The two attorneys received federal grand jury subpoenas about four weeks ago for testimony and documents about that day and events leading up to it, CNN first reported. Their expected appearance Friday was reported by ABC News, and it followed grand jury appearances in July by former vice president Mike Pence’s former chief of staff, Marc Short, and attorney Greg Jacob.
It was not immediately clear what Cipollone or Philbin would discuss with the grand jury, and whether their testimony would steer clear of private presidential communications typically subject to executive and attorney-client privilege.
Cipollone and his attorney Michael M. Purpura walked into the federal courthouse in Washington shortly after 9:30 a.m., where they were greeted by lead federal prosecutor Thomas Windom and escorted to an elevator leading to the grand jury area. Cipollone left the building alone shortly after grand jurors broke for lunch at noon.
Purpura also represents Philbin, who entered the courthouse just before 12:30 p.m.
Cipollone was the top White House lawyer at the end of the Trump administration, and he has emerged in several public accounts as a key witness to and critic of conversations held by the then-president with private lawyers and others in his inner circle who allegedly sought to substitute Trump allies for certified electors from some states Joe Biden won; pressure the Justice Department to falsely claim the election was rigged with fraudulent votes cast; or propose the seizure of voting machines by the U.S. attorney general, secretary of defense or other federal officials.
In videotaped testimony played at televised hearings this summer held by the House select committee investigating events leading to the Capitol breach, Cipollone told investigators that he vigorously resisted efforts by Trump and outside advisers to undo the election, and that he, like former Trump attorney general William P. Barr, did not believe there was sufficient fraud to have affected the outcome of Biden’s victory in any state.
At a late-night meeting at the White House on Dec. 18, 2020, that Cipollone termed “unhinged,” for instance, he said election lawyer Sidney Powell and former national security adviser Michael Flynn exhibited a “general disregard for backing what you actually say with facts.”
Of the conspiracy-fueled notion to seize voting machines, Cipollone recalled telling Powell, “I don’t understand why we even have to tell you why that’s a bad idea, it’s a terrible idea for the country.”
Cipollone also has been described as opposing the sending of a letter drafted by attorney Jeffrey Bossert Clark to officials in Georgia, falsely declaring that the Justice Department had “identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple states.”
Cipollone told Trump that Clark’s proposed letter was “a murder-suicide pact” that would “damage everyone who touches it,” according to a deposition by then-deputy attorney general Richard Donoghue. In a call on Dec. 27, 2020, witnesses have said, Trump told acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen that he wanted the department to say there was significant election fraud, and said he was poised to oust Rosen and replace him with Clark, who was willing to make that assertion.
“Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen,” Trump told Rosen, according to notes of the conversation reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Trump backed down after Rosen, Donoghue and Cipollone refused and said they and other senior government lawyers would resign en masse, participants have said.
Cipollone answered questions for eight hours earlier this year before the House Jan. 6 committee, following riveting testimony by Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, who described her boss as one of the last firewalls blocking Trump’s efforts to subvert the election results.
She testified that on the morning of Jan. 6, Cipollone warned her in words she paraphrased as “ ‘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.’ ”