- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 31, 2021

Former President Donald Trump announced Sunday night that he’s hired a new team of lawyers to represent him in his Senate impeachment trial, scheduled to start in just a week.

Mr. Trump said trial lawyers David Schoen of Alabama and Bruce Castor Jr. of suburban Philadelphia will head his impeachment defense, “bringing national profiles and significant trial experience in high profile cases to the effort.”

Mr. Schoen has experience in voting-rights cases, and Mr. Castor is a former Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, district attorney who declined to prosecute disgraced comedian Bill Cosby.

The announcement by the Trump team said Mr. Schoen has already been working with Mr. Trump‘s advisers to prepare for the trial, due to begin Feb. 8. 

“Both Schoen and Castor agree that this impeachment is unconstitutional — a fact 45 senators voted in agreement with last week,” the statement said.

Mr. Schoen also made headlines in 2019 for meeting with accused sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, days before Epstein died in prison, to discuss his case.

The announcement of the former president’s new legal team comes after Mr. Trump parted ways with South Carolina lawyers Butch Bowers and Deborah Barbier, who were preparing to represent him in the Senate trial. People familiar with the separation said it was a mutual decision.

Three other lawyers who had been gearing up to defend the former president also left the team.

Mr. Schoen said it is “an honor” to represent Mr. Trump

Mr. Castor said in the statement, “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.”

In a test vote last week, 45 Republican senators voted against the principle of putting a former president who is now a private citizen on trial. 

Mr. Castor was elected twice as the top prosecutor in Montgomery County, a huge suburb of Philadelphia that includes the region’s wealthy “Main Line” neighborhoods. He also was elected to the county’s Board of Commissioners. 

He became acting state attorney general when Democrat Kathleen Kane faced criminal charges in Pennsylvania for perjury and subsequently resigned. 

When multiple allegations of sexual assault were raised against Cosby, Mr. Castor as district attorney entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the comedian in 2005 in exchange for his testimony in a related civil lawsuit. Under a new prosecutor in 2018, Cosby was convicted of aggravated indecent assault and sentenced to state prison.

Trump adviser Jason Miller criticized Senate Democrats for moving ahead with the impeachment trial.

“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 a statement. “In fact, 45 Senators have already voted that it is unconstitutional.”

The House impeached Mr. Trump on Jan. 13 for inciting a deadly riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, when Trump supporters tried to stop Congress from counting the Electoral College results certifying President Biden’s victory.

It would take two-thirds of the Senate to convict Mr. Trump and bar him from holding office again, a threshold that is extremely unlikely.

Longtime Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani has said he won’t be part of the legal team because he spoke at the massive pro-Trump rally on Jan. 6 in Washington, just before the crowd stormed the Capitol.

Addressing reports that Mr. Trump clashed with the legal team over his desire to highlight allegations of election fraud, Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican, said Sunday that such a strategy wouldn’t help the former president in his trial.

Mr. Portman said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that fraud or voting irregularities didn’t occur on a scale large enough “to change the results of the election.”

“We have to move on,” said Mr. Portman, who has announced he won’t run for reelection in 2022. “And Joe Biden is now the duly elected president of the United States. So, if the argument is not going to be made [by Mr. Trump] on issues like constitutionality, which are real issues, and need to be addressed, I think it will not benefit the president.”

Even if Mr. Trump’s actions leading up to the riot were “inexcusable,” Mr. Portman said, the Senate still needs to address the constitutionality of convicting a private citizen in an impeachment trial.

“That sets up a precedent. And I think all former presidents, those alive and those not, could be affected in a negative way,” he said.

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