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Jan. 6 Panel Questions Cipollone on Pardons and Trump’s Election Claims


WASHINGTON — Pat A. Cipollone, who served as White House counsel for President Donald J. Trump, was asked detailed questions on Friday about pardons, false election fraud claims and the former president’s pressure campaign against Vice President Mike Pence, according to three people familiar with his testimony before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

The panel did not press him to either corroborate or contradict some specific details of explosive testimony by Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide who captivated the country late last month with her account of an out-of-control president willing to embrace violence and stop at nothing to stay in power, the people said.

During a roughly eight-hour interview conducted behind closed doors in the O’Neill House Office Building, the panel covered some of the same ground it did during an informal interview with Mr. Cipollone in April. In the session on Friday, which took place only after Mr. Cipollone was served with a subpoena, investigators focused mainly on Mr. Cipollone’s views on the events of Jan. 6 and generally did not ask about his views of other witnesses’ accounts.

Mr. Cipollone, who fought against the most extreme plans to overturn the 2020 election but has long held that his direct conversations with Mr. Trump are protected by executive privilege and attorney-client privilege, invoked certain privileges in declining to answer some of the committee’s questions.

Tim Mulvey, a spokesman for the panel, said the committee “received critical testimony on nearly every major topic in its investigation, reinforcing key points regarding Donald Trump’s misconduct and providing highly relevant new information that will play a central role in its upcoming hearings.”

“This includes information demonstrating Donald Trump’s supreme dereliction of duty,” Mr. Mulvey said. “The testimony also corroborated key elements of Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony.”

The panel recorded Mr. Cipollone on video with potential plans to use clips of his testimony at upcoming hearings. Aides have begun strategizing about whether and where to adjust scripts to include key clips, one person said. The next hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

In the interview, Mr. Cipollone was asked about Mr. Trump’s false claims of a stolen election. The panel has asked similar questions of top Justice Department officials, White House lawyers and Trump campaign officials, who have testified that they did not agree with the effort to overturn the 2020 election.

Mr. Cipollone also broke with Mr. Trump in response to questions about the former president’s pressure campaign against Mr. Pence, which included personal meetings, a profane phone call and even a post on Twitter attacking the vice president as rioters stormed the Capitol pledging to hang him, people familiar with the testimony said.

Mr. Cipollone’s agreement to sit for an interview before the panel had prompted speculation that his testimony could either buttress or contradict the account of Ms. Hutchinson, who attributed some of the most damning statements about Mr. Trump’s behavior to Mr. Cipollone. For instance, she testified that Mr. Cipollone told her on the morning of Jan. 6 that Mr. Trump’s plan to accompany the mob to the Capitol would cause Trump officials to be “charged with every crime imaginable.”

Two people familiar with Mr. Cipollone’s actions that day said he did not recall making that comment to Ms. Hutchinson. Those people said the committee was made aware before the interview that Mr. Cipollone would not confirm that conversation were he to be asked. He was not asked about that specific statement on Friday, according to people familiar with the questions.

“Why are Pat Cipollone & his lawyers letting the J6 Committee get away with suborning Cassidy Hutchinson’s perjury?” Mr. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., who has also testified before the panel, wrote on Twitter on Saturday. “Only cowards let the Left bully them into sitting quietly instead of speaking up and telling the truth. Stop hiding on background, Pat. Grow a spine & go on record.”

Mr. Mulvey said there was no “preinterview agreement to limit Cipollone’s testimony” and any suggestion otherwise was “completely false.”

Among other subjects, Mr. Cipollone was asked in the interview about conversations in which presidential pardons were discussed.

Ms. Hutchinson has testified that on Jan. 7, the day after the assault on the Capitol, Mr. Trump wanted to promise pardons for those involved in the attack, but Mr. Cipollone argued to remove language making such a promise from remarks that the president was to deliver.

She has also testified that members of Congress and others close to Mr. Trump sought pardons after the violence of Jan. 6.

An adviser to Mr. Cipollone declined to comment on his appearance before the panel.

“He was candid with the committee,” Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California and a member of the panel, said on CNN on Friday. “He was careful in his answers, and I believe that he was honest in his answers.”

She added, “We gained some additional insight into the actual day, Jan. 6.”

Ms. Lofgren said Mr. Cipollone did not contradict other witnesses. “There were things that he might not be present for or in some cases could not recall with precision,” she said.

Mr. Cipollone’s testimony came after he reached a deal to testify before the panel, which had pressed him for weeks to cooperate and issued him a subpoena last month.

Mr. Cipollone was a witness to key moments in Mr. Trump’s push to overturn the election results, including discussions about sending false letters to state officials about election fraud and seizing voting machines. He was also in direct contact with Mr. Trump on Jan. 6 as rioters stormed the Capitol.

Mr. Trump has railed against Mr. Cipollone’s cooperation. On Thursday, he posted on his social media platform, Truth Social: “Why would a future President of the United States want to have candid and important conversations with his White House Counsel if he thought there was even a small chance that this person, essentially acting as a ‘lawyer’ for the Country, may someday be brought before a partisan and openly hostile Committee in Congress.”

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