Trump’s legal troubles continue to pile up

Both cases are the subject of criminal investigations being heard by grand juries in Washington

Cipollone declined to answer questions as he left without his attorney, Michael Purpura, and got into a waiting SUV. Philbin, who left with Purpura, also declined to answer questions.

For Trump, Cipollone’s appearance marks the latest setback in an extraordinary series of disastrous legal and political developments.

It came a day after a federal appeals court panel dismissed his lawsuit against the Justice Department following an FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago mansion. In recent days, Trump has seen top allies Lindsey Graham, Mark Meadows and Michael Flynn ordered to testify before an Atlanta-area grand jury investigating his efforts to overturn the election.

Last month, the Justice Department appointed former public sector corruption chief Jack Smith as special counsel to lead the Trump-focused January 6 and Mar-a-Lago investigations.

Adding to these legal woes, the Supreme Court cleared the way for House Democrats to obtain six years of Trump’s tax returns.

And Trump’s world has been rocked in recent days amid widespread condemnation from allies and opponents for hosting white supremacist Nick Fuentes at his Mar-a-Lago estate.

Trump was also on the losing end of a secret legal battle to prevent some of his top former advisers from testifying before a grand jury, which may have cleared the way for Cipollone and Philbin to appear on Friday.

The appearance of Trump’s White House lawyers underscores the acute legal threat he faces. Several other former Trump White House advisers have appeared before a grand jury in recent weeks, including Trump social media aide Dan Scavino and two former aides to former Vice President Mike Pence.

Cipollone was a key witness in Trump’s frantic final weeks in office, especially as the outgoing president sought to undermine the transition to Joe Biden. Cipollone testified before the special committee on Jan. 6 after lengthy negotiations, but declined to discuss matters he considered covered by potential executive privilege.

If Cipollone had been ordered to testify about those privileged matters before the grand jury, it would have put prosecutors in possession of key evidence that lawmakers on the Jan. 6 panel were unable to obtain. Among the questions the special committee has been unable to resolve is why Cipollone did not attend a key final meeting regarding Trump’s efforts to persuade Pence to tamper with the Jan. 6 electoral vote count.

Cipollone told the special committee that he had planned to attend but ended up not doing so. The reason, he said, was protected by privilege.

A day before he left office, Trump also named Cipollone and Philbin as two of seven representatives at the National Archives authorized to facilitate access to and manage his presidential records.

While it is unusual for White House lawyers to testify before a grand jury involving presidential misconduct, Cipollone and Philbin are far from the first White House lawyers to face judicial scrutiny. Trump’s first white adviser, Don McGahn, was interviewed multiple times by special counsel Robert Mueller and became a key witness for Trump’s potential obstruction of justice.

Other top White House lawyers who have appeared in the same courthouse include Bruce Lindsay, a longtime adviser to President Bill Clinton. The Clinton White House waged an unsuccessful legal battle to block Lindsay’s testimony in an independent counsel investigation into alleged corruption at the Department of Agriculture.

Lindsey was later called to testify before a grand jury overseen by another independent counsel, Ken Starr, as it looked into Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

A few decades earlier, White House counsel John Dean testified before a grand jury investigating the Watergate scandal.

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