Clip: Trump’s White House counsel speaks to the Jan. 6 committee

Jul. 08, 2022 AT 5:24 p.m. EDT

Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone on Friday testified behind closed doors before the Jan. 6 committee over former President Trump’s actions surrounding the Capitol attack. It follows grand jury's subpoenas that were issued to several of Trump top allies as officials in Georgia investigate their roles in attempting to overturn the state's 2020 presidential election results.

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Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Alcindor : T here were new developments for the investigation into the Capitol attack. Today, former White House counsel Pat Cipollone testified behind closed doors before the January 6 committee. And Tuesday, a grand jury in Georgia issued subpoenas to top Trump allies, including his former Attorney Rudy Giuliani and Senator Lindsey Graham. Officials want to know more about their roles in trying to overturn Georgia’s presidential election results. So, Josh, I want to come back to you. What do we know about the significance of Pat Cipollone coming in? There is information about what he said and how long he was there today.

Dawsey : So, Pat Cipollone, former President Trump’s counsel was there for about eight hours with a few breaks. And you see some lawmakers came out and said they learned significant new information, that they were pleased with the testimony.

We knew that Pat Cipollone was Cheney’s bigger fish. She really wanted him to come in. Wanted to see testimony from other folks of what former President Trump was doing leading up to the election, how he was pressing these false claims, the planning of January 6. And you heard a lot about Pat Cipollone.

But heretofore, he had been unwilling to come in and to talk to the committee directly. He had done one informal interview, he had cited privilege, and when the committee took a pretty risky step, and subpoenaed him, and it was unclear what he would do, what you saw from getting him today is you have a number of figures in the former president’s inner circle who have given the community -- committee videotaped testimony, under oath, that have given a deeper knowledge of what happened that day and former president’s role in it.

And Pat Cipollone is particularly interesting, because he was involved in discussions about seizing voting machines. He was involved in discussions about some of the more spurious claims, he was in the White House on election night. He was around the days before and after January 6. He allegedly warned a lot of aides about the crimes people would face if they went to the Capitol and if they went through with some of these more grandiose plans the former president had.

So he doesn’t have a close relationship with the former president anymore. I mean, they had a tense relationship at times. I don’t think they are necessarily simpatico in almost anyway. That said, he had been very strident about trying to respect privilege in his mind and not wanting to discuss the conversations he directly had with the former president.

And so, the fact he went in today, we don’t know what he said. I think we will be trying to learn that in the next few days. It is significant development for the community.

Alcindor : It certainly is significant development, Jeff, and you told our producers it is not a stretch to say that Pat Cipollone might be the most important witness that came before this committee. Explain your thinking there, given the fact that Pat Cipollone might change the direction of this investigation, or at least add significant information to it?

Zeleny : Look, I mean, as josh was saying, there was no one who was really involved from the inside of the White House at that level of position, that level of experience and knowledge of the law more than Pat Cipollone. So, we don’t know he will be the most important witness at this point. As Josh said, we don’t know exactly what he said.

But there was no one who had the window into really everything that was going on and potentially, you know, he tried to stop from going on. I mean, he sounded the alarm about the involvement in the president going to the Capitol on January 6. He knew a lot of the things that -- the outside legal teams, Rudy Giuliani and others who were trying to cook up. And it seemed like he was trying to throw his body in front of all of that.

So, I thought, you know, sitting down for eight hours is a very long time. They have a lot to talk about. I mean, just the days leading up to January 6, never mind from Election Day forward here. So, it’s certainly as an indication he did not spend time pleading the Fifth. We know he answered questions.

And as Zoe Lofgren said the congresswoman from California, she said he did not contradict the testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson. Of course, the top advisor to the White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

So, look, I think we are going to see since the video -- since the deposition was videotaped, my guess is, since we have seen how this committee works, they like to play those videotapes. My guess is in the coming days, likely next week, we will see some of Pat Cipollone’s testimony. But certainly he has more knowledge than virtually anyone else in a deep level, you know, mixing that with the experience in Washington and the legal knowledge, he has a lot to say.

Alcindor : And you talk about the hearings coming up. How much based on your reporting are the hearings making an impact with the American public that have been tuning in at least some time by the millions, but also among Republicans who are rethinking their thoughts on former President Trump?

Zeleny : Look, there’s no doubt that not everyone is watching for every moment of these hearings, particularly independents and even Republican voters are not. But it is impossible to not, you know, have some of this information sipping down, you know, through editorials in “The Wall Street Journal”, other places. You know, what it has learned is a huge breath of information.

But I think, more interestingly, it certainly has shattered this myth that there was widespread election fraud. It has shattered it in the eyes of many Republicans and others that there was some big fraud going on. But I think more interestingly, the biggest outcome in terms of the 2024 presidential race.

It has given other potential Republican rivals for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and others a window into the thinking of the former president. Yes, at this point, he still is controlling the Republican Party, but certainly, you know, with the iron grip it has seen several months ago. So, that is something --

Alcindor : And it’s such a great point that you make about the sort of the grip that he has.

Michael, I want to come to you, because Georgia also had all these developments. The DA there saying she might subpoena more people. What is the significance of what is going on there?

Shear : Well, I think in some ways, it’s adding to the narrative that the January 6 committee is laying out for the public doing what Jeff said, which is to seeping into the American consciousness. And the investigation -- I thought it was interesting. The people that the investigators in Georgia were seeking to talk to some of the obvious ones, Rudy Giuliani and the like, but I thought it was interesting they wanted to talk to Senator Lindsey Graham, who had been one of the people who made phone calls to Georgia officials.

And I do think -- I think Jeff is right. But I think the big question is how much is this really going to matter. How much at the end of the day are Americans going to shrug off all of this as a story that they already knew, that they already felt somewhere deep down that they understood it had happened? And how much of it is -- or on the other side, how much do they suddenly wake up and say we thought we knew what had happened here on January sixth and the days leading up to it, but this is worse, this is different, and we will make different decisions.

Alcindor : And it’s a critical question to ask, like how much is this going to matter?

Laura and Josh, 30 seconds to go to both of you. What are you looking for next week as we think about these hearings and what lawmakers are saying?

First to you, Laura.

Barron-Lopez : One of the first hearings is going to be a lot about the violence and what occurred that day, what the president and his inner circle new, how concerned were they with these groups like the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers? I’m going to be keeping an eye on that.

Alcindor : Josh?

Dawsey : Yeah, that’s exactly right. And also the committee is expected to delve into what the former president was doing in that 187-minute period as the Capitol was under attack in the future, as soon as Thursday.

One of the things my colleague, Jackie Alemany, reported today is that they had got more witnesses coming forward, they could expand it into August. It may not be the last of the hearing. So, I don’t think the story is over.

Alcindor : Definitely, definitely not a story that is over.


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