June 29, 2022, Letters from an American

June 29, 2022, Letters from an American, Prof. Heather Cox Richardson


What is up in this Letter?: The House Select Committee is considering to call “Pat” Cipollone to testify. Republican pundits are calling Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony devastating. Ginni is having second thoughts on discussing her “boilerplate and unremarkable” comments. A Ukrainian-born businessman is sentenced in Federal Court.


Today, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol subpoenaed former White House counsel Pasquale “Pat” Cipollone. The lawyer, who is now in private practice, spoke to the committee on April 13 but has not talked with the members on the record.

In a statement, committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and vice chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) noted that Cipollone’s name has come up repeatedly in the hearings as having “legal and other concerns about President Trump’s activities on January 6th and in the days that preceded.” Testimony has said Cipollone stood with then–acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen to stop Trump from installing Jeffrey Clark in that spot to lie to the American people that the 2020 election was fraudulent; he also came up frequently in yesterday’s testimony as trying—and failing—to keep Trump from breaking the law on January 6.

Thompson and Cheney wrote that they appreciated Cipollone’s previous cooperation but that the committee needs to hear from him “on the record, as other former White House counsels have done in other congressional investigations.”

There is no doubt that Cipollone holds powerful information about what happened in the White House during that crucial time, and his testimony likely could put people in jail.

Former federal prosecutor and co-host of the Sisters In Law podcast Joyce White Vance tweeted:

“No reason Cipollone shouldn’t show up. He can always object to questions that would elicit legitimately privileged information. But at this point, who are you going to protect—the former president or the Republic?”

That seems to be a question a lot of people, including those on the right, are asking after hearing yesterday’s testimony by Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

In the National Review, Andrew C. McCarthy called Hutchinson’s testimony “devastating” and said, “Things will not be the same after this.” In an editorial, the Washington Examiner wrote, “Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s Tuesday testimony ought to ring the death knell for former President Donald Trump’s political career. Trump is unfit to be anywhere near power ever again…. Trump is a disgrace.” In The Dispatch, David French reviewed Hutchinson’s testimony and concluded that “the case for prosecuting Donald Trump just got much stronger.”

At the Reagan Presidential Library tonight, Cheney warned: “[W]e are confronting a domestic threat that we have never faced before—and that is a former president who is attempting to unravel the foundations of our constitutional republic, and he is aided by Republican leaders and elected officials who have made themselves willing hostages to this dangerous and irrational man.”

“Donald Trump attempted to overturn the presidential election. He attempted to stay in office and to prevent the peaceful transfer of presidential power. He summoned a mob to Washington, He knew they were armed on January 6th. He knew they were angry. And he directed the violent mob to march on the Capitol in order to delay or prevent completely the counting of electoral votes. He attempted to go there with them. And when the violence was underway, he refused to take action to tell the rioters to leave. Instead, he incited further violence by tweeting that the vice president, Mike Pence, was a coward. He said ‘Mike deserves it,’ and he didn’t want to do anything in response to the ‘Hang Mike Pence’ chants. It’s undeniable. It’s also painful for Republicans to accept.”

She concluded: “The reality that we face today as Republicans, as we think about the choice in front of us, we have to choose because Republicans cannot both be loyal to Donald Trump and loyal to the Constitution.”

The audience broke out in applause.

On CNN this evening, committee member Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) talked to host Anderson Cooper about witness tampering. The committee is concerned, she said, that Trump is using the hundreds of millions of dollars he raised by promising small donors he would fight the election results to pay the legal bills of those witnesses with whom he plotted. She suggested that there was “coercion” involved with that money. Witness tampering is a crime, she noted, and she said the committee is “perfectly prepared to provide any evidence we have to the proper authorities.”

In related news, yesterday Virginia “Ginni” Thomas’s lawyer walked back her offer to testify to the January 6th committee about her role in the January 6 insurrection. Thomas has appeared in evidence the committee has collected: she texted Meadows before January 6 to call his attention to conspiracy theories about the election, wrote to Arizona lawmakers to urge them to create a new slate of electors that backed Trump rather than Biden, and communicated with lawyer John Eastman, the author of the memo detailing how then–vice president Mike Pence could overturn the election. She also attended the January 6 rally.

Ginni Thomas is married to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and Eastman told Pence’s top aide Greg Jacob that he thought Thomas would support Eastman’s theories. Justice Thomas has refused to recuse himself from matters before the court pertaining to the attempt to stop Biden’s election.

After news about the emails between Eastman and Thomas surfaced, the committee on June 16 invited Thomas to testify, and Thomas told the right-wing Daily Caller she was eager “to clear up misconceptions. I look forward to talking to them.”

Now her lawyer says he doesn’t see any reason for her to talk to the committee, saying her communications were largely boilerplate and unremarkable, simply forwarding writings by other people. He said he is worried about her testifying before a committee that intends “to continue the baseless harassment she has been subjected to since January 6.” He adds that “this has been a particularly stressful time” because of “the unprecedented assault on the conservative Supreme Court Justices and their families.”

Longtime readers of these letters will be interested to know that today U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken sentenced Ukrainian-born businessman Lev Parnas to a year and eight months in prison and fined him $2.3 million.

Parnas worked with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine to try to smear Hunter Biden and showed up frequently in Trump’s first impeachment, although the criminal case against Parnas did not rest on that. It centered on a fraudulent business he ran and on illegal contributions he made to U.S. politicians, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).