Cipollone, who many former administration officials credit with helping to prevent Trump from taking legally questionable actions in the months around the 2020 presidential election, has long been considered a key witness by the committee. He has resisted talking further with the committee after previously sitting for a closed-door interview on April 13.
The committee said in its subpoena letter that it has obtained evidence that Cipollone is “uniquely positioned to testify” but he has “declined to cooperate” past that interview, leaving the panel with “no choice” but to issue the subpoena. During recent public hearings, members of the panel have publicly pressured Cipollone to testify. The committee is now taking the step to issue a subpoena in an effort to force his formal cooperation.
Mississippi Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, the panel’s chairman, and Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, the panel’s vice chair, said that “the Select Committee’s investigation has revealed evidence that Mr. Cipollone repeatedly raised legal and other concerns about President Trump’s activities on January 6th and in the days that preceded.”
“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,” the pair continued. “Any concerns Mr. Cipollone has about the institutional prerogatives of the office he previously held are clearly outweighed by the need for his testimony.”
Cipollone will probably agree to a transcribed interview with the January 6 committee – limited to specific topics to avoid the privilege issues, a lawyer familiar with his thinking told CNN. Whether any testimony would be taped or live would also need to be worked out.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat who’s also a member of the committee, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on “AC360” on Wednesday that the panel is willing to work through privilege issues with Cipollone to facilitate his testimony.
“I hope that he does comply,” she said. “We recognize that there could be some communication between him and the president that is legitimately privileged, and we’re willing to work through those.”
Lofgren said there are “quite a few things that he could tell the committee that would not be subject to privilege.”
Witnesses who have testified before the panel have repeatedly mentioned Cipollone as someone who can shed light on key events inside the Trump White House leading up to, on and after January 6, 2021.
Not long after the rioters broke into the US Capitol, Cipollone rushed into then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows’ office demanding a meeting with Trump, Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson told the January 6 committee this week.
“I remember Pat saying to him something to the effect of, ‘the rioters have gotten to the Capitol. We need to go down and see the President now,’” Hutchinson said in a videotaped interview.
“And Mark looked up at him and said, ‘He doesn’t want to do anything, Pat,’” she said.
Cipollone, Hutchinson added, emphasized to Meadows the need for action to control the situation to Meadows. She said Cipollone “very clearly said this to Mark – 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 f**king hands. This is getting out of control. I’m going down there.’”
Meadows then handed his phones to Hutchinson and walked out of his office with Cipollone, Hutchinson told the committee.
Cheney tweeted Wednesday before the subpoena was announced that “as we heard yesterday, WH counsel Pat Cipollone had significant concerns re. Trump’s Jan 6 activities. It’s time for Mr. Cipollone to testify on the record. Any concerns he has about the institutional interests of his prior office are outweighed by the need for his testimony.”
This story has been updated with additional details.
CNN’s Dana Bash and Shawna Mizelle contributed to this report.