Trump has hired two controversial lawyers to defend him at his impeachment trial after his previous legal team suddenly quit.
Both have sparked conversation: David Schoen met with Jeffrey Epstein just days before his death, while Bruce L Castor Jr refused to prosecute Bill Cosby in 2004.
But why does Trump need new lawyers? And who are they, exactly? Here’s everything you need to know about the former president’s defence team debacle.
Why does Trump need a legal team?
Trump faces an impeachment trial in the US Senate, beginning next week. He is accused of inciting insurrection at the US Capitol and of trying to disrupt the electoral process by baselessly claiming that the presidency was “stolen” from him through widespread voter fraud.
His impeachment has already passed through the House of Representatives, where it was supported by the Democrats and 10 Republicans. Now that it has progressed to the Senate, Trump will need a legal team to defend him – and he can’t rely on his old lawyers like Rudy Giuliani, Alan Dershowitz and former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, who all “bowed out” of representing him. Giuliani, who tried to prove Trump’s voter fraud claims in court in the run-up to Biden’s inauguration, told ABC News that as a “witness” he cannot defend Trump against impeachment.
Why did Trump’s first legal team quit?
Trump hired South Carolina attorney Butch Bowers to head up his defence team. Republican senator Lindsey Graham commented at the time that Bowers, a “solid guy”, would put together a “good” legal team for which he would act as “sort of the anchor”. Bowers has experience defending Republican politicians from removal from office: in 2009 he helped to save former SC governor Mark Sanford after it came to light that he lied to his aides about hiking the Appalachian Trail when he was really in Argentina with his mistress.
But the appointment wasn’t to last: Bowers quit Trump’s legal team at the weekend, alongside four others he had assembled to defend the former president: Deborah Barberi, Josh Howard, Johnny Gasser and Greg Harris.
According to CNN, the split came about because Trump wanted his lawyers to argue that mass voter fraud did occur during the 2020 presidential election, while they wanted to focus on the legality of impeaching a president after he has left office. The five lawyers left the team with little more than a week to go until the trial begins.
Who are Trump’s new lawyers?
Trump hired a new legal team which includes David Schoen and Bruce L Castor Jr. These appointments have proven controversial: in Schoen’s case because he met with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in prison days before his death. Schoen says that he met with Epstein because he wanted him to take over his defence – and that he doesn’t believe that Epstein died by suicide, as was ruled by a medical examiner.
Castor, on the other hand, declined to prosecute actor Bill Cosby after a woman claimed that he had drugged and molested her in 2004. Cosby was ultimately convicted of assault in 2018.
What happens next?
It’s not yet known what defence strategy Schoen and Castor will take, or whether they’ll agree to argue that the election was stolen from Trump because of mass voter fraud. What is known, however, is that both men believe Trump’s impeachment to be unconstitutional.
It is unlikely, moreover, that Trump will be convicted, whatever his lawyers’ defence. Impeachment proceedings against a president have never successfully passed through the Senate after passing through the House of Representatives, including after Trump’s first impeachment in 2019. 17 Republicans would need to vote in favour of impeaching their former leader for him to be convicted, which would be unprecedented – albeit not impossible.