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Pat Cipollone, who served as White House counsel during the last two years of the Trump presidency, has become a key witness to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and the Trump administration’s role on that day and in the weeks before it.
Cipollone was subpoenaed June 29 by the Jan. 6 Committee and testified on July 8 for a private on-camera interview, clips of which were shown during the committee’s seventh public hearing on July 12.
WATCH: Jan. 6 committee focuses on connections between the violent mob and Trump
As White House counsel, Cipollone was the Trump administration’s top lawyer and, according to his pre-recorded testimony, was part of the group of staff who told the former president there was no evidence of election fraud and refused to participate in efforts to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election.
At the Jan. 6 committee’s July 12 hearing, the committee showed clips of Cipollone’s recorded testimony in which he described internal disagreements over how to handle baseless claims of voter fraud being made by Trump and his allies and the role of extremist groups in helping perpetuate those claims.
Cipollone condemned the actions of Trump’s former lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, who both promoted claims of widespread election fraud. In particular, Cipollone said he fruitlessly asked Powell for evidence of her claims that voting machines had been hacked or votes had been changed.
“At some point, you have to put up or shut up,” Cipollone said during the July 12 hearing.
Powell and Giuliani also pushed for the federal government to seize voting machines, which Cipollone said was a “terrible idea” without basis in law.
“That’s not how we do things in the United States. There’s no legal authority to do that and there is a way to contest elections, that happens all the time, but the idea that the federal government could come in and seize election machines?” Cipollone said.
“It’s a terrible idea.”
Cipollone said he also opposed a plan to appoint Powell as a special counsel to investigate the false voting machine claims and was present during a heated December 2020 meeting that lasted several hours in the White House with Trump involving Powell, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and others.
After the meeting, the committee said, Trump tweeted “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”
Between that December meeting and Jan. 6, Cipollone continued to dispute the voter fraud narrative, and supported the fact that Vice President Mike Pence had no legal authority to stop the count of electoral votes on Jan. 6, he said.
Witnesses the committee has called have also testified that Cipollone was present for key meetings in which Trump and some of his allies discussed strategies to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election. As rioters broke into the Capitol and disrupted the counting of electoral votes, senior White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified last month that she witnessed an exchange between Cipollone and her immediate supervisor, Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, in which Cipollone pushed Meadows to get Trump to do something to stop the violence.
She recalled Cipollone saying something to the effect of “Mark, something needs to be done, or people are going to die, and the blood’s going to be on your effing hands,” Hutchinson said in her testimony.
Cipollone has talked to the committee before. In an informal interview on April 13, Cipollone gave a statement indicating he had initially stopped Department of Justice lawyer Jeffrey Clark, who had been proposing ways to further Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud, from meeting with the president.
Clark went on to communicate with the president about his ideas, and in one meeting, Trump discussed the possibility of Clark replacing acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, who refused to be part of the effort to overturn the 2020 election results, according to testimony from the hearings.
Former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue and top Department of Justice official Steven Engel told the committee on June 23 that Cipollone also refused to acquiesce to Trump’s demands and shared the belief that Clark was not capable of leading the Department of Justice. He was supportive as top officials threatened to resign if Clark was named head of the department, they said.
For more on the key players in the Jan. 6 committee hearings, click here.
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