With former President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial looming, all of the attorneys who had been working on Trump’s defense have walked away, according to a new report.
According to CNN, five attorneys who were preparing Trump’s defense have quit, including Butch Bowers, who assembled the team, fellow lead attorney Deborah Barbier as well as attorneys Josh Howard, Johnny Gasser and Greg Harris.
Although the opening of the public phase of Trump’s Senate trial is scheduled for Feb. 9, legal briefs are due to be filed this week.
The Democrat-controlled House passed an article of impeachment Jan. 13 claiming Trump incited insurrection with his words and actions on the day of the Capitol insurrection and in the days leading up to the rioting.
No public statement has been made by the attorneys. CNN said that a source it identified as “a person familiar with the departures” said that Trump wanted to use the trial as a vehicle to re-state his argument that there was massive fraud in the election.
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The source indicated that the attorneys wanted to proceed along a more narrow legal line that a president who has left office could not be convicted.
A report from Fox News also noted that the issue of injecting the debate over election fraud into the legal argument before the Senate factored in the decision of the lawyers to quit.
Rudy Giuliani, who represented Trump in many of the unsuccessful lawsuits filed to contest the election, has been mentioned as a possible lawyer to represent Trump, but said that is not possible.
“Due to the fact that I may be a witness, the rules of legal ethics would prohibit me from representing the president as trial counsel in the impeachment trial,” Giuliani said in mid-January, according to CBS.
One Trump adviser said word of whom the new legal team will include will come soon.
“The Democrats’ efforts to impeach a president who has already left office is totally unconstitutional and so bad for our country. 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,” Trump adviser Jason Miller said, according to CNN.
Miller’s reference was to a Senate vote last week in which 45 Republicans voted against holding the trial on the grounds that it was unconstitutional.
That vote has become widely interpreted as a signal that Democrats, who need 17 GOP senators on their side in order to get a two-thirds majority to convict Trump, will fall short in Trump’s second impeachment trial just as they did in his first impeachment.
“It is still in process, but I think [Tuesday’s] vote on the Senate floor shows that it is extremely unlikely that President Trump would be convicted,” Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said, according to Newsweek.
Collins was one of the five Republicans who voted with Democrats to call Trump’s impeachment constitutional, according to The Associated Press. (The others were Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.)
A report in Newsweek that relied on a source it called “a close friend who spends time with Trump in Mar-a-Lago” described that Senate vote that as a major event for Trump.
“He was gratified, because that’s certainly his view: that it’s unfair and unconstitutional, and he knows it means there’s no chance he’ll be convicted,” the source was quoted as saying.