Trump Impeachment Defense Squeezed by Team Remake on Trial Eve

Former President Donald Trump’s last-minute remake of his impeachment defense team leaves little time to prepare for arguments that are scheduled to start next week in the Senate trial over whether he incited the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Trump announced on Sunday night that attorneys David Schoen and Bruce L. Castor Jr. will head his defense, after his previous lawyers led by Butch Bowers of South Carolina withdrew, with Trump’s initial response to the impeachment charge due Tuesday and the trial set to start Feb. 9.

Bowers and the other attorneys representing Trump parted ways after the former president wanted the lawyers to argue that the Nov. 3 election was stolen — an argument he’s already lost in multiple court cases — rather than focus on the constitutionality of trying a president who has left office, CNN reported on Saturday, without naming its sources.

Schoen has already been working with Trump and other advisers to prepare for the trial, and both Schoen and Castor agree that the impeachment is unconstitutional, Trump said in the release.

Former White House lawyers Pat Cipollone and Eric Herschmann are still in touch with Trump but won’t be taking an official role in his defense, said two people familiar with the matter.

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Losing his former legal team at this point may be tricky for Trump, Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana Cassidy said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“I always thought the president had insufficient time to come up with a rebuttal,” he said. “This makes it perhaps even more insufficient.”

Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University professor who spoke on a Republican caucus call last week right before most senators voted that trying a president out of office is unconstitutional, said it’s reasonable for Trump to seek a trial delay to give new attorneys time to prepare if he wants it.

But it’s not clear that Democrats would agree to such a request. Senate Democrats already pushed the start of the trial back two weeks to allow President Joe Biden some time to install his cabinet.

Harvard University law professor Laurence Tribe said such a move would essentially allow Trump to “run out the clock” by retaining new lawyers.

“No competent judge would let a defendant play this kind of endless game and essentially give the defendant control over the timing of the proceeding,” said Tribe, a frequent Trump critic.

The House impeached Trump on one charge of incitement of insurrection after he encouraged supporters who went on to riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in an effort to stop the counting of Electoral College votes for Biden. Five people died in the mayhem, including one police officer.

Democrats were joined by 10 Republicans, including No. 3 House Republican Liz Cheney of Wyoming, in supporting impeachment.

Trump’s allies have argued that a president who’s no longer in office can’t be impeached, and 45 Republican senators voted last week for a measure to declare the attempt unconstitutional — suggesting it’s unlikely that at least 17 would vote to convict.

Turley said he would advise Trump not to present a defense and inform the Senate in the initial response due on Tuesday that he doesn’t think the trial is constitutional. But that likely would be hard for Trump to do, given his instincts to always fight back, said Turley, who also testified against Trump’s previous impeachment.

Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that while Trump’s actions were “inexcusable,” he’s keeping an open mind as a juror and the constitutionality of impeaching a former president must be considered.

“If the argument is not going to be made on issues like constitutionality, which are real issues and need to be addressed, I think it will not benefit the president,” said Portman, who announced last week he’s not seeking re-election in 2022.

Schoen previously represented Trump adviser Roger Stone and victims of terrorism under the Anti-Terrorism Act, according to Trump’s office. He practices across the U.S., focusing on civil rights litigation in Alabama and federal criminal defense work, including white collar cases in New York, the release said. Schoen has appeared on Fox News, including to discuss the case of accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.

Castor was district attorney of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, from 2000 to 2008 and later twice elected Montgomery County commissioner, according to the release. Castor also served as solicitor general and acting attorney general of Pennsylvania.

— With assistance by Jennifer Jacobs

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