Trump questioned whether future presidents could be "candid" with a White House counsel.
His statement came after reports that Pat Cipollone would testify before the January 6 committee.
A federal court once rejected a similar argument the Clinton administration made.
Former President Donald Trump on Wednesday said it is "so bad" for the country and the future of the presidency that one of his former White House counsels is cooperating with the congressional investigation into the Capitol riot.
"Why would a future President of the United States want to have candid and important conversations with his White House Counsel if he thought there was even a small chance that this person, essentially acting as a 'lawyer' for the Country, may some day be brought before a partisan and openly hostile Committee in Congress, or even a fair and reasonable Committee, to reveal the inner secrets of foreign policy or other important matters," Trump wrote on his social-media platform, Truth Social. "So bad for the USA!"
Pat Cipollone reached a deal on Wednesday to offer further testimony to the House committee, multiple reports said. The extent to which Cipollone would cooperate with the panel following its decision to subpoena him last week is unclear. Cipollone's attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Multiple witnesses have said Cipollone played a key role in the White House's response to the Capitol attack and in the lead-up to it. Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide, testified that Cipollone told her Trump could not go to the Capitol on January 6, 2021, as Cipollone was worried that Trump would "get charged with every crime imaginable."
"He was also worried that it would look like we were inciting a riot or encouraging a riot to happen up at the Capitol," Hutchinson told the panel during one of four videotaped depositions before her public testimony on June 28.
Trump and Cipollone are not close, and Trump used to mock him both to his face and behind his back as one of the worst lawyers, The Washington Post reported. Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and a former top aide, told the committee that he thought Cipollone was "whining" when he threatened to resign after the attack on the Capitol.
History also shows that Trump's sweeping claim of a potentially weakened presidency isn't as strong as he suggests. A similar line of argument was tested during the Whitewater independent counsel Ken Starr's investigation into President Bill Clinton, which eventually resulted in Clinton's impeachment.
The Clinton White House argued that Bruce Lindsey, a top advisor and deputy White House counsel, could not testify before a grand jury about his conversations with the president because those discussions were covered by executive privilege. A federal judge ruled that while the privilege did exist, Starr's need to secure the testimony outweighed it. A federal court later rejected the White House's fallback argument that the conversations were protected by attorney-client privilege.
"With respect to investigations of federal criminal offenses, and especially offenses committed by those in government, government attorneys stand in a far different position from members of the private bar," the court's opinion said. "Their duty is not to defend clients against criminal charges and it is not to protect wrongdoers from public exposure."
In a further test of executive privilege, then-Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist declined to intervene when the Clinton White House raised strong objections to Secret Service agents' being compelled to testify about what they knew about the president's relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
Trump has also been burned by the words of one of his White House counsels before. While Trump may try to blur the line, a White House counsel is not a president's personal lawyer. Rather, the White House's top legal official is supposed to advise on the extent of presidential powers, assist with judicial nominations, monitor White House staff's compliance with ethics rules, and, when necessary, work with the Justice Department.
Don McGahn, Trump's first White House counsel, was a major witness in the special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into ties between Russia and Trump. McGahn told investigators that Trump instructed him to fire Mueller, a claim that Trump has previously denied. Trump's White House later engaged in a protracted legal battle when House Democrats sought to have McGahn recount his private testimony in a congressional hearing.
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