Trump's White House counsel Pat Cipollone is the first line of defense when it comes to batting back House Democrats' impeachment inquiry
- As President Donald Trump faces an impeachment inquiry from House Democrats, his White House counsel Pasquale "Pat" Cipollone is emerging as the most important figure leading Trump's defense.
- Cipollone, a former corporate lawyer and law clerk, is known for his mild-mannered demeanor and has mostly kept a low profile since assuming the position of White House counsel in October of 2018.
- But While Cipollone is more reserved and has stayed out of the public spotlight, he's been forcefully staking his claim on being the White House's point person leading the impeachment defense.
- An in-depth profile of Cipollone recently published in The New York Times reported that in his career as a lawyer, Cipollone is known for approaching cases with a more combative approach, which he dubs "the Department of War."
- In an explosive letter the White House counsel's office recently sent to House Democrats, he blasted the inquiry as "partisan and unconstitutional" and said the White House will refuse to cooperate.
- The Times has also reported that Cipollone shut down a proposed plan to hire former GOP congressman Trey Gowdy as their main lawyer running point on the impeachment inquiry, and he has clashed with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
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As President Donald Trump faces an impeachment inquiry from House Democrats, his White House counsel Pasquale "Pat" Cipollone is emerging as the most important figure leading Trump's defense.
Cipollone, a former corporate lawyer, has mostly kept a low profile since assuming the position of White House counsel in October of 2018.His predecessor Don McGahn left the White House in dramatic fashion last year after he was revealed to have voluntarily sat for over 30 hours of testimony with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible obstruction of justice by Trump after he became concerned that Trump was trying to make him his fall guy.
But Cipollone recently made waves himself by sending an explosive letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the chairmen of the three House committees spearheading the investigation that Trump and his administration would not cooperate with the investigation because the administration viewed it as "partisan and unconstitutional."
"In order to fulfill his duties to the American people, the Constitution, the Executive Branch, and all future occupants of the Office of the Presidency, President Trump and his Administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances," the letter said.
The impeachment inquiry into Trump is being led by the House Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs Committees. It centers around a shocking whistleblower complaint filed by an anonymous intelligence community official.
The whistleblower said that in a July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump used "the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 US election."The complaint detailed concerns how Trump used the call with Zelensky to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son days after withholding a nearly $400 million military-aid package.
Biden's son, Hunter, served on the board of Ukrainian oil and gas company Burisma Holdings from 2014 to 2019. Trump and his allies have falsely accused Biden of using his power as vice president to urge Ukraine to fire a prosecutor who was investigating Burisma in order to protect Hunter.
A memo summarizing the call released by the White House confirmed the substance of the whistleblower's complaint. It showed that after telling Zelensky that "we do a lot" for Ukraine in terms of military support, Trump asked him for "a favor" by investigating Hunter Biden's business dealings and helping to discredit the Russia probe.
Asking a foreign government for material campaign aid is not only unprecedented from a president, but it could even violate campaign finance laws against soliciting aid from foreign nationals. Cipollone is now in charge of crafting the White House's defense against damning allegations that Trump abused his office for personal gain.
The "Department of War"
While Cipollone is more reserved and has stayed out of the public spotlight, he's been forcefully staking his claim on being the White House's point person leading the impeachment defense in a sometimes-chaotic White House without a clear impeachment strategy or leadership structure.
A graduate of the University of Chicago law school, Cipollone clerked for a federal judge, did a stint in the Department of Justice, and worked in private practice for the white-collar firm Kirkland Ellis and at the firm Stein, Mitchell, Cipollone, Beato & Missner.
Cipollone, a devout Roman Catholic who has 10 children with his wife Rebecca, also has a background as a religious activist, and has been involved in Catholic caucuses like the National Prayer Breakfast and the anti-abortion March for Life. One of his daughters works as a booking producer for the prominent Fox News host Laura Ingraham.
An in-depth profile of Cipollone recently published in The New York Times reported that in his career as a lawyer, Cipollone is known for approaching cases with a more combative approach, which he dubs "the Department of War," rather than a diplomatic strategy.Cipollone took a hardball approach in his letter to House Democrats, writing, "you have conducted your proceedings in secret. You have violated civil liberties and the separation of powers by threatening Executive Branch officials, claiming that you will seek to punish those who exercise fundamental constitutional rights and prerogatives."
While Cipollone's strongly-worded letter certainly made a splash, several legal scholars criticized it for both flatly refusing to cooperate with the House's inquiry and falsely suggesting that impeachment - a process outlined in the constitution - is itself unconstitutional.
According to a separate recent report in The Times, Cipollone has also put his foot down in the White House, and quickly shut down a proposed plan to hire former GOP congressman Trey Gowdy - who led the House's Benghazi's hearings under the Obama administration - as their main lawyer running point on the impeachment inquiry and "the face" of their impeachment defense.
The plot to hire Gowdy ultimately fell apart due to lobbying regulations that would have prevented him from formally joining the administration until January.
The Times reported that Cipollone has been clashing in particular with Trump's right-hand-man acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, "with one disagreement about hiring an additional lawyer taking place in front of Mr. Trump."
Read more:These are the key players you need to know to make sense of the Trump impeachment inquiry