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Top ex-WH lawyers testify to Jan. 6 criminal grand jury in major blow to Trump

Dave Goldiner, New York Daily News on

Published in Political News

Two top ex-White House lawyers testified Friday to one or more grand juries after former President Donald Trump lost a secret court battle to muzzle them.

In a major blow to Trump, former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and deputy counsel Pat Philben appeared for hours to answer questions that they had dodged in previous sessions before the former president’s privilege claims were rejected.

It’s not known whether the lawyers were asked about the top secret documents that Trump improperly took with him when he left the White House or his plot to stay in power after losing the 2020 election to President Joe Biden.

Cipollone in particular was a key player in the run-up to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and was regularly mentioned during the congressional hearing into the attempted coup.

He refused to answer the committee’s questions about potentially incriminating direct statements Trump made to him, citing executive privilege concerns.

Cipollone did the same thing to the grand jury initially. But he was ordered to return after a federal judge rejected Trump’s closed-doors appeal to block him from being more forthcoming.

Jan. 6 committee witnesses put Cipollone in the room when Trump pressured Vice President Mike Pence to join his push to overturn the election and when he cheered on the violent attack on democracy in real time.

 

Cipollone was also the top White House lawyer during the final days of Trump’s reign as the losing president moved to take boxes of highly classified documents to his Florida resort home of Mar-a-Lago.

Trump later defied subpoenas to cough up the documents, forcing prosecutors to get a judge to issue a search warrant to get them back.

Grand juries are investigating both possible crimes under the direction of newly named Special Counsel Jack Smith, a former Brooklyn federal prosecutor.

There was no immediate word on what Cipollone or Philben may have told the panels, which operate under strict secrecy rules.

Most legal observers believe Smith will soon recommend whether to charge Trump in connection with the Mar-a-Lago documents probe, a decision that ultimately rests with Attorney General Merrick Garland.

The Jan. 6 coup case is significantly more complicated and will likely take longer to decide whether to seek indictments against Trump or any of his acolytes.

©2022 New York Daily News. Visit at nydailynews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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