Ayyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So I got some tea and it involves Donald Trump’s defense team ditching him a week before impeachment trial.
Donald Trump’s legal team ends representing him. This comes as Trump remains fixated on arguing at his second impeachment trial that the 2020 election was stolen from him, a defense that advisers warned is illconceived and Republican strategists fear will fuel the growing divide in the GOP.
South Carolina lawyer Karl S. “Butch” Bowers Jr. and four other attorneys who recently signed on to represent the former president abruptly parted ways with him this weekend, days before his February 9 Senate trial for his role in inciting the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Trump’s office announced on Sunday that two new lawyers were taking over his defense. Two people familiar with the discussions preceding the departure of the original legal team said that Trump wanted them to make the case during the trial that he actually won the election. To do so would require citing his false claims of election fraud even as his allies and attorneys have said that he should instead focus on arguing that impeaching a president who has already left office is unconstitutional.
Trump’s lawyers had initially planned to center their strategy on the question of whether the proceedings were constitutional and on the definition of incitement, according to one of the people, who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the internal conversations.But the former president repeatedly said he wanted to litigate the voter fraud allegations and the 2020 race and was seeking a more public defense of his actions. Bowers told Trump he couldn’t mount the defense that Trump wanted, the person said.
“It truly was mutual,” the person said. “The president wanted a different defense. The president wanted a different approach and a different team.”
Trump spokesman Jason Miller said Sunday that the split with his lawyers was mutual but rejected the notion that the former president wants to focus on election fraud in the Senate trial, calling that account “fake news.” “The only guidance offered has been to focus on the unconstitutional nature of the impeachment to which 45 senators have already voted in agreement,” Miller wrote in a text message. Bowers and the other lawyers who quit Trump’s defense team did not respond to requests for comment. CNN first reported that Trump wanted his attorneys to center his defense on his claims of election fraud.
Trump’s office announced in a statement that Atlanta based trial attorney David Schoen and Bruce L. Castor Jr., a former district attorney in Montgomery County, Pa., would lead his defense team. The two lawyers will bring “national profiles and significant trial experience in high profile cases to the effort,” the statement said.
Schoen previously served as a lawyer for Trump adviser Roger Stone when he sought to appeal his conviction for lying and witness tampering in a congressional investigation. He also was in discussions with financier Jeffrey Epstein about representing him days before his death while awaiting sex trafficking charges and has said he does not believe Epstein killed himself. During his time as district attorney, Castor had declined to prosecute actor Bill Cosby and was later sued by accuser Andrea Constand in a case that was settled.
The House impeachment article charges Trump with “incitement of insurrection” in the invasion of the U.S. Capitol on January 6 by a pro-Trump mob. The Democrats have been working around the clock in preparation for the trial including on Saturday night, when the news broke of Trump’s legal team collapsing, according to people familiar with their activities. The impeachment managers are compiling footage from January 6, including cellphone recordings of protesters attending Trump’s rally that morning and video from inside the Capitol after protesters breached it.
Their aim is to present stark evidence of how Trump’s words and actions including his long running attacks on the integrity of the election influenced the rioters. The attempted insurrection left five dead, including one member of the U.S. Capitol Police. In addition, two officers, one with the D.C. police, have since died by suicide.
Both sides face tight deadlines to prepare for the trial. The House team must file its briefs Tuesday. Trump’s defense team lawyers must file their briefs on February 8.