Just a couple of days ago I was reading how Trump had managed, after many, many top lawyers had refused his offers to become part of his legal team, to get a couple of reputedly competent lawyers to represent him during his impeachment trial where the oral arguments start on February 9th. Then news comes today that they too have bailed out.
The ability of Republican senators who plan to acquit Donald Trump at his upcoming impeachment trial to pretend to have weighed the case on the merits has been endangered by the mass resignation of Trump’s legal team at the weekend.
But the trial schedule, and its substance, have been thrown into doubt with the departure of five lawyers on Trump’s defense team – apparently the entire team. The resignations were first reported by CNN, which said the lawyers and Trump disagreed over strategy.
A Trump spokesperson told the New York Times that there had been a strategy disagreement but denied it was over Trump’s insistence that his defense center on the wild, false accusations of election fraud that he has been peddling for months.
The departure of Bowers and Deborah Barberi, two South Carolina lawyers, was described by a source familiar with the situation as a “mutual decision”.
Three other lawyers associated with the team, Josh Howard of North Carolina and Johnny Gasser and Greg Harris of South Carolina, also parted ways with Trump, another source said.
The Republican senate strategy has come plainly into view. They cannot abandon Trump or even his baseless claim that the election was stolen because that would infuriate the Trump cult. They plan to acquit him on the grounds that impeaching a president who is no longer in office is unconstitutional. That argument is considered highly dubious by constitutional scholars but that will not matter. They are just looking for a way to acquit him without seeming to be accomplices in his delusions.
Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union show on Sunday morning, Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman, who announced last week that he will not seek re-election, indicated that any notion of Donald Trump basing his defense in his second impeachment trial on a claim that he actually won the November election, rather than a constitutionality argument, “will not benefit” him.
Trump’s former legal team, which had been led by the South Carolina attorney Butch Bowers, appeared to be crafting a defense that would have challenged the constitutionality of trying a president after he has left office. The team was also expected to argue that Trump’s speech was covered by the first amendment on free speech and did not constitute “incitement.”
In a vote last week, 45 out of 50 Republican senators backed a resolution supporting the argument that it would be unconstitutional to try a former president. Most constitutional scholars disagree sharply with that view, pointing out that there is clear historic precedent for trying defendants who have left office and that Trump in any case was still in office when he was impeached.
If Trump cannot or chooses not to scrape together a team in the week ahead, loyalist Republican senators might be faced with having to acquit him with no fig leaf of a legal defense to hide the politically expedient move.
If Trump does manage to find lawyers who will defend him on the grounds that the election was stolen, then that would close the Republicans’ escape hatch.
Of course it is possible that the legal team quit for more mundane reasons such as because, knowing that Trump frequently refuses to pay for services, they demanded payment up front and Trump, who had indeed intended to stiff them, is now looking for other suckers. But what lawyer would be willing to advance Trump’s cockamamie arguments?
Let me think …
I have it! Trump should call back his old dream team of Rudy Giuliani and Sydney Powell. I hear that they are looking for work since they are each facing $1.3 billion lawsuits and will be willing to say anything and are available to work at very short notice.
Marcus Ranum says
He belongs in a mental hospital, not a court.
Trump doesn’t even need a legal team.
He doesn’t even need to show up.
Or he could show up and do his usual babble a lot, chant “Lock her up” to his favorite song, YMCA, and insult a few hundred million people.
I doubt if one single GOP senator will vote to convict.
They don’t even have to show up either.
They saw what happened to Liz Cheney and the other 9 GOP Representatives who voted to impeach.
It doesn’t really matter all that much.
The main value of the trial is to get what happened out in public and on the public record.
That by itself is worth a huge amount.
They are creating history here.
@raven, No. 2
What you said…
The GOP Senators do have to show up, however.
The Constitution doesn’t indicate that removal from office requires two-thirds of the Senate. It requires two-thirds of senators present for the proceedings.
Marcus Ranum says
Jay Carreon and Orly Taitz might be available.
Marcus Ranum says
Oops, that’s Charles Carreon. How quickly the forgettable are forgotten. I wonder if he’s a Trumper.
Mano Singham says
Of course Orly Taitz! Why didn’t I think of her? She’s my favorite lawyer/dentist/real estate agent -- a triple threat!
Mark Dowd says
I’m certain Romney will. He’s been massively pissed at Trump for a while now. He was also the only one that voted to convict in the first impeachment, there’s no way he’s not voting to convict this time.
None of the others will have the guts to though. Their either true believers, have no principles, or scared of the terrorists.
You are completely wrong. Article 1 Section 3 states “And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.” It’s pretty clear, and there’s no ambiguity there.
Carreon, huh? That’s appropriate since Trump is dead meat.
Marja Erwin says
> It’s pretty clear, and there’s no ambiguity there.
It’s not clear how your quote that it requires 2/3 of the members present disproves machintelligence’s claim that it requires 2/3 of the senators who are present.
At most it highlights an ambiguity-- is that (1) the proportion of the senate required to be present for a quorum, or, as I’d understood it, (2) the proportion of those present required to vote for conviction?
I looked up the number of Senator’s votes required to convict using Google.
One source said they need 67 votes, 2/3’s of the current number of Senators.
“None of the others will have the guts to though. Their either true believers, have no principles, or scared of the terrorists”
In fairness, that last one is actually a defensible reason for most people.
consciousness razor says
They mean 2/3 of those present must concur with that conviction, or in other words that many agree to convict or vote in favor of it.
You can’t skip over the words “the Concurrence of” and just read it as if it said “without two thirds of the Members present.” Because that’s not what they actually wrote.
Several sources say the Senate needs 67 votes to convict Trump.
That being said, I don’t know how they come up with that number or if it is even right.
Google and the NYtimes can be wrong.
The constitutional language is ambiguous.
It could be 2/3’s of the current Senators, 67 votes.
Or 2/3’s of those present when the vote is taken.
I wondered, why isn’t Rudy on the team? The NYT says:
While I don’t think it makes much difference, the language in the constitution looks pretty clear to me that it takes 2/3 of the votes present, not 2/3 of the full Senate. From Article 1, Section 3:
“The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments. When sitting for that purpose, they shall be on oath or affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two thirds of the members present.”
I don’t really think it matters because I don’t think the spineless Republicans are any more likely to skip attendance and let the Dems convict than they are to vote to convict themselves. I also doubt it would pacify any of Trumper loons they’re so afraid of.
Mark Dowd says
There is no ambiguity. It’s 2/3rds of the Senators present when the vote is taken. People are saying 67 because they are expecting all 100 Senators to be present, a reasonable assumption. If any are absent, the required number of votes go down accordingly.
John Morales says
The three possible (but not mutually exclusive) categories are a plurality, a majority, and a supermajority. In this case, it’s the latter.