trump as a person.

But Lofgren said: “I’m sure we will get information that will be useful to him and we will also respect his devotion to these directors who are dear to him.”

Cipollone’s name came up repeatedly during committee hearings as he is considered a key witness by the committee.

Cipollone was in a key Oval Office meeting on January 3, 2021, when Trump was considering replacing acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen with DOJ environmental lawyer Jeffrey Clark, because Clark, unlike Rosen, was willing to use the powers federal law enforcement to support his baseless allegations of voter fraud.

At this meeting, Rosen and Cipollone discredited Clark’s credentials for the job and flatly rejected a draft letter Clark had written that falsely claimed the Justice Department had found evidence of voter fraud.

Rosen’s deputy, Richard Donoghue, testified at a committee hearing that Cipollone said of the letter written at that meeting, “this letter that this guy wants to send, this letter is a murder-suicide pact . It will damage anyone who touches it. And we should have nothing to do with this letter. I never want to see this letter again.

The committee revealed that in his previous informal conversation with Cipollone, Cipollone told the select committee that “he stepped in when he heard that Mr. Clark was meeting with the president about legal matters without his knowledge, which was strictly against White House policy.”

Hutchinson testified that Cipollone was against Trump calling on his supporters to march to the Capitol in his Jan. 6 morning speech and was particularly opposed to Trump joining his supporters on Capitol Hill.

Hutchinson said Cipollone told him on January 3: “We need to make sure that doesn’t happen, legally it would be a terrible idea for us. We have serious legal problems if we go to the Capitol that day.

When the violence erupted on Capitol Hill, Cipollone entered the office of former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, according to Hutchinson, and demanded that they speak to Trump about doing something to intervene.

Hutchinson testified that Meadows told Cipollone that the former president didn’t want to do anything and Cipollone said something to Mark’s effect, “something has to be done, or people are going to die, blood is going to be on your f** *ing hands.’

Cipollone wanted Trump to say in his January 7, 2021 speech that the rioters should be prosecuted and portrayed as violent, but Hutchinson said those original lines were not in the final version of Trump’s speech.

Hutchinson added that it was her understanding at the time that the reason individuals like Cipollone wanted this language was because there was “great concern about the 25th Amendment potentially being invoked.”

The committee released a video of Jared Kushner’s testimony saying that Cipollone and his team were “always saying, ‘Oh, we’re going to quit. We’re not going to be here if that happens, if that happens.'” But Kushner said said, “I sort of took that as a whine to be honest with you.”

Before Cipollone’s interview was scheduled, the committee had made public pressure for him to testify under oath.

“Our committee is certain that Donald Trump does not want Mr. Cipollone to testify here,” said GOP Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who serves as the committee’s vice chair, at the conclusion of the panel’s fourth hearing on June 21. .

“We believe the American people deserve to hear from Mr. Cipollone personally,” she added. “He is expected to appear before this committee, and we are working to obtain his testimony.”

This story and headline were updated with additional developments on Friday.

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