During the 21 months of Don McGahn's stormy position at the White House, he would often tell colleagues, half joke: "It's a good week if I'm not called into the ovals. "
Pat Cipollone, McGahn's successor as White House Council, does not engage in the same kind of hood humor – if only because through which allies say is good personal chemistry with his mercurial boss and critic disc is a will to activate his worst instincts, he managed to stay on the good side of a president who fondly calls him "Mr. Attorney." Story Continued Below
For six months at work, Cipollone has turned the White House Council into a central hub of business and made itself constant present in the Oval Office. A 53-year-old former corporate lawyer with a friendly style, he has also made enough of an impression on Trump that the president has begun requesting assistants for his assessment of the White House's highest lawyer – a sign that Cipollone, at least, has his client's attention.
"He has the president's ear, he has earned the president's respect and that means that people in this building can not only survive without succeeding in their jobs," says Kellyanne Conway, senior adviser to the president.
Cipollone is not one to seek attention – friends note that he is often on the edge of the foot, as if he were trying to go outside the frame. He is "a cordial negotiator without the throat. You never know what he is thinking," a former client said. "He should have been a professional poker player."
But he has still been at the center of the controversy that caught the White House since winter, from clearing a legal path for the president to declare a national emergency on the southern border to shape the White House's fancy attitude to congressional investigations, most recently Cipollone was among the top voices telling Trump that he could use his emergency powers to lower the rates on Mexico – and along with Vice President Mike Pence and State Secretary Mike Pompeo, he helped to form a last minute to a
The central office of the counseling office in the White House policy making is normal, and Cipollone was consulted with predecessors in both parties before they took the job. But with the abnormal character of the presidency, a legal adviser who shows the president has the best way to achieve his goals – when many in their own party are often concerned about the goals themselves – raised concerns, even among some of the president's allies.
"One of the best ways to act as a restraint is to address legal problems or to play the economic or political consequences of a decision," said a former White House official who noted that McGahn often did so to the President's Chagrin.
Cipollon's traditional approach to the job is in stark contrast to his predecessor, a disgusted electorate who had no gel with Trump, and focused almost exclusively on legal nominations and deregulation. McGahn, who resigned in mid-October, often sent deputies to police meetings and was rarely present when issues finally reached the President's desk.
It gave the authors who happened to be lawyers like the former White House staff secretary, Rob Porter, an opportunity to build distributed portfolios and adopt some of the traditional legal responsibilities in the Council's office.
"With this president, it's not about how the body chart looks, it's about how close you are to the president. But it didn't bother it," said a White House official. Was it, "I'll get my judges done and I'm not going to make any friends in the process. I don't care if the president thinks I'm my guy." "
As a young lawyer in the 1990s, Cipollone worked as A versatile adviser and speech writer at the lawyer's general secretary during Advocate Bill Barr's first position at work, the two sharing an expansive view of executive authority – one they say is simply a reflection of the constitution, but that criticism charges give the president too much power. the conception of a series of letters to the congressional investigators – who actually say to pound sand.
But while Barr is known by friends as "The Buffalo" – stubborn, envi s and immaculate – Cipollone's pals describe someone softer around the edges and a little more humble.
The son of Italian immigrants, Cipollone grew up in the Bronx before joining Fordham University and the University of Chicago Law School. He likes to tell friends that his father, a factory worker, went to "UCLA – University of the Corner of Lexington Avenue", according to his friend and former colleague Jonathan Missner, management partner of Stein Mitchell Beato & Missner, law firm Cipollone left. White House.
The father of 10 children, Cipollone is also a deep Catholic. He left tony law firm Kirkland and Ellis to serve as general counsel of Columbus knights, a Catholic fraternal organization. Later, he and Missner founded a charity to strengthen the ties between the Catholics and Israel.
In Washington, Cipollone is part of what many in conservative legal circles joke call the Catholic mafia, a group of like-minded lawyers and coreligionists who have gained influence in the Trump administration. The others include Barr, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, federalist chief executive Leonard Leo and Fox News host Laura Ingraham, who has promised Cipollone – the godfather of one of her children – at her show several times and calls him a "wild talented lawyer" and a "sweet cool godfather".
It was Ingraham who recruited Cipollone to help Trump with debate prep during the 2016 campaign, and the two men "just clicked," said his friend Thomas Yannucci, a partner at law firm Kirkland and Ellis who recruited Cipollone to join the company in the 1990s.
