By Zachary Stieber
White House counsel Pat Cipollone will likely play a leading role in the Senate impeachment trial, President Donald Trump said.
The House voted to approve two articles of impeachment against Trump—one for abuse of power, the other for obstructing Congress—on Dec. 18.
Similarly, with other impeachments in history, the next step is a trial in the Senate, where senators will act as a jury and consider the articles, or charges, against Trump, and then vote to dismiss the case or to convict him, which would remove him from office.
Because Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate—and because no GOP member has signaled their intention to vote to convict Trump—it’s widely expected that he will be acquitted and remain in office.
Before the vote, appointed House managers and representatives for the president will present their respective cases to the Senate. The House has already adjourned for Christmas without naming managers; Trump said on Thursday that he expects Cipollone, the White House counsel, to present his defense.
“I think so, yeah. He’s doing a great job. Pat,” Trump told reporters on Thursday in Washington after one asked him if Cipollone would be his lead attorney in the Senate.
“It looks like that. Yeah, Pat Cipollone. We have a couple of others that we’re going to put in. But Pat has been fantastic as White House Counsel.”
Trump also said that he doesn’t “feel like” he was impeached, calling the inquiry against him “a hoax” and “a setup.”
“It doesn’t feel like impeachment. And you know what? It’s a phony deal. And they cheapened the word ‘impeachment.’ It’s an ugly word. But they cheapened the word ‘impeachment.’ That should never again happen to another President,” Trump said.
“And I think you’ll see some very interesting things happen over the coming few days and weeks.”
Because the House adjourned without voting on impeachment managers, it’s not clear when a Senate trial will start. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday that he and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) are at an “impasse” since he wants to start the trial by voting on guidelines for the first part but Schumer wants to vote on whether to call witnesses before the trial even starts, unlike during the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.
Cipollone was hired by the White House in the fall of 2018. He sent a blistering letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in October after Pelosi announced the inquiry against Trump, rejecting cooperation with the inquiry and accusing Democrats of violating “fundamental fairness and constitutionally mandated due process.”
The White House advised witnesses such as acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney not to comply with subpoenas, citing executive privilege. Instead of waiting for the courts to weigh in on the issue after multiple former or current staffers filed suits, House Democrats pressed on and impeached Trump. Schumer now wants to hear from Mulvaney and three others involved with the administration, which McConnell said won’t happen.