WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is eyeing Washington litigator Pat Cipollone to replace outgoing White House counsel Donald McGahn, according to two people familiar with the president’s thinking.
This week, Trump interviewed Cipollone, a former Justice Department attorney who practices commercial litigation at Stein Mitchell Cipollone Beato & Missner, the people said. Trump is “strongly considering” Cipollone for the job, one person said.
Cipollone has been advising Trump’s outside legal team since at least June. He is also close to Emmet Flood, a White House lawyer who is helping handle the special counsel investigation and is himself being considered for the top legal position.
Trump announced Wednesday that McGahn, who has led the administration’s efforts to reshape the judiciary, will leave his post in the coming weeks after the confirmation process of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Trump tweeted Thursday he was “very excited about the person who will be taking the place of Donald McGahn as White House Counsel.”
According to the biography on his firm’s website, Cipollone has practiced in commercial litigation, trade regulation and health care fraud. He has extensive expertise in defending corporations as well as handling complex federal investigations and “prepublication negotiations” over defamatory media reports.
Cipollone is well regarded among some of Trump’s senior advisers, including the president’s outside attorneys, Jay Sekulow and Rudy Giuliani.
“Pat Cipollone is a brilliant attorney,” said Sekulow, declining to comment on the status of Trump’s decision. “I have had the privilege to work with him and can attest to his skill, integrity and knowledge of the law. If selected by the president, he would make an outstanding White House counsel.”
“I know both Pat and Emmet very well, and either one would be an excellent choice,” Giuliani said.
Trump is being urged to make a decision soon to bring in someone who can help the White House deal with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and the threat of impeachment if Democrats gain control of the House, people close to the president said.
Meanwhile, the White House Counsel’s Office has dwindled to about 25 lawyers, down from roughly 35 earlier in the administration, and many of Trump’s allies fear he does not have the staff or strategy to contend with looming legal challenges.