"He does this job, because he supported this president from the beginning," said a former client in Cipollone and noted that he was "one of the few who said he would win, even when poor departure surveys came. into the election night. "
He later interviewed a deputy lawyer, a job that went instead to Rod Rosenstein. But he helped prepare former Advocate General Jeff Sessions for his confirmation hearings and stood out as a particularly effective inquisitor, according to a confidentiality trust.
Democrats' seizure of the House of Representatives in November, which ended with no hope that the administration would pass another important legislation before the 2020 election, has also made the law firm a renewed area of activity, which released a seizure of Democratic investigations about everything from Trump's real estate business to whether he hindered justice on the effects of his short-lived child separation policy.
"The battles we had in the first year were tax reform and health care – it was much of general politics, not much legal stuff," said the federal society Leo, who personally spoke to the president this winter to recommend Cipollone to work . "The problems are now much more about the claim of executive power. Pat has been a very important player to help frame these things." "
In contrast to McGahn, who studdedly avoided Mueller's request and eventually became his star witness, Cipollone's office dictated the passage of the legal strategy The White House has adopted to eliminate congressional investigations in the Trump administration, which has taken up much of the oxygen in Washington since mid-November.
To the Democrats, Cipollone and his colleagues in the procurement The office, which has grown to about 40 lawyers with a low of about 25, is the enablers of a president who is already unable to follow norms and tradition. Their attempts to avert Congress's requests have been characterized as "outrageous" by the court chairman Jerrold Nadler, " a joke ", with words from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and as" a massive, unmatched and growing unlimited set pattern "by Supervisory Chairman Elijah Cummings.
Others described Cipollone's strategy as the normal stance adopted by former White House attorneys, who have worked to stonewall the congress with the aim of forcing disputes in the courtroom. Most legal observers say they are immortal between Pennsylvania Ave. will inevitably take months, if not years, to settle – with the 2020 election around the corner.
"White House Councils have generally followed a rather hostile approach to congressional investigations involving White House staff. One of the most hostile administrations in history was the Obama administration," said Jonathan Turley, a professor of constitutional law at George Washington University. Comes out as Claude Rains says they are "shocked, shocked" that a white council would defy Congress. These same democratic leaders supported President Obama in a systematic refusal to turn information to Congress. "
Cipollone and his hard investigative research deputy, Michael Purpura, have formulated this view in a stream of letters to Capitol Hill, which extensively invoked the argument that legislators have no" legitimate legislative purpose "to bring many of the This is the claim Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin fell back on refusing to reverse the president's tax returns and one of the reasons why Cipollone quoted when he said the White House would not follow Nadler's lawsuit for actions to help in a major corruption probe
The President's personal lawyers have adopted the same line of lawsuits brought against Deutsche Bank and Capital One – trying to prevent the disclosure of a set of financial documents related to Trump's business and against the President's long lasting bokf Trout agency, Mazars, A district court judge knocked down the claim in mid-May, arguing that Mazars was required to follow Congress courts.
According to Turley, the White House only hopes to tie up the cases in trials – perhaps through the presidential president from 2020 elections – not necessarily winning. "They are far beyond the leading privileges. So, if they go to court, they have to foresee that they will lose," he says. "The benefits of that strategy are magnified in this case, as they generally believe that leadership wants to get out of the clock. "
Cipollone's newfound power has raised concern among some of Trump's administration critics who say the Council's office has an important role to play in tying the hands of an impulsive president who has sometimes shown little respect for constitutional barriers
Essentially, these critics say that Cipollone treats the president too much as a regular customer, instead of shutting down some of the president's most controversial ideas, if he explained a national emergency at the southern border, the introduction of tariffs on Mexico or severely restricts the use of fetal tissue in medical research, he has found acceptable – if controversial – legal avenues for T rump to follow.
Cipollone does not always have green enlightened president's features. He warned against Trump's decision at the end of March, for example, to change the administration's position on the affordable law of care and to restore a trial aimed at wiping out the entire law.
"In the law that I practiced with him, he would tell the customer:" What is your goal? What is the best way to achieve that goal? And if you want a ramp, let's take it now, let's not take it three years away, "Missner said." He never put his views on you. But Pat is a pit bull. He will go and he will win. "