House Democrats penned an explosive lawyer to the head of President Donald Trump’s legal team hours before the impeachment trial was set to begin – saying lawyer Pat Cipollone may be a ‘material witness’ to two impeachment articles.
The gambit comes hours before the start of the historic Senate impeachment trial, amid an angry fight over the processes that will govern it. They write that the issues are ‘directly implicated’ by his involvement matters dealing with the first impeachment article, which accuses Trump of abuse of power in his conduct toward Ukraine.
House impeachment managers wrote Cipollone that multiple impeachment witnesses testified that they ‘raised concerns about the President’s scheme with John Eisenberg’ – a White House lawyer who ‘reports directly to you in your capacity as White House counsel.’
They cite such witnesses as national security official Fiona Hill, as well as Purple Heart Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. National security official Timothy Morrison also testified he reported events to Eisenberg.
The letter mentions that similar matters where someone serves as both counsel and a fact witness an result in ‘disqualification’ – although the letter does not call for this directly.
It is signed by seven House impeachment managers, including California Rep. Adam Schiff, who oversaw the inquiry where Vindman, Hill, and others testified about the administration’s policy toward Ukraine.
‘Mr. Eisenberg appears to have informed you of at least some, if not all, of these incidents,’ they write.
They also say his office was ‘directly involved in potential efforts to conceal’ the scheme by restricting access to the transcript of Trump’s July 25 call with the president of Ukraine.
Cipollone is also implicated in the second impeachment article, which deals with obstruction of Congress.
They told Cipoloone that ‘you are the signatory’ to a bombastic October 8, 2019 letter ‘announcing Mr. Trump’s reusal to cooperate with all aspects of the House’s impeachment inquiry.’ Cipollone asserted the ‘absolute immunity’ of administration officials from testifying in the inquiry, which Trump has repeatedly derided as a ‘hoax’ and a ‘witch hunt.’
As a lawyer representing the office of the presidency, Cipollone’s government salary is borne by taxpayers.
They don’t explicitly call for his removal, although they do write that his representation of Trump ‘threatens to undermine the integrity of the pending trial.’
They write that ‘at a minimum’ Cipollong must ‘disclose all facts and information as to which you have first-hand knowledge’ that will be an issue in connection with evidence he presents so the Senate and Chief Justice John Roberts can ‘be apprised of any potential ethical issues, conflicts, or biases.’
Roberts would have to rule on any objection to Cipollone serving as counsel – putting him in the middle of a partisan dispute as he seeks to referee the impeachment clash.
White House director of legislative affairs Eric Ueland immediately bashed the effort. ‘House Democrats are trying to run one of the President’s strongest advocates off the case before it even starts,’ he told CNN. ‘They won’t succeed.’