DOJ likely to shake loose 'damning evidence' against Trump that Pat Cipollone shielded from Jan. 6 committee
Pat Cipollone (Official White House photo by Shealah Craighead)

A grand jury subpoena issued to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone could derail Donald Trump's presidential bid before it gets off the ground.

The former president is reportedly mulling a 2024 campaign announcement in the belief that he could evade prosecution for the January 6 insurrection as a candidate, but the subpoena shows the Department of Justice is moving closer to Trump himself -- and federal prosecutors may be able to shake loose more evidence from Cipollone than the House select committee could, reported the Washington Post.

“Cipollone obviously thought many of Trump’s schemes were illegal or risked criminal liability,” New York University law professor Ryan Goodman. “The Justice Department can get from Cipollone what he told Trump directly and how Trump responded. That is likely to be damning evidence.”

The former White House counsel has already delivered explosive testimony to the panel about Trump and his allies' efforts to overturn the election, and other witnesses have testified that Cipollone warned those schemes were illegal, but the DOJ may be able prevail on him to disclose his private conversations with the president over which he invoked executive privilege.

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“[DOJ] will insist there is no shield to his testimony, and if necessary will go to court to force his hand,” said former federal prosecutor Harry Litman, adding that Cipolline could establish “Trump’s knowledge that his conduct was illegal based on his own conversations with the president.”

Cipollone could also refute Trump's defense that he was merely taking advice from his lawyers Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman and understood the schemes were unlawful.

“That’s where Cipollone can come in to show how Trump was told various schemes were patently illegal,” Goodman said.

It's not clear whether the subpoena was from the grand jury investigating the fake elector scheme or the broader plot around, but either way is bad news for Trump.

“The investigation is focused on the president’s circle, and very likely the president," said trial lawyer David Lurie.

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