Donald Trump has named two new lawyers who will represent him at his Senate impeachment trial next week, a day after his entire legal team abruptly quit.
Mr Trump’s office announced on Sunday that “highly respected” trial lawyers David Schoen and Bruce L. Castor, Jr. will head the legal team.
Mr Schoen has already been working with the former President and his advisers to prepare for the trial, and both lawyers “agree that this impeachment is unconstitutional”, the announcement said.
“It is an honour to represent the 45th president, Donald J. Trump, and the United States Constitution,” Mr Schoen said in an included statement.
Mr Castor said, “I consider it a privilege to represent the 45th president. 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.”
Mr Schoen most recently made headlines for meeting with Jeffrey Epstein in the days before the disgraced financier and paedophile’s death in custody while awaiting sex trafficking charges.
The lawyer, who was in talks to take over the defence, has claimed Epstein did not die by suicide on August 10, 2019. He said in an interview with Fox News last year that in the meeting, Epstein was “upbeat and excited about going forward”.
“The reason I say I don’t believe it was suicide is for my interaction with him that day,” he said.
“The purpose of asking me to come there that day and over the past previous couple of weeks was to ask me to take over his defence. We came to an agreement during the course of that discussion.”
Mr Castor, the former district attorney of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, from 2000 to 2008, is known for declining to pursue charges against Bill Cosby over allegations he drugged and sexually assaulted a university employee named Andrea Constand in 2004.
The announcement puts to rest any speculation Mr Trump would choose to represent himself – a drastic step that some had recommended after five of his lawyers quit over the weekend.
South Carolina lawyers Butch Bowers and Deborah Barbier and former federal prosecutors Greg Harris, Johnny Gasser and Josh Howard all left the defence team on Saturday due to a dispute over legal strategy.
“If you’re Trump this is rather a no-brainer,” tweeted lobbyist and former George H.W. Bush White House official Janet Mullins Grissom. “With Senate Rs aka the jury on record that impeaching former president is unconstitutional why spend money on lawyers?”
She was referring to a vote last week in which only five Senate Republicans were in favour of continuing the impeachment, suggesting Democrats have nowhere near the 17 needed to reach the 67 votes required for conviction.
According to The New York Times, Washington correspondent Maggie Haberman, Ms Grissom’s tweet echoed a statement Mr Trump “has made to advisers almost verbatim”.
“The actual statement is that he could do it himself and save the money,” she tweeted. “But no, he isn’t going to the Senate well, aides say.”
Haberman said it was former White House strategist Steve Bannon, who received a last-minute pardon from Mr Trump on fraud charges, encouraging his former boss to go to the Senate himself because “he’s the only one who can sell it”.
The War Room podcast host has for weeks argued Democrats made a mistake by including in the article of impeachment that Mr Trump incited an insurrection by “repeatedly (issuing) false statements” asserting widespread election fraud in the months after November 3.
Mr Bannon says this gives him the opportunity to show the “receipts” – meaning to present evidence of election fraud that the former President and his allies claim the courts largely refused to hear.
“They do not want him to bring the receipts to the Senate floor about voter fraud,” Mr Bannon said on Thursday.
But Mr Trump has struggled to find lawyers to represent him at his historic second impeachment trial.
None of the high-profile names who worked on his first impeachment – including his long-time lawyer Jay Sekulow – are expected to be involved this time around, while his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani says he is unable to as he spoke at the January 6 rally which preceded the Capitol riots.
“Due to the fact that I may be a witness, the rules of legal ethics would prohibit me from representing the (former) president as trial counsel in the impeachment trial,” he told CBS News.
Senior Trump adviser Jason Miller said on Saturday night that an announcement would be made on the legal team “in the next couple of days”.
“The Democrats’ efforts to impeach a president who has already left office is totally unconstitutional and so bad for our country,” Mr Miller said. “In fact, 45 Senators have already voted that it is unconstitutional. We have done much work, but have not made a final decision on our legal team, which will be made shortly.”
While he is likely to be acquitted, the Senate could, however, vote by a simple majority to disqualify Mr Trump from ever holding public office again, according to The New York Times.