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White House counsel Cipollone expected to lead Trump impeachment defense, Dershowitz still in the mix

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By Shannon Pettypiece and Hallie Jackson  with NBC News Politics
Image: White House Counsel Pat Cipollone exits the U.S. Capitol after meeti
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone exits the Capitol after meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Dec. 12, 2019.   -   Copyright  Drew Angerer

WASHINGTON — White House counsel Pat Cipollone is currently expected to serve as President Donald Trump's lead attorney during the Senate impeachment trial with the president's personal lawyer Jay Sekulow also helping out on the defense team, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Other lawyers may still be added into the mix, including Alan Dershowitz, a frequent cable news defender of Trump's presidential powers, the person said. It's unlikely Rudy Giuliani will play a formal role in the Senate defense proceedings, though he remains part of the president's overall legal team, the person said.

A White House official cautions no final decisions have been made.

Cipollone had been widely expectedto play a prominent role.

As Trump's lawyer in the Senate, Cipollone — who spent most of his career in commercial litigation and doesn't have extensive experience as a trial lawyer — would be thrust into the limelight in what will effectively be the most high-profile defense attorney role in the nation.

The start date for the trial, which could last several weeks, has not been determined.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her fellow Democrats on Tuesday that she's not yet ready to send the articles of impeachment against the Senate — but she suggested that she could be soon — which is required before the trail could get underway.

Cipollone, who has been White House counsel since October 2018, has helped Trump fight back against the House impeachment inquiry and worked closely with Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on shaping the process for a Senate trial.

Cipollone, 53, has been criticized for his broad interpretation of presidential powers and the White House's resistance to the impeachment process, including by nearly two dozen of his former law school classmates who signed a letterblasting his legal arguments for not cooperating with the House impeachment inquiry. They said his argument to Congress "flouts the tradition or rigor and intellectual honesty that we learned together."