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CNN  — 

The House select committee investigating the US Capitol insurrection on Friday could land some of its most critical testimony yet – from former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, who was present for some of the most fraught moments in Donald Trump’s West Wing.

The committee hopes Cipollone can provide insider details about what went on among key officials on January 6, 2021, when Trump refused to call off his mob as lawmakers ran for their lives. His testimony, video-taped and behind closed doors, could flesh out Trump’s scheme in key states to steal the 2020 election and may play a key role in a looming decision by the committee on whether to recommend a criminal prosecution of Trump to the Justice Department.

“We just want the truth,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat who sits on the committee, told CNN on Wednesday.

“We learned quite a bit about things that Mr. Cipollone said and did from multiple other witnesses but there are some things that we would like to hear from him directly.”

Cipollone may be able to corroborate blockbuster testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, an ex-aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. The 26-year-old told the committee in a dramatic hearing last month that Cipollone had said there would be “serious legal concerns” if Trump went up to the Capitol as Congress was certifying President Joe Biden’s election win. Hutchinson also said Cipollone warned that those around Trump could get charged with “every crime imaginable” if they allowed the ex-President to join the mob on Capitol Hill. She testified that as the riot escalated Cipollone bluntly told Meadows that “something needs to be done or people are going to die and the blood’s going to be on your f**king hands.”

Trump’s son-in-law and former senior White House adviser, Jared Kushner, meanwhile, said in video testimony to the committee that Cipollone and those around him often threatened to resign. Kushner, however, said he considered such threats simply “whining.”

A vital moment

Cipollone’s interview follows weeks of building drama around the committee, which is cranking up the heat in a series of televised hearings that have revealed damaging new evidence about Trump’s multi-front attempt to tarnish the 2020 election and heightened questions about whether he should face criminal repercussions.

The committee has secured testimony that Trump knew his mob was armed on January 6 but goaded it to march on Capitol Hill anyway. It has shown the painful human price paid by election observers whom Trump viciously and falsely accused of vote counting fraud. And multiple witnesses testified that the ex-President was repeatedly told he lost the election but refused to end his effort to remain in power and prevent Biden from taking office.

Following Hutchinson’s appearance, members of the committee piled even more pressure on Cipollone to testify. The former White House counsel will appear under subpoena for a transcribed interview on video, sources told CNN. The questions will be limited to specific topics to get around executive privilege concerns relating to his direct interactions with Trump, sources said.

But the former President is already showing signs of anxiety ahead of Cipollone’s appearance, and given Hutchinson’s testimony, it is difficult to see how his testimony will do anything to mitigate what is emerging as a damning picture of Trump’s behavior.

He wrote on his Truth Social network on Wednesday that the appearance by Cipollone was “so bad for the USA!” and could prevent future presidents from having “candid and important” conversations with their White House counsels.

As was often the case when he was in office, Trump appears to be viewing Cipollone as a personal lawyer rather than the lawyer for the presidency who owes an allegiance to the Constitution.

‘Pat will tell the truth’

Trump may be right to be concerned, even though Cipollone will be a reluctant witness to the committee and had to be subpoenaed. Former White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told CNN on Wednesday that “Pat will tell the truth, there is no question about that.”

While Friday’s testimony will be in private, the committee has made a practice of using clips from witness interviews. So it’s possible that Americans could see parts of what he says on Friday, possibly as soon as next week when televised hearings resume.

In a letter to Cipollone accompanying its subpoena, House select committee Chair Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, and vice chair Liz Cheney, a Republican from Wyoming, told Cipollone that the inquiry had obtained significant evidence since he sat for an informal interview with the committee on April 13 about which he was “uniquely positioned” to testify. They said in a statement that “any concerns Mr. Cipollone has about the institutional prerogatives of the office he previously held are clearly outweighed by the need for his testimony.”

Democratic Rep. Jason Crow of Colorado, who was in opposition to Cipollone when both took part in the ex-President’s first impeachment trial, told CNN Thursday that the ex-White House counsel was a critical witness.

“In a lot of these discussions, there was Pat Cipollone. This is somebody who knows what the President was thinking, who he was talking to, what he was saying,” Crow said on “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” on Thursday.

Former Attorney General William Barr, for example, told the committee in his testimony that Cipollone was with him and Trump in the Oval Office when the then-President erupted over Barr’s interview with the Associated Press in which he had said there was no evidence of widespread electoral fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

“I went up to Pat Cipollone’s office and we were talking with each other,” Barr said in video testimony played by the committee. “And word came down that he wanted us both to go to the Oval, and the President was as mad as I’ve ever seen him.”

Cipollone’s interview before the committee is drawing some comparisons to the case of former White House counsel John Dean, who testified to the Senate Watergate Committee and blew the lid off the conspiracy that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

Dean said on Thursday that the parallel was not exact since he was a willing witness. But Cipollone could still play a powerful role, he said.

“I was trying to end a coverup that was ongoing,” Dean told CNN’s Kasie Hunt.

“Pat Cipollone is coming from a very different place,” Dean said, but added: “If he goes in front of the committee and tells what he knows, he can be a very important witness.”