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.