October 5, 2022


WASHINGTON — Two top lawyers who worked in the White House under former President Donald Trump have been subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury investigating the events leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on Capitol Hill, people familiar with the matter said. , in the latest sign that the Justice Department investigation is entering a more aggressive phase.

Mr. Trump’s White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy Pat Philbin have received calls in recent days requesting documents and testimony, the people said.

The subpoenas are the clearest sign that federal prosecutors are looking into the actions of Trump himself, not just his allies, in efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss, including before and during the attack on Capitol Hill by his supporters.

Prosecutors in recent days have also pressed witnesses, including two top aides to former Vice President Mike Pence, about pushing Mr. Trump to stay in office, the Wall Street Journal reported, though the questioning does not necessarily mean prosecutors are pursuing a criminal. case file against the former president.

Mr. Cipollone is the highest-ranking former Trump White House official known to have been called to testify in the widening federal investigation. He was at the White House as rioters stormed the Capitol and took part in several meetings before the attack in which Mr Trump’s allies sought ways to overturn the election. Mr. Cipollone said he and others have repeatedly opposed those efforts. Both he and Mr. Philbin witnessed Mr. Trump’s activity in his final days in office.

The panel on Jan. 6 concluded its first round of public hearings aimed at making the case that former President Donald Trump was responsible for the attack on the Capitol. The WSJ’s Scott Patterson explains the key evidence presented and the next steps in the investigation. Photo illustration: Laura Kammermann

The subpoenas were reported earlier by ABC News and CNN. Messrs. Cipollone and Philbin did not respond to requests for comment. A spokeswoman for the Justice Department declined to comment.

Mr Trump has denied wrongdoing and said the Justice Department should focus on election fraud.

Given their roles as White House lawyers, they are expected to assert attorney-client and executive privilege by refusing to answer some of the prosecutors’ questions, the people said. Mr. Cipollone also negotiated such claims of privilege before subpoenaing him for a videotaped interview before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. Privilege claims are expected to be at the center of discussions with the Justice Department that could end up in court.

The Justice Department added prosecutors and resources to its probe as related congressional hearings shed new light on Mr. Trump’s role in his allies’ efforts to sway the election.

During widely televised hearings, lawmakers showed clips of Mr. Cipollone describing how he was pushing back against efforts by Mr. Trump and his allies to overturn President Biden’s victory.

In one example, Mr. Cipollone said he was not happy that Mr. Trump’s allies, including lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, sought a Dec. 18, 2020, meeting with the president to discuss their baseless allegations of electoral fraud. He and other White House lawyers confronted the team in the Oval Office and dismissed the fraud allegations as unfounded.

Mr. Cipollone also said he opposed a plan to appoint Ms. Powell to the post of special prosecutor to investigate allegations of voter fraud in the election. “I didn’t think he should be appointed to anything,” he told the committee.

He also said he rejected a recommendation by a group of Trump allies and lawyers to seize voting machines.

“That’s not how we do things in the United States,” he said in his recorded testimony. Mr. Trump abandoned the idea.

Mr Cipollone was in touch with Mr Trump on January 6 as rioters stormed the Capitol, telling the president he needed to do more to stop the attack.

“I think I’ve been pretty clear that there needs to be an immediate and forceful response, statement, public statement, that people need to get out of the Capitol now,” Mr. Cipollone said.

Two senior advisers to the former vice president, Mr. Pence’s chief of staff Mark Short and legal counsel Greg Jacobs, appeared in recent days before a grand jury in Washington under subpoena in connection with the federal investigation.

Investigators asked questions about conversations with Mr. Trump, his lawyers and other allies who tried to block the certification of Mr. Biden’s victory, the people said.

Investigators have also obtained phone records of key figures in the Trump administration, including his former chief of staff Mark Meadows, the people said. They seized the files in April.

Prosecutors have indicted more than 850 people in connection with the Jan. 6 violence, including more than a dozen members of right-wing groups accused of participating in an anti-U.S.

In recent months, they have focused on two distinct aspects beyond the violence of that day, including the submission of fraudulent ballots for Mr. Trump.

Prosecutors earlier issued subpoenas seeking information about unauthorized pro-Trump voters and contact with nearly 30 people, including lawyers John Eastman and Mr. Giuliani and other conservative activists, according to a copy of the subpoena reviewed by The Journal. .

Subpoenas were also sent to Arizona state senators Kelly Townsend and Karen Phan, both Republicans, seeking correspondence with Trump advisers and state-level constituent activists. The calls to Ms. Townsend and Ms. Phan were disclosed through a public records request.

Write to Sadie Gurman at sadie.gurman@wsj.com

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