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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.

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 4: Trump turns on Barr

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Drew Angerer, Pool/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 4: Trump torches what is arguably the most consequential relationship in his Cabinet.

Attorney General Bill Barr stood behind a chair in the private dining room next to the Oval Office, looming over Donald Trump. The president sat at the head of the table. It was Dec. 1, nearly a month after the election, and Barr had some sharp advice to get off his chest. The president's theories about a stolen election, Barr told Trump, were "bullshit."

In photos: Protests outside fortified capitols draw only small groups

Armed members of the far-right extremist group the Boogaloo Bois near the Michigan Capitol Building in Lansing on Jan. 17. About 20 protesters showed up, AP notes. Photo: Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images

Small groups of protesters gathered outside fortified statehouses across the U.S. over the weekend ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

The big picture: Some protests attracted armed members of far-right extremist groups but there were no reports of clashes, as had been feared. The National Guard and law enforcement outnumbered demonstrators, as security was heightened around the U.S. to avoid a repeat of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riots, per AP.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
8 hours ago - World

China's economy grows 6.5% in Q4 as country rebounds from coronavirus

A technician installs and checks service robots to be be used for food and medicine delivery in Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province, China, on Sunday. Photo: Hu Xuejun/VCG via Getty Images

China's economy grew at a 6.5% pace in the final quarter of 2020, the national statistics bureau announced Monday local time, topping off a year in which it grew in three of four quarters and by 2.3% in total.

Why it matters: No other major economy managed positive growth in 2020. Although the COVID-19 pandemic was first detected in China, the country got the virus under control and became one of the main positive drivers of the global economy even as the rest of the world was largely under lockdown.