Oct 13, 2018 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Pat Cipollone filling out paperwork to be White House Counsel

Donald Trump in Oval Office

President Donald Trump. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Washington litigator Pat Cipollone is expected to be President Trump's pick to replace Don McGahn as White House Counsel, according to four sources familiar with the sensitive internal conversations.

Cipollone has already begun the process of filling out his necessary paperwork, according to one of those sources. (As with any decision in Trumpworld, the president could reverse it or some other obstacle could emerge in the paperwork process. But as of today, it's expected to be Cipollone.)

"He's a respected Washington litigator," the source said. "He's not one of the big names in the Washington Republican Bar, but he's respected."

  • "He's not an obvious choice," the source continued. "Not a political guy like Don [McGahn] was. Not tied to the Hill and doesn't know all the senators like Don does. ... He's done some white collar in the past but is not a big player, like [Emmet] Flood, in the government investigations spot."
  • The source continued that Emmet Flood, the lawyer most heavily touted for the job, "was a perfect choice" to handle government investigations given his private practice and previous White House experience.
  • Whereas Cipollone, who has no previous White House experience, does some of that in his private practice but it's not what he's known for, the source added. Cipollone is primarily known as a civil litigator — for example, when a company sues another company for breach of contract.

"But he's a true believer," the source said of Cipollone. "He's a big Trump supporter."

Between the lines: Trump had been looking for loyalty in his next White House Counsel. He grew to loathe and distrust McGahn, and he wanted somebody whom he felt would be unquestioningly "loyal" and who actually wanted the job, according to sources familiar with the president's thinking.

  • Flood told the president that he would do the job if asked but did not express a great deal of enthusiasm for doing it, according to sources briefed on their interactions.
  • Flood did not lobby for the job. "It seemed to be he would do it, more as a chore than as an aspiration," said a source familiar with his conversations with the president.
  • Jay Sekulow and the president's personal lawyers all thought Cipollone would be terrific. "Pat is a brilliant lawyer, strategist and has a deep knowledge of the workings of government," Sekulow said.
  • Another source, who is close to Cipollone, told Axios: "He cares very deeply about the president's judicial selection agenda. And cut his teeth in the conservative legal world serving Attorney General Bill Barr."

Cipollone did not immediately respond to multiple calls and an email from Axios.

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