Fordham Alum Defends President in Impeachment Hearings



Pat Cipollone, Fordham College at Rose Hill ’88, will have an integral role in the outcome of the impeachment trial, and, by extension, contemporary American history.


For the third time in history, an American president stands trial after a formal impeachment inquiry. Representing Donald Trump on the Senate floor in one of the most scrutinized political trials in contemporary American history is Pat Cipollone, a Fordham University graduate. 

Cipollone, whose first name is Pasquale but goes by “Pat,” graduated from Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) in 1988 with a degree in economics. During his time at the university, he was part of the debating team, where he became close with the team’s adviser, Rev. Thomas Massaro, S.J., a professor of moral theology. 

“I was looking for talented people who could make arguments, and he was certainly at the top of the group,” Massaro said about Cipollone. 

On the team, Cipollone’s debate partner was Adam Smith, FCRH ’87, and together they traveled to competitions across the country and even abroad to Montreal and Ireland to compete in the National Parliamentary Debate Association

“They were close friends,” Massaro said. “We all went to baseball games together.”

Cipollone graduated as valedictorian and went on to the University of Chicago Law School, where he earned a Juris Doctor law degree in 1991. He worked as an assistant for Attorney General William Barr in 1992-93 and became a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, the largest law firm in the United States. 

In October 2018, Cipollone left the Washington D.C. law firm Stein Mitchell Cipollone Beato & Missner to join the White House Counsel. However, sources close to the president told CNN that Cipollone had already been working as an outside adviser to Trump for months. 

“He’s developed a relationship with the President. He knows how to talk to (Trump) and … that’s important,” the source said  in 2018. 

Since his appointment, Cipollone has been sternly critical about accusations made against Trump and spent many weeks preparing to defend the president in the trials. 

Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal lawyer whom Cipollone worked with on the defense case, told The New York Times that “Pat’s taking a leading role in this proceeding because of the institutional interests that are at stake. 

“He’s the right man for the task. He has the right temperament and disposition,” he continued. 

On Wednesday, Jan. 22, the trial began with opening statements from the seven house members serving as prosecutors. They had 24 hours to present their argument, which was distributed over three days. 

Trump’s defense lawyers took the stage on Jan. 25 to offer their own arguments. Cipollone used his opening statement to remind the chief justice of the United States and senators that the impeachment will also affect Trump’s ability to partake in the upcoming 2020 presidential election. 

“They’re asking you to tear up all of the ballots across this country on your own initiative. Take that decision away from the American people,” he said, adding that no other senate had ever done that. 

Three days later, on Jan. 28, after presenting evidence and developing their argument, the defense lawyers delivered their final statements. “It’s time for this to end, here and now. We urge the Senate to reject these articles of impeachment for all of the reasons we have given you,” Cipollone said in his closing statement. 

In the upcoming days, after the opening statements from both sides, senators will have a total of 16 hours to question both the House impeachment managers and the defense team. 

Also involved in the impeachment hearings is Smith, Cipollone’s debate team partner, who now serves as Congressman for the 9th District of Washington. A Democrat, Smith is in support of the impeachment, writing in a formal statement, “It is now the job of Congress to act as swiftly as possible to uncover the full extent of the President’s corruption and degradation of democracy.” 

Massaro wondered if Cipollone and Smith, who he remembers as close friends but are now political opponents, “are still friendly and pal around together.” 

Massaro said that he always knew that Cipollone was a conservative, but when Cipollone’s name began to appear in newspapers in 2018, he was shocked.  

“I was a little bit surprised that he would leave private-sector law to work full-time in a Republican administration,” Massaro said. “I would ask him (Cipollone) some hard questions about why he took this job,” he continued. 

The future of the impeachment trials remains unknown, with key decisions like whether or not to allow witnesses still undetermined. However, it is certain that a Fordham alumnus will have an integral role in the outcome of the trial, and, by extension, contemporary American history.