Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, left, is seen with Keith Kellog, center, national security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, watching Marine One carrying President Donald Trump leave the White House ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021.
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has issued a subpoena to former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, a critical figure in the final days of the Trump White House who the committee has been publicly pleading with to appear.
The committee has spoken to Cipollone in an informal interview but Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., has argued from the dais for him to appear publicly.
"Our committee is certain that Donald Trump does not want Mr. Cipollone to testify here. Indeed our evidence shows that Mr. Cipollone and his office tried to do what was right. They tried to stop a number of President Trump's plans for January 6th. Today and in our coming hearings you will hear testimony from other Trump White House staff explaining what Mr. Cipollone said and did including on January 6th," she said on June 21 in the panel's fourth hearing. "But we think the American people deserve to hear from Mr. Cipollone personally."
In a letter to Cipollone regarding the subpoena, Chair Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., writes that Cipollone has "declined to cooperate with us further." He said the committee would like to speak with him about a number of issues, including Trump's efforts to subvert the election, a scheme to submit fake electoral ballots, the attempted replacement of Justice Department leadership, and attempts to directly interfere with Congress' activities on Jan. 6, 2021.
Testimony in the hearings so far has shown Cipollone present at key points in the leadup to Jan. 6 and on the day of the attack. Former Department of Justice officials said he worked to intervene and stop Trump from replacing the department's leadership with DOJ lawyer Jeffrey Clark, who proposed sending out a letter falsely claiming fraud in the election that Cipollone referred to as a "murder-suicide pact," according to former DOJ official Steven Engel. Former Trump campaign aide Jason Miller testified that Cipollone confronted lawyer John Eastman over his theory that Vice President Mike Pence could unilaterally stop the electoral count.
In Tuesday's explosive hearing featuring former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, Cipollone featured heavily, said to be a figure in trying to stop Trump from making a planned trip to the Capitol on Jan. 6 and pleading to get him to call off the riot once it got underway.
Hutchinson testified "Mr. Cipollone said 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.'"
When the violence at the Capitol began that day, Hutchinson said that Cipollone pleaded with Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to try and get Trump to call off what he is said to have accurately described as a life-or-death situation, and that the two went into Trump's private dining room where he is said to have spent much of his time that afternoon.
Cipollone was also said to have been part of a group convincing Trump the next day to put out a video the day after the attack, and that there was a fierce debate involving the White House counsel over language to be included.
Cipollone was a lead defender of Trump during his first impeachment trial. He earlier served in government during William Barr's first stint leading the Justice Department in the early 1990s. He has served along with Barr and conservative legal icon Leonard Leo as directors of the Catholic Information Center, affiliated with the conservative Opus Dei movement, as NPR reported at the time of the first impeachment trial.
As White House counsel under Trump, he was also central to judicial nominations, including the Supreme Court confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett just before the 2020 election.