President Trump has selected conservative Catholic activist and longtime Washington attorney general Pat Cipollone as his next White House official to replace Donald McGahn, according to two people who are familiar with Trump's decision.
Trump told Cipollone about his selection last week.
Cipollone, who is involved in litigation at Stein Mitchell Cipollone Beato & Missner, is well-respected and respected among Trump's personal lawyers and has advised her informally on the investigation of the Special Adviser on Russian Interference in the 2016 election since at least June.
Cipollone is expected to take over the lead law firm next week until a security clearance is in place. He would lead this office in a momentous and challenging time. The White House team was gutted by retirements, having shrunk from 35 to 25 lawyers earlier this year. The office usually has 50 employees. She has also lost four of her five key representatives in recent months.
The losses come at an inopportune time: The White House braces itself for a devastating investigative attack by Congress as Democrats take control of the House of Representatives after the midterm elections. The White House office will be the key manager and defender of the government in the expected flood of congressional investigations and summons.
Trump had also debated hiring Emmet Flood, a White House attorney, to help with the Special Advisor's investigation, but ultimately decided to let Flood focus on his current task. Flood, who is good friends with Cipollone, remains in his key role.
The Washington Post was the first to report in late August that Trump considered Cipollone his next lawyer in the White House.
Trump surprised some with his hasty announcement in late August that McGahn, who led the government's efforts to reorganize the judiciary, would leave his post as soon as the confirmation process of the Brett M. Kavanaugh Supreme Court was completed.
Although the president had not yet made a selection in August, he tweeted that he was "very excited about the person who will take the place of Donald McGahn as a White House lawyer."
According to the biography on his company's website, Cipollone has practiced commercial litigation, trade regulation and health fraud. He has extensive expertise in corporate defense, complex investigations and preliminary negotiations on defamatory media reports.
He is a former partner of the law firm Kirkland and Ellis, whose lawyers include Kavanaugh, Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, and former George W. Bush Administrator Paul Clement.
Cipollone is well-received by some of Trump's senior advisers, including the president's outside prosecutors, Jay Sekulow and Rudolph W. Giuliani. He became a familiar advisor to Trump in late summer and frequently telephoned him.
Meanwhile, the White House bureau has shrunk by about 25 lawyers, out of about 35 in the past,
Cipollone is not a household name, but he is well respected by lawyers in Washington for his sophisticated work on complex investigations and corporate defenses. He worked in the 1990s at the Department of Justice as attorney for Attorney General William P. Barr for communications and special projects.
Tom Yannucci, former chairman of the Kirkland Company, where Cipollone once worked, said he was "a master in dealing with high-stakes cases."
"I helped recruit Pat to Kirkland in 1993, and that was one of the best things I've done for my company," he said. He added that Cipollone has the combination of personal skills, calm choices and "blazing wisdom" that will prove important when a Democratic House takes over the White House next year.
"He's well-qualified to handle this kind of situation, not to inflame, but to bring it forward," Yanucci said.
W. Neil Eggleston, President Barack Obama's former White House adviser and former partner of Cipollone, called Cipollone a "grand litigation lawyer … accustomed to the high-profile litigation that keeps an eye out for you."
Eggleston said he does not believe that Cipollone's relatively small experience in the government will be a handicap. "I think he will do a good job," Eggleston said. "I think he will be smart and surround himself with people who have more government experience than he."
Cipollone is active in the Catholic community after serving on the board of the Catholic Information Center, a group that organizes events in Washington, and the Board of Visitors of the Columbus School of Law. He was a founding member of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, according to his biography with this group.
Another strong link that the lawyer has to Trump is the conservative commentator and Trump ally Laura Ingraham. Ingraham calls Cipollone her godfather and credits him as her "spiritual mentor" before converting to Catholicism in 2002.