A little more than a week before his impeachment proceedings against the Senate, the defense team of former President Donald Trump dissolves. At least five lawyers drop out or refuse to join him, including a South Carolina attorney who was selected just last week to lead the defense effort.
That attorney, Karl "Butch" Bowers Jr., will no longer represent Trump if the former president stands before the Senate on February 9 for his alleged role in inciting the violent uprising in the US Capitol. Politico reports that Bowers and another South Carolina attorney, Deborah Barbier, were confirmed on Saturday that she had left the team.
CNN's Kaitlan Collins then reported Saturday night that attorney Josh Howard, who was recently added to the defense effort, would also not be on the team.
Those resignations, according to Collins' sources, came because "Trump wanted lawyers to argue it was mass election fraud that was stolen from him, rather than focusing on proposed constitutionality arguments."
Finally, according to the New York Times, two other South Carolina lawyers who reportedly planned to join Trump's team, Johnny Gasser and Greg Harris, have also left the company.
The news comes after Trump reportedly struggled to find lawyers to represent him.
The oral arguments are due to begin on February 9th, a date chosen after some negotiations among party leaders. House Democrats serving as impeachment managers have their first filing in the process due Tuesday. Trump has until the day before the arguments begin to submit his pleadings.
Bowers, who previously successfully defended former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford in a 2009 impeachment negotiation, was seen as a measured alternative to the more bombastic Rudy Giuliani, Trump's longtime attorney who oversaw the Trump campaign's failed attempts to gain election results Fall in court in 2020.
Giuliani had suggested he could lead Trump's defense after representing Trump during a special investigation into his 2016 campaign. However, he later said he could not represent Trump in this case as his presence at the Trump rally where the uprising took place makes him a "witness".
The departure of Barbier and Bowers has been described by Politico as a "mutual decision". Trump reportedly did not feel he had chemistry with Bowers, "a quality the former president generally values in his relationships," the Times' Maggie Haberman reported. Additionally, Bowers lacks significant media exposure, another trait Haberman says Trump likes in his lawyers.
Bowers is a longtime friend of Senator Lindsey Graham, who first announced the hiring during a GOP meeting in the Senate on Jan. 21. At this point, Graham suggested that the defense's legal strategy might depend on the idea that impeachment should be considered unconstitutional. come as they want weeks after Trump left office.
As Vox's Ian Millhiser explained, a majority of legal scholars say that impeachment proceedings for a former president would be constitutional. After Trump's legal team disbanded, a president spokesman reiterated that the trial was unconstitutional, while also saying that Trump's defense was still ongoing.
"The efforts of the Democrats to indict a president who has already resigned from office are completely unconstitutional and so bad for our country," said Trump spokesman Jason Miller. “In fact, 45 senators have already voted unconstitutional. We have done a lot of work but have not yet made a final decision on our legal team that will be made shortly. "
Here Miller was referring to a motion made last Tuesday by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky to force a vote on whether charges against a former president were constitutional. Paul, who refused to admit that the November election was not stolen, tried to demonstrate that there will not be sufficient GOP support for a conviction.
An impeachment conviction requires the support of two-thirds of the Senate, which means that at least 17 Republicans would need to vote in favor of Trump for the effort to be successful. There is little evidence that many GOP senators will be ready.
It is not clear who will now represent Trump in the historic trials that take place after he was indicted on January 13 for “inciting” at the house after a crowd of his supporters violently attacked the US Capitol shortly after, one of Trump led rally on January 6th. Five people died in the attack, including a Capitol policeman.
Giuliani said he couldn't. And Trump's attorneys from his first impeachment, including former White House attorney Pat Cipollone and Jay Sekulow, have signaled that they will not represent him in this one.
Democrats finalize their impeachment strategy
As Trump works to quickly put his legal team back together, the Democrats are pushing their prosecution into high gear.
The House Democrats have made plans to produce evidence linking Trump to police injuries during the riot, according to the Washington Post, and are using cell phone footage taped Jan. 6 to "build an emotionally compelling impeachment case."
At least 140 Capitol police officers were injured during the day's events, the union said. One is in danger of losing an eye, one has been stabbed with a metal fence post and others have sustained spinal and brain damage, Gus Papathanasiou, chairman of the Capitol Police Labor Committee, said this week.
One officer died as a result of the attack and two other police officers who responded to the attack have died of suicide in the past few days. Four of the rioters also died on January 6; One was shot dead by police, while three others died in various medical emergencies, according to the then DC Metropolitan Police.
Democrats seem willing to use video evidence of the day's dramatic and bloody events to claim that it was Trump who sparked this level of violence, and that he did so in an undemocratic attempt to influence the people To maintain the presidency.
Democrats could also try to take advantage of the fact that members of Congress and their staff witnessed the Capitol storm and are reportedly considering calling police officers who were trying to hold off the insurgents to testify.
As meticulous as the Democrats' preparations are and as chaotic as Trump's, for many observers it is anything but a matter of course that Trump will not be convicted.
While a handful of Senate Republicans were critical of Trump following the coup attempt, most still support the former president and have either signaled or said outright that they will not vote for a conviction. Many do not believe that the procedure should continue at all.
Both parties have suggested that the process should be speedy – preferably a week long – as the country continues to face a simmering pandemic and related economic disaster. The trial, however, may not mark the end of possible ramifications for Trump's role in trying to overthrow the election: if the Senate doesn't vote in favor of a conviction, Democrats will also begin weighing a no-confidence decision proposed by Virginia Senator Tim Kaine.
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