Donald Trump hires new impeachment defense team after lead lawyers quit

Figcaption Donald Trump Hires New Impeachment Defense Team After Lead Lawyers Quit
Posted at: Author: Rain TV UK

Donald Trump has named new lawyers to lead the defense at his impeachment trial in the Senate next week on the charge that he unleashed a deadly insurrection upon the US Capitol on 6 January. The announcement comes just a day after his previous team fell apart.

Trial lawyers David Schoen and Bruce L Castor will head up Trump’s new legal team, the former US president announced on Sunday evening.

The ability of Republican senators who plan to acquit Donald Trump to weigh the case on the merits remained challenged, however, after the mass resignation of Trump’s previous legal team and the looming Senate deadline of Tuesday to submit a preliminary memo laying out his defense.

The House impeached Trump earlier this month on a single article charging “incitement of insurrection” – a historic second impeachment of a US president.

The new lawyers are not without controversy. David Schoen represented Roger Stone, who was convicted in November 2019 of obstructing a congressional investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election, and then had his prison sentence commuted by Trump.

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The Atlanta-based lawyer also met with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein when the financier was preparing for trial in New York on charges relating to sexual exploitation and shortly before Epstein died in jail in 2019.

Bruce Castor is a former acting attorney general of Pennsylvania and a prominent Republican who has been slammed by advocates for victims of sexual crimes because of his stance against reforms involving help for past victims of Catholic priests and in the case of university football coach and predator Jerry Sandusky.

And Castor gained notoriety for declining to prosecute Bill Cosby more than a decade before the entertainer was eventually convicted in 2018, and also sued Cosby’s victim, Andrea Constand, in a case that was dismissed, and then was sued by Constand for defamation, which was settled.

Trump’s new team will have very little time to prepare for the impeachment trial.

According to a schedule hammered out by leaders from both parties, House prosecutors were to respond to Trump’s defense memo, after which arguments were to begin on the Senate floor on 9 February.

But the trial schedule, and its substance, have been thrown into doubt with the departure of five lawyers on Trump’s defense team – apparently the entire team. The resignations were first reported by CNN, which said the lawyers and Trump disagreed over strategy.

A Trump spokesperson told the New York Times that there had been a strategy disagreement but denied it was over Trump’s insistence that his defense center on the wild, false accusations of election fraud that he has been peddling for months.

Those false accusations drew Trump supporters, many affiliated with anti-government and white supremacist groups, to Washington on 6 January to contest the certification by Congress of Joe Biden’s victory, the supporters later told law enforcement.

After Trump encouraged the group in a speech to march on the Capitol, they broke into the building and vandalized it, killed a police officer and injured dozens, trampled a woman to death and caused three additional deaths, not counting two additional officers who later died by suicide.

In a sense the resignation of Trump’s lawyers was irrelevant, because Republicans are planning to acquit Trump in any case, observed Princeton University historian Julian Zelizer.

“The ‘crisis’ over Trump’s legal team quitting assumes that the substance of the impeachment case will sway Senate Republicans,” Zelizer tweeted. “Most already have their answer. Trump could offer no defense or he can go on the floor to read lines from the Joker movie – they would still vote to acquit.”

Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union show on Sunday morning, Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman, who announced last week that he will not seek re-election, indicated that any notion of Donald Trump basing his defense in his second impeachment trial on a claim that he actually won the November election, rather than a constitutionality argument, “will not benefit” him.

Portman noted that there was not adequate evidence of fraud to change the election result from a victory for Biden and that was “the view of the Trump Department of Justice”, too.

“We need to be very clear to the American people, we have to acknowledge that this election was lost and we have to move on,” Portman said. “Joe Biden was duly elected.”

Butch Bowers was in Trump’s defence team for his impeachment trial in the Senate but has left in a ‘mutual decision’. Photograph: Mary Ann Chastain/AP

Trump’s former legal team, which had been led by the South Carolina attorney Butch Bowers, appeared to be crafting a defense that would have challenged the constitutionality of trying a president after he has left office. The team was also expected to argue that Trump’s speech was covered by the first amendment on free speech and did not constitute “incitement”.

In a vote last week, 45 out of 50 Republican senators backed a resolution supporting the argument that it would be unconstitutional to try a former president. Most constitutional scholars disagree sharply, saying there is clear historic precedent for trying defendantswho have left office and indeed Trump was still in office when he was impeached.

The departure of Bowers and Deborah Barberi, two South Carolina lawyers, was described by a source familiar with the situation as a “mutual decision”.

Three other lawyers associated with the team, Josh Howard of North Carolina and Johnny Gasser and Greg Harris of South Carolina, also parted ways with Trump, another source said.

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“The Democrats’ efforts to impeach a president who has already left office is totally unconstitutional and so bad for our country,” said Jason Miller, a Trump adviser.

Reuters contributed reporting.

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