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Cipollone will testify behind closed doors to the Jan. 6 committee on Friday

Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone departs the Capitol following defense arguments in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in 2020.
J. Scott Applewhite
Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone departs the Capitol following defense arguments in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in 2020.

Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, a critical figure in the final days of the Trump White House, will testify before the House select committee behind closed doors on Friday, according to sources familiar with the committee's work.

The committee issued a subpoena to Cipollone last month after publicly pleading with him to appear. It has spoken to Cipollone in an informal interview already.

"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," Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney said in a hearing last month.

A committee aide declined to comment on the Friday meeting.

In a letter to Cipollone regarding the subpoena, Chair Bennie Thompson, D-Miss, wrote that 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 Dept. 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 lead-up 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 Justice Department 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 an explosive hearing featuring former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, Cipollone was described as 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, calling the violence a life-or-death situation.
  • 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.

    The committee recently announced its next scheduled hearing will happen Tuesday. It will focus on the mob and rioters who stormed the Capitol, including far-right groups such as the Proud Boys. The hearing will be the seventh in the panel's series on its months-long investigation into the deadly insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 and the events that led up to it.

    Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Washington desk
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