WASHINGTON — Former Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone appeared before the House Jan. 6 committee for a marathon interview Friday, sitting for more than seven hours of questions.
Cipollone, who panel vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., has repeatedly described as a critical witness, joined the committee for a videotaped and transcribed closed-door interview around 8:45 a.m. ET, and left shortly before 5:30 p.m., taking numerous breaks with his attorneys throughout the day. He was in the deposition room for about seven-and-a-half hours.
“He’s been a cooperative witness within the parameters of his desire to protect executive privilege for the office of general counsel,” a source familiar with the first part of his testimony said earlier Friday.
The panel subpoenaed Cipollone late last month after bombshell testimony by Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top aide to then-President Donald Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, detailed the lawyer’s efforts to rein in Trump on Jan. 6 and the days preceding it.
Hutchinson said that Cipollone approached her on Jan. 3, 2021, after hearing that Meadows had floated the idea of going to the Capitol on Jan. 6 and told her, “This would be legally a terrible idea for us.”
The warning was even more stark on the morning of Jan. 6, Hutchinson said. “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 testified.
Hutchinson also said she heard Cipollone plead with Meadows for help talking to Trump during the riot. She quoted Cipollone as telling Meadows “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. This is getting out of control.”
Cipollone — who defended Trump in his first impeachment trial — previously met with committee investigators in April for an informal interview, but had resisted repeated calls from Cheney to meet for a more formal sit-down.
In a joint statement last week announcing the subpoena, Cheney and committee Chair Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said the panel’s “investigation has revealed evidence that Mr. Cipollone repeatedly raised legal and other concerns about President Trump’s activities” around Jan. 6. “While the select committee appreciates Mr. Cipollone’s earlier informal engagement with our investigation, the committee needs to hear from him on the record, as other former White House counsels have done in other congressional investigations. Any concerns Mr. Cipollone has about the institutional prerogatives of the office he previously held are clearly outweighed by the need for his testimony.”
In a letter to Cipollone accompanying the subpoena, Thompson said the committee was looking at “Trump’s awareness of and involvement in activities undertaken to subvert the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, including the submission of fake electoral ballots to Congress and the executive branch, the attempted appointment of Jeffrey Clark as acting attorney general, and efforts to interfere with the congressional certification of the electoral results on January 6, 2021.” He said their investigation had shown that Cipollone has information “concerning these and other issues.”
Cipollone did not respond to reporters’ questions Friday outside the deposition room.
Also Friday, the lawyer for Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes told NBC News that his client wants to testify before the committee a second time, but only if certain conditions are met.
Rhodes, who’s been jailed pending trial for seditious conspiracy and other charges related to the Jan. 6 riot, would testify publicly under oath, but only in a live setting with his lawyers present because he’s concerned his words could be taken out of context otherwise, attorney James Lee Bright said.
It’s unclear what new information Rhodes could or would provide. Rhodes previously appeared for a virtual deposition with the committee in February from jail, and invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination 20 to 30 times.
Bright said the offer was extended to the committee on Friday. The panel declined to comment.
Daniel Barnes, Kyle Stewart and Julia Jester contributed.