After a two-month delay, the conservative legal activist Pat Cipollone will start his job Monday, according to two sources.
Pat Cipollone will start his new job as White House counsel on Monday, following a nearly two-month delay since his appointment, with dwindling time to prepare for a coming onslaught of House Democratic oversight demands.
President Donald Trump tapped Cipollone in early October to be the White House’s top lawyer, replacing Don McGahn, who stepped down Oct. 17 after a turbulent tenure during which he clashed with the president. Cipollone’s start date was confirmed by two sources familiar with the timing.
Even before assuming his official duties, Cipollone has reached out to several lawyers to staff an office responsible for everything from judicial nominations to federal litigation to presidential pardons. Cipollone’s team will also contend with what are expected to be several investigations launched by House Democrats who will assume committee chairmanships in January.
Cipollone will start at a time when special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe is making major new waves. Mueller’s team was expected to outline fired former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s cooperation with the investigation in a court filing due by midnight Tuesday and to make public by Friday a document describing alleged criminal lies by Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
A commercial lawyer and conservative Catholic activist, Cipollone will oversee four deputies, with responsibility for investigations, judicial nominations, national security, and ethics, respectively.
Mike Purpura, a Justice Department veteran who worked in George W. Bush’s counsel’s office, is likely to serve as deputy White House counsel leading the response to congressional investigations, according to a source familiar with the plans. In that role, he is expected to emerge as a central behind-the-scenes player in the West Wing over the next two years, helping to shield the president from newly emboldened Democrats with subpoena power. He would bring crucial experience to the job: As associate counsel in the Bush White House, he worked on the administration’s response to congressional investigations.
Also expected to join the counsel’s office is Kate Comerford Todd, a former clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas and head of the litigation arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who will handle judicial nominations, though it is unclear whether she will serve as a deputy White House counsel.
Pat Philbin, a partner at Kirkland and Ellis who served in senior positions in the George W. Bush Justice Department, is also expected to join the office in a senior position.
The White House declined to comment.
The new hires will begin a badly needed rebuilding of the counsel’s office. Cipollone is expected to bring on several more lawyers soon to replace ones who started under McGahn early last year and have since departed.
A longer-than-expected security clearance process, however, prevented Cipollone from assuming the job, even as the Mueller probe advances and a House Democratic majority draws ever nearer to assuming power. That has left Cipollone playing catchup as he tries to fill vacant posts in an office whose staff numbers in the dozens.
Cipollone comes from the Washington law firm of Stein Mitchell Cipollone Beato & Missner. He is a graduate of the University Chicago Law School, which has produced several prominent conservative legal activists. He is also a co-founder of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast.
Since McGahn’s exit in October, Emmet Flood, who represents the president in the Mueller probe, has been serving as acting White House counsel, but he did not hire additional lawyers into the office, instead allowing Cipollone to build his own team.
John Eisenberg, who served as McGahn’s deputy for national security affairs, will remain in that position.
Darren Samuelsohn contributed to this report.