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All the President’s men and women

Alan Dershowitz, a Professor Emeritus at Harvard Law School who is part of President Donald Trump’s defence team.

Alan Dershowitz, a Professor Emeritus at Harvard Law School who is part of President Donald Trump’s defence team.   | Photo Credit: Jefferson Siegel

Trump’s defence team at the Senate trial includes a host of legal minds from Ken Starr to Jane Raskin

The U.S. Senate’s impeachment trial of President Donald Trump entered a new phase this weekend with his defence commencing its multi-day response to the prosecution’s case. The Democrats, who are prosecuting the impeached President in the Senate, are represented by seven “House Managers”, all of whom are lawmakers. The Republican team is a mix of old faces and new.

Among the well-known names is Ken Starr, the former judge and independent counsel who investigated Bill Clinton — first over a land deal and then an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky in the 1990s, which led to Mr. Clinton’s impeachment (Mr. Clinton was eventually acquitted by the Senate). Post-Clinton, Mr. Starr was in the news again in 2016 when he was fired as President of Baylor University for his handling of sexual assault cases related to Baylor’s football players. Mr. Trump had called Mr. Starr a “lunatic” and a “disaster” in 1999. Everyone seems to have moved on.

Next is Alan Dershowitz (in picture) an Emeritus Professor at Harvard Law School, a civil libertarian and criminal defence attorney (he defended football star O.J. Simpson in the 1990s against murder charges). Mr. Dershowitz, who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, has said he is defending Mr. Trump because the impeachment doesn’t meet constitutional standards. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mr. Dershowitz wrote a book, The Case Against Impeaching Trump, and has argued that a crime is required for impeachment, a position not consistent with his own views expressed in 1998. Like Mr. Starr, Mr. Dershowitz also, controversially, helped defend Jeffrey Epstein, the now deceased billionaire-financier, convicted of sex offences. Mr. Dershowitz, sued by a woman who said she was one of Epstein’s victims, counter-sued his accuser last year.

Leading the defence is the low-profile White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, who already made his début at the Senate trial with remarks on Tuesday, when the prosecution and defence battled it out over the organising resolution that would govern the rules of the trial.

Strong and silent

Mr. Cipollone was Mr. Trump’s replacement for Don McGahn, who became a witness in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. With a background in commercial litigation and in the Justice Department in the George H.W. Bush administration, Mr. Cipollone was described by Mr. Trump as a “strong, silent, type”. As White House Counsel, he wrote a scathing letter to Democrat House leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in October, refusing to cooperate with the House on the impeachment inquiry.

The President’s personal attorney, Jay Sekulow, less of the “silent type” with his record of prime time television appearances and radio show hosting, is also part of the team. A well-known figure in Christian right circles, Mr. Sekulow founded Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism in the 1980s and was chief counsel at conservative organisation American Center for Law and Justice prior to becoming Mr. Trump’s attorney.

Also part of the team is Pam Bondi, who was Florida’s Attorney-General from 2010 to 2019 before she joined a lobbying firm in Washington DC. In contrast to Mr. Cipollone, Ms. Bondi has frequently appeared on national and Florida television channels and is no stranger to the spotlight.

Next, Jane Raskin. Ms. Raskin and her husband Martin Raskin ran a law firm in Florida before representing Mr. Trump in the Mueller investigation. Ms. Raskin also worked as a trial lawyer for the Department of Justice, in its Organized Crime and Racketeering Section’s Boston Strike Force. During this period, she worked with Mr. Mueller, who was at the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston at the time. Ms. Raskin was among the officials who resigned from the Justice Department in 1988 to protest alleged financial impropriety on the part of Attorney General Edwin Meese.

While there are quite a few seasoned television pros in Mr. Trump’s team, or perhaps partly for that reason, the President, known to have a penchant for optics, has been unhappy with the scheduling of his defence.

“After having been treated unbelievably unfairly in the House, and then having to endure hour after hour of lies, fraud & deception by Shifty Schiff, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer & their crew, looks like my lawyers will be forced to start on Saturday, which is called Death Valley in T.V.,” Mr. Trump tweeted on Saturday.

(Sriram Lakhman is The Hindu’s Washington correspondent)

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 12:13:27 AM |

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