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A former White House counsel under former President Donald Trump who fought some of the politician’s more extreme efforts to overturn the 2020 election has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury investigating the January 6 riots at the Capitol.
Pat Cipollone, the highest-ranking White House official working for Trump during his waning days in office, was named in the federal summons.
The 56-year-old had already been called to testify about the events of the riots last month.
He was inside the White House when citizens loyal to the on-the-way-out president stormed the building, causing multiple deaths and widespread chaos.
The development, which was confirmed Tuesday by multiple sources familiar with the matter, serves as the latest sign that the Justice Department’s yearlong investigation is heating up, as officials try to hold Trump accountable for the unrest.
It follows several appearances by senior members of former Vice President Mike Pence’s staff before the grand jury two weeks ago, and an official accusation from top congressional Democrats that several Secret Service agents deleted potentially incriminating text messages in the days immediately after January 6, 2021.
The aide named in the federal summons was ex-counsel Pat Cipollone, the highest-ranking White House official working for Trump during his waning days in office
The development, which was confirmed Tuesday by multiple sources familiar with the matter, serves as the latest sign that the Justice Department’s yearlong investigation is heating up, as officials try to hold Trump accountable for the unrest
Cipollone and his attorneys are now in talks about the prospective appearance before the grand jury, and are discussing how to deal with executive privilege issues, which could force him to keep mum about certain aspects of that day.
Cipollone has become a particular person of interest in the probe, due to the fact he was in the White House’s West Wing during the rioting – as the president reportedly refused to call his supporters off.
The conservative attorney also attended several meetings in buildup to the riot, during which Trump and members of his team discussed ways they could overturn the election and keep him in power.
Cipollone, however, repeatedly pushed back on those efforts, according to several witnesses present at those meetings.
Last month, Cipollone was questioned about the riots in a closed-door interview at the Capitol, which lasted more than eight hours.
Parts of the interview have since been shown during two recent public hearings help by the committee overseeing the investigation.
In one clip aired by the committee, Cipollone asserted he had told Trump to intervene while the attack was underway, but was repeatedly rebuffed and ignored.
‘I was pretty clear there needed to be an immediate and forceful response, statement, public statement, that people need to leave the Capitol now,’ Cipollone said in his testimony.
He also spoke of how Cabinet secretaries contemplated staging a meeting to discuss Trump’s decision-making during the rioting.
The news comes just three weeks after the 25-year-old former aide to Trump’s final White House Chief of Staff, Cassidy Hutchinson testified Cipollone pressed her to keep Trump away from the Capitol on a day throngs of his supporters stormed the Capitol.
In one clip aired by the committee, Cipollone asserted he had told Trump to intervene while the attack was underway, but was repeatedly rebuffed and ignored
‘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,” she told the committee in her own explosive testimony.
Cipollone also took part in heated arguments inside the Oval Office before January 6 where he clashed with Trump lawyer John Eastman over his election overturn theories, according to other testimony.
The committee said when it issued its subpoena last week that it needed to ‘hear from him on the record, as other former White House counsels have done in other congressional investigations,’ in a possible reference to Watergate testimony by former White House counsel John Dean.
The person briefed on the matter, who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity to discuss private negotiations, said Cipollone agreed to appear before the committee for a private, transcribed interview.
As Trump’s top White House lawyer, Cipollone was in the West Wing on Jan. 6, 2021, as well as for key meetings in the turbulent weeks after the election when Trump and associates – including Republican lawmakers and lawyer Rudy Giuliani – debated and plotted ways to challenge the election.
Cipollone defended Trump during his first impeachment trial in the Senate. During the riot, however, he reportedly fought the president’s more extreme efforts to retain power
Cipollone is seen during a meeting with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Washington
Cipollone is said to have stridently and repeatedly warned Trump and his allies against their efforts to challenge the election, threatening to resign as Trump eyed a dramatic reshuffling atop the Justice Department.
According to the New York Times, the informal agreement covered conversations with Eastman, conversations with lawmakers, and the events of Jan. 6th – but did not include conversations with Trump, other than an explosive Jan. 3 meeting with former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark.
One witness said Cipollone referred to a proposed letter making false claims about voter fraud as a ‘murder-suicide pact.’ Another witness said Cipollone had warned her that Trump was at risk of committing ‘every crime imaginable’ if he went to the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Cipollone is said to have stridently and repeatedly warned Trump and his allies against their efforts to challenge the election
But while his interview with the committee could prove to be a breakthrough, it remained unclear whether Cipollone would try to limit what he is willing to talk about. As the administration´s chief lawyer, he could argue that some or all of his conversations with Trump are privileged.
Other former White House officials, including former Chief White House strategist Steve Bannon and former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, have made their own privilege claims.
As White House counsel, some of Trump’s conversations with Cipollone could be covered by executive privilege claims or attorney-client-privilege claims, although his role is different than that of a personal attorney representing the president.
Cipollone and his former deputy, Patrick Philbin, each sat for ‘informal’ interviews this spring, amid the clash and Trump’s own claims of executive privilege.
Nevertheless, a string of other witnesses who resisted Trump’s election overturn effort described Cipollone as an ally.
The panel has used videotaped testimony of other officials in video montages that the panel has played during televised hearings to describe Trump’s efforts to stay in power.