House Democrats prosecuting the Trump impeachment case took aim Tuesday at White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, claiming in a stunning letter that the lead member of the president’s defense team is actually a “material witness” to the charges in both articles and demanding that he disclose all “first-hand facts and information” before proceedings begin.
The impeachment “managers” said they need that information in order to weigh potential “ethical” issues or conflicts of interest concerning his defense of the president.
Just hours before Senate trial proceedings were set to resume, the impeachment managers claimed that during the House inquiry they gathered “evidence” that indicates he is a “fact witness to numerous critical events related to the president’s scheme, and remains deeply involved in actions implementing the president’s directive to obstruct the House’s impeachment inquiry.”
“In preparation for the trial of Donald J. Trump before the Senate, we write to notify you that evidence received by the House of Representatives during its impeachment inquiry indicates that you are a material witness to charges in both Articles of Impeachment for which President Trump now faces trial,” the managers – Reps. Adam Schiff, Jerrold Nadler, Val Demings, Hakeem Jeffries, Sylvia Garcia, Zoe Lofgren and Jason Crow – wrote in a letter to Cipollone on Tuesday.
“You must disclose all facts and information as to which you have first-hand knowledge that will be at issue in connection with evidence you present or arguments you make in your role as the President’s legal advocate so that the Senate and Chief Justice can be apprised of any potential ethical issues, conflicts or biases,” they wrote.
The managers then outlined Cipollone’s alleged connection to both articles of impeachment — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone exits the U.S. Capitol after meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Dec. 12, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
“Evidence indicates that, at a minimum, you have detailed knowledge of the facts regarding the first Article and played an instrumental role in the conduct charged in the second Article,” they wrote.
They went on to say that ethical rules generally “preclude” a lawyer from acting as an advocate in a trial if he or she is also a witness.
“These issues are directly implicated by your involvement in the events underlying the Articles of Impeachment,” they wrote.
With regard to the abuse of power article, the managers referenced testimony from “multiple witnesses” in the House inquiry about the request for Ukrainian officials to investigate Democrats and the hold on military aid to Ukraine amid those requests — noting they reported their concerns to Deputy Counsel to the President for National Security Affairs John Eisenberg. The managers pointed out in their letter Tuesday that Eisenberg “reports directly” to Cipollone.
The managers also went on to claim that the White House counsel’s office was “directly involved in potential efforts to conceal President Trump’s scheme from Congress and the public.”
“Furthermore, there is evidence that you were directly involved in briefing President Trump about the whistleblower complaint submitted to the Inspector General for the Intelligence Community and in the decision to withhold that complaint from Congress in violation of the law,” they wrote.
“In light of your extensive knowledge of these key events, your personal representation of President Trump threatens to undermine the integrity of the pending trial,” they wrote.
The White House did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
The president’s defense is being led by Cipollone and Trump attorney Jay Sekulow. But late Monday, in a surprise move, a slew of high-profile House Republicans announced that they would also formally join the president’s team — including Reps. Jim Jordan, Doug Collins, John Ratcliffe, Mark Meadows, Elise Stefanik, Lee Zelskin, Debbie Lesko and Mike Johnson.
“Throughout this process, these Members of Congress have provided guidance to the White House team, which was prohibited from participating in the proceedings concocted by the Democrats in the House of Representatives,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement Monday. “The President looks forward to their continued participation and is confident that the Members will help expeditiously end this brazen political vendetta on behalf of the American people.”
Also on the president’s defense are former independent counsel Ken Starr, constitutional scholar Alan Dershowitz, former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, former federal prosecutor Robert Ray and Jane Raskin, as well as Cipollone deputies Patrick Philbin and Michael Purpura.