Politics

Trump names 2 lawyers to impeachment defense team

FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, file photo, President Donald Trump waves as he boards Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, in Washington, en route to his Mar-a-Lago Florida Resort. Former President Trump has named two lawyers to his impeachment defense team, one day after it was revealed that the former president had parted ways with an earlier set of attorneys. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump announced Sunday that a former county prosecutor and a criminal defense lawyer with a background in civil rights work will lead his impeachment defense team, one day after it was revealed that the former president had parted ways with an earlier set of attorneys.

The two representing Trump will be defense lawyer David Schoen, a frequent television legal commentator, and Bruce Castor, a former district attorney in Pennsylvania who was criticized for his decision to not charge actor Bill Cosby in a sex crimes case.

Both attorneys issued statements through Trump’s office saying that they were honored to take the job.

“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,” said Castor, who served as district attorney for Montgomery County, outside of Philadelphia, from 2000 to 2008.

The announcement Sunday was intended to promote a sense of stability surrounding the Trump defense team as his impeachment trial nears. Several South Carolina lawyers had been set to represent him at the trial, which starts the week of Feb. 8.

Trump, the first president in American history to be impeached twice, is set to stand trial in the Senate on a charge that he incited his supporters to storm Congress on Jan. 6 as lawmakers met to certify Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

Republicans and Trump aides have made clear that they intend to make a simple argument in the trial: Trump’s trial is unconstitutional because he is no longer in office.

“The Democrats’ efforts to impeach a president who has already left office is totally unconstitutional and so bad for our country,” Trump adviser Jason Miller has said.

Many legal scholars say there is no bar to an impeachment trial despite Trump having left the White House. One argument is that state constitutions that predate the U.S. Constitution allowed impeachment after officials left office. The Constitution’s drafters also did not specifically bar the practice.

Castor, a Republican who was the elected district attorney of Pennsylvania’s third-most populated county, decided against charging Cosby in an alleged 2004 sexual encounter. He ran for the job again in 2015, and his judgment in the Cosby case was a key issue used against him by the Democrat who defeated him.

Castor has said that he personally thought Cosby should have been arrested, but that the evidence wasn’t strong enough to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

In 2004, Castor ran for state attorney general unsuccessfully. In 2016, he became the top lieutenant to the state’s embattled attorney general — Kathleen Kane, a Democrat — as she faced charges of leaking protected investigative information to smear a rival and lying to a grand jury about it. She was convicted, leaving Castor as the state’s acting attorney general for a few days.

Schoen met with financier Jeffrey Epstein about joining his defense team on sex trafficking charges just days before Epstein killed himself in a New York jail. In an interview with the Atlanta Jewish Times last year, Schoen said he had been approached by Trump associate Roger Stone before Stone’s trial and was later retained to handle his appeal. Trump commuted Stone’s sentence and then pardoned him.

Neither Schoen nor Castor immediately returned phone messages seeking comment Sunday evening.

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Associated Press writers Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Michael Balsamo in Washington contributed to this report.

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