Pat Cipollone: White House Counsel Who Will Help Lead Trump Legal Team

When President Trump needed to replace his first White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, he was looking for someone different.

So when people recommended Pat A. Cipollone, a conservative lawyer who was well-liked by some of Mr. Trump’s aides, the president welcomed him to the role.

Where Mr. McGahn plays guitar in a band, Mr. Cipollone, 53, drives a pickup truck and stays almost entirely out of view of the news media. Where Mr. McGahn privately referred to Mr. Trump as “King Kong” and sought to curb some of his potentially self-destructive impulses, Mr. Cipollone has been described as more temperamentally agreeable to the president.

In discussions about his legal team, Mr. Trump has asked aides whether Mr. Cipollone can do well in the impeachment defense, given that it will be a televised spectacle. Still, most people close to the president say that during their year working together, Mr. Cipollone has earned the president’s trust.

Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Cipollone comes from New York City. He was born in the Bronx, the son of Italian immigrants, and graduated from Fordham University. When his father, a factory worker, was transferred to Kentucky, he attended Covington Catholic High School.

At Fordham, he was the valedictorian of the class of 1988. After graduation, he clerked for a judge before taking a speech-writing job with William P. Barr, who was then the attorney general under President George Bush — and is now back in the job under Mr. Trump.

Mr. Cipollone has worked in private practice since, and has been involved in Catholic efforts such as helping found the National Prayer Breakfast. He has 10 children, and is family friends with Laura Ingraham, the Fox News commentator who is supportive of Mr. Trump.

When the controversy over Mr. Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president on July 25 emerged, Mr. Cipollone and Mr. Barr advocated releasing a reconstructed transcript, believing it raised no legal issues for the president, and that it did not match the speculation about what had been said during the call. Mr. Cipollone told associates he believed transparency made the most sense.

But that call — and the president’s order to withhold congressionally-approved military aid to Ukraine — became the center of the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry that has made Mr. Trump only the third president to face a trial in the Senate and potential removal from office.

During the House inquiry, Mr. Cipollone signed his name to an eight-page letter that made a blistering political argument against cooperating with the inquiry in any way. The letter raised eyebrows among White House counsels from past administrations.

But it won Mr. Trump’s approval, and the White House’s adherence to that stance formed the basis for one of the two articles of impeachment against the president, for obstruction of Congress.