WASHINGTON – Former President Donald Trump announced Sunday two new attorneys who will lead his impeachment defense team, just days before his Senate trial is set to begin.
The announcement came one day after it was reported five members of Trump’s team split with him.
Trump, the first president to be impeached twice, announced his legal team would be led by David Schoen, a criminal defense attorney who works in Alabama and New York, and Bruce Castor Jr., a former district attorney in Pennsylvania.
The news comes just days before filings are due in Trump’s 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 begin in earnest the week of Feb. 8.
“I consider it a privilege to represent the 45th President,” Castor said in a statement released by Trump. “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.”
Both attorneys are no stranger to high profile cases.
Castor garnered headlines after he declined to prosecute actor Bill Cosby in 2005 on sexual assault allegations that years later sent Cosby to prison.
Schoen has similarly been involved with cases for high-profile figures. Herepresented Roger Stone, a key Trump ally who was pardoned by the former president after charges stemming from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Schoen also met with disgraced businessman Jeffrey Epstein days before his death in 2019 to discuss taking the lead role on his defense team. Schoen told the Atlanta Jewish Times he agreed to take the role representing Epstein against allegations the financial mogul sexually exploited and abused dozens of girls.
A little more than a week after their meeting, Epstein took his life in a New York jail cell — a death Schoen said he believed was not a suicide.
The announcement of the two attorneys highlights a remarkable last-minute shift that added fresh uncertainty on Trump’s legal strategy. But in the notice of their joining Trump’s defense team, the pair hint at what could be one core argument: whether it’s Constitutional for the Senate to hold a trial for a president who is no longer in office.
“Both Schoen and Castor agree that this impeachment is unconstitutional – a fact 45 Senators voted in agreement with last week,” the release notes.
While trying a former president has never been tested, the Senate has taken up impeachment trials for others even after they left office, including senators, judges and the Secretary of War in 1876.
The attorneys originally tapped to defend the former president who split from the team include: South Carolina lawyers Butch Bowers, Deborah Barbier, Greg Harris and Johnny Gasser, along with North Carolina lawyer Josh Howard.
While those close to Trump called the split mutual, The New York Times and CNN reported the team of lawyers left over differences on a legal strategy. The former president argued the case should revolve around his baseless claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election rather than the constitutionality of a case being brought against a president who is no longer in office, the two outlets reported.
The former president has struggled to find and maintain a defense team, a remarkable change from the star-studded group who represented Trump during his first impeachment trial last year.
That team included figures such as Ken Starr, who headed the investigation into President Bill 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. That has yet to be the case this time.
The political dynamics have also 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 this month — with 10 House Republicans even voting to impeach Trump 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.
Last 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.
Contributing: David Jackson