Well, that didn’t take long. A day after his legal team for his impeachment-trial defense walked out on him, Donald Trump’s office announced the hiring of two new attorneys to present his defense in the US Senate. One has extensive experience on television, while the other has another celebrity connection — of sorts:
Former President Donald Trump announced a new impeachment legal defense team just one day after it was revealed that he had parted ways with an earlier set of attorneys with just over a week to go before his Senate trial.
The two representing Trump will be defense lawyer David Schoen, a frequent television legal commentator, and Bruce Castor, a former district attorney in Pennsylvania who has faced criticism for his decision to not charge actor Bill Cosby in a sex crimes case.
Unlike Butch Bowers, neither attorney has any apparent expertise in election law. And in their statement to the press, neither attorney made any mention of election issues, either. Instead, they hinted at the constitutional argument that most assumed his first team would present — and which Senate Republicans prefer, for obvious reasons:
Both attorneys issued statements through Trump’s office on Sunday saying that they were honored to take the job.
“The strength of our Constitution is about to be tested like never before in our history. It is strong and resilient. A document written for the ages, and it will triumph over partisanship yet again, and always,” said Castor, who served as district attorney for Montgomery County, outside of Philadelphia, from 2000 to 2008.
The Associated Press has a bit of fun running down the CVs of both attorneys, in all senses of the phrase. Schoen met with Jeffrey Epstein a few days before the suicide, apparently hoping to join the billionaire pedophile’s legal team, and is also one of Roger Stone’s appellate lawyers. Castor ended up working for Kathleen Kane in Pennsylvania until the Democrat AG got convicted on for lying to a grand jury and abusing her office.
What do these hires tell us about Trump’s plans? They don’t have the electoral-fraud experience to attempt to pull off an insane attempt at a justification defense, as Rudy Giuliani suggested two weeks ago and which appeared to have driven Trump’s first legal team to withdraw. The new attorneys are not exactly a dream team of constitutional lawyers either, though; if Trump wanted to stick to the constitutional argument (that the Senate has no jurisdiction over a private citizen), his first team would have been better suited to handle it. As Allahpundit wrote yesterday, Trump could have asked Alan Dershowitz, John Eastman, or Jonathan Turley to represent him for that kind of defense, or at least to just write the brief and send it in while ignoring the rest of the proceedings.
Maybe Trump really did decide to DIY his Senate defense:
The actual statement is that he could do it himself and save the money.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) January 31, 2021
So why hire these two? Dershowitz and Eastman would have helped Trump write out the brief, I’d bet, perhaps even ghost-write it for him if Trump preferred. Why spend the money on a legal team for a constitutional argument if it’s such a no-brainer? On the other hand, why pay an entirely new and apparently inexperienced pair of attorneys for an election-fraud justification defense?
Best guess: Trump may have finally realized a justification defense in the Senate — which would be interpreted as an admission of incitement made permissible to fight what Trump thinks was an unconstitutional action by Congress — might land him in more legal hot water, especially with the Department of Justice pressing sedition cases against the Capitol rioters. Better to mail in a constitutional defense and leave the rest to allies in the Senate Republican caucus than go out like Col. Jessup in A Few Good Men by declaring he called the Code Red.
Update: The Washington Post reported separately that Trump’s office refutes the idea that Trump wants any other defense than the constitutional issue:
Trump spokesman Jason Miller also 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.
Really? The Post also reports that Turley declined an offer to join Trump’s team, and it sounds as though he thought Trump was going to pursue the justification defense:
The collapse of Trump’s legal team could “force the president now to turn to a better strategy,” one that would save him “from self-immolation,” said Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University who declined an offer to represent the president at the impeachment trial.
If Trump insists on arguing that the election was stolen, he would be on a destructive path, Turley said.
“That claim is viewed by many senators as one of open contempt for their institution,” he said. “As it stands now, he would be acquitted by a fair margin. If he pursued that path, it could change the view and the votes of some senators.”
If Trump wanted to only pursue the constitutional argument, why did his five attorneys walk off the job, and why did Turley decline an opportunity to make the case himself?