White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, who has been described by Donald Trump’s own top impeachment team official as “the brightest attorney I have ever worked with in this country,” appears to be in line to stage Trump’s defense in a Senate impeachment trial — if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allows a trial to take place. But according to reports on Friday, Trump is concerned about handing the job to Cipollone for one specific reason.
According to a New York Times report, Trump worries that Cipollone, a longtime Washington D.C. litigation attorney who also worked in the George H.W. Bush administration, would not look good on television.
Trump was primarily a local New York City tabloid celebrity before rocketing to national fame as the star of an NBC TV reality show, The Apprentice, on which he appeared for 14 seasons from 2004 to 2015. Perhaps, as a result, Trump appears preoccupied with the telegenic qualities — or lack thereof — of his appointees and aides.
During the first two-and-a-half years of his term, Trump “repeatedly hired cable news contributors for key government positions,” according to a Hollywood Reporter study of Trump’s TV-friendly preferences. Even his now-former national security adviser, John Bolton, was reportedly hired because Trump enjoyed his appearances as a paid Fox News contributor, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Trump recently brought on former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to oversee his impeachment team’s “messaging” operation, and while Bondi said that “no decisions” had been made regarding the lawyer who would argue Trump’s case before the senate in a prospective impeachment trial, Cipollone is “a genius” in her view, according to an NBC News report.
But Trump hopes to mount a prolonged, “theatrical defense,” according to New York Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg. He is reportedly concerned, according to Stolberg, by Cipollone’s lack of television on-air experience. Any senate impeachment trial is expected to receive wall-to-wall TV coverage on cable news networks and other television and online outlets.
As a result, despite Cipollone’s apparently impressive qualifications to serve as the impeachment defense lawyer, Trump has nonetheless, “been quizzing people about who his lawyers should be,” according to the Times report.
McConnell has said that he plans to coordinate how the impeachment trial would be presented with Trump and would abide by his wishes. But according to the Times report, the two may already be at odds, with the senate majority leader preferring a “shorter, more dignified event,” rather than the over-the-top “theatrical” plan favored by Trump.