Trump parts ways with impeachment lawyers as Senate trial nears
WASHINGTON — About a week before his Senate trial, former President Donald Trump has no announced legal team and at least five attorneys who were expected to help lead the team are no longer part of it.
The remarkable last-minute shifts add fresh uncertainty over Trump’s legal strategy and highlight the struggle the former president has had in corralling a legal team after he became the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice.
Butch Bowers and Deborah Barbier, two South Carolina attorneys, are not part of the team of lawyers who will defend Trump, said Jason Miller, a political adviser to the former president. Miller said a final decision had not been made on the former president’s legal team.
The Associated Press reported two others who were expected on the legal team, South Carolina law firm partners Greg Harris and Johnny Gasser, were also no longer expected to defend Trump in the Senate trial, though additions were expected to be announced in the coming days.
“The Democrats’ efforts to impeach a president who has already left office is totally unconstitutional and so bad for our country,” 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.”
The decision, first reported by CNN, comes just days before filings are due in Trump’s upcoming trial, including an official response due on Tuesday to the article of impeachment passed by the House charging Trump with inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Trump’s trial will start in earnest in a little more than one week and it’s unclear who will represent him.
The star-studded group of attorneys who defended Trump during his first impeachment trial have shown little interest in representing him this time and now two lesser-known attorneys with little Washington experience have been axed. No formal announcement has been made on who will serve on Trump’s legal team.
Bowers worked for the Justice Department during President George W. Bush’s administration but is better known as for his government work in South Carolina. He has served as counsel to Republican Govs. Nikki Haley and Mark Sanford, and did a stint as chairman of South Carolina’s election commission.
Barbier’s work centers on white collar criminal cases and has experience in internal investigations, where she worked to protect the brands of companies and individuals.
Gasser and Harris are prominent law firm partners in South Carolina who specialize in white collar cases. Both served previously as prosecutors and write on their website that a lot of their cases have happened in “empty courtrooms or behind closed doors in a conference room” with promises to shield clients from the media.
Inquiries to the their legal offices were not immediately returned Saturday.
The group not being included on Trump’s defense team leaves it unclear who will represent the former president during his Senate trial, which is set to begin in earnest the week of Feb. 8. The only other attorney who has publicly said he was on the team is North Carolina lawyer Josh Howard, who CNN reports is also now not expected to join the 9.
A spokesman for Howard confirmed to USA TODAY earlier this week he had joined the team. Howard also acknowledged his plans to defend Trump in a federal court filing on Wednesday, where he will ask a judge to delay some proceedings because he had “accepted a position on the defense team handling the pending impeachment trial,” Howard wrote in the filing.
Multiple inquires to Howard and his office were not immediately answered.
Howard has a history of working on high-profile cases in Washington. He previously served as an associate independent counsel during the Whitewater investigation and Monica Lewinsky scandal that led to the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton.
He also played a part in the confirmations of Supreme Court nominees, including Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. His father, retired North Carolina Judge Malcolm Howard, also help represent former President Richard Nixon during impeachment proceedings in the Watergate scandal. Nixon resigned from office and thus, was not impeached.
The five lawyers would have been a remarkable change from the star-studded group who represented Trump during his first impeachment trial last year.
The team included figures such as Ken Starr, who headed the investigation into Clinton that led to his impeachment, and Alan Dershowitz, a constitutional law expert who defended O.J. Simpson. They spent much of their time not only defending Trump in the Senate chamber, but in front of reporters and TV cameras arguing for Trump’s acquittal.
So far, Trump’s team has yet to make any formal announcements of the lawyers who will defend him and have remained largely quiet on what his defense will be.
The political dynamics have shifted significantly since Trump’s trial last year but it’s still unlikely that he will face a conviction in the Senate trial.
Last year, Trump enjoyed nearly all Republicans remaining united against charges that he abused the power of his office to pressure Ukrainian officials to investigate his political rival, now-President Joe Biden.
While many congressional Republicans have criticized Trump for his remarks and conduct that ultimately led to the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol earlier this month — with 10 House Republicans even voting to impeach Trump earlier this month — many have argued it is unconstitutional to hold a trial for a president who already left office.
Some have also attempted to brush aside Trump’s conduct, arguing his unfounded complaints about widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election were not proof he incited a riot. They have also argued Trump’s speech outside the White House to protesters who later stormed the Capitol was not inciting an insurrection but rather just him complaining about the handling of the election.
This week, all but five Senate Republicans voted in favor of an effort to dismiss the trial before it even started over constitutional questions over holding a trial, making clear a conviction of the former president is unlikely regardless of his defense team.
Trump parts ways with impeachment lawyers as Senate trial nears