By Jordan Fabian
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump is set to begin in earnest on Tuesday and the president has selected these nine people to defend him.
The attorneys and lawmakers will argue Trump’s case that he should be acquitted of the House’s charges that he abused his power and obstructed the congressional investigation into the Ukraine scandal. The group is composed of White House lawyers, one of the president’s personal attorneys and others in private practice, including some who have spoken out publicly against Trump’s impeachment.
Pat Cipollone, White House counsel
Cipollone, the top White House lawyer since October 2018, has played a lead role in defending Trump throughout the impeachment process. In October, he penned a scathing letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stating the White House would not cooperate with an impeachment inquiry that he derided as an unfair attempt to “overturn” the 2016 presidential election. Arguing the president’s case in the Senate trial, however, will be an unusual role for Cipollone, who has mostly shunned the spotlight. Cipollone has also clashed with internal rivals, such as acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, over impeachment strategy but a person familiar with the situation said the team appears to be getting along ahead of the trial.
Jay Sekulow, Trump personal attorney
Sekulow joined the president’s outside legal team in 2017 during then-special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and has remained on board ever since, helping handle cases involving Trump’s tax returns and financial dealings. Sekulow has been in the public eye much more than Cipollone, making television appearances and hosting his own radio show. He made his name arguing religious liberty cases before the Supreme Court, but representing the president at an impeachment trial will give him an even bigger stage.
Alan Dershowitz, Harvard Law School professor emeritus
A constitutional law expert and well-known legal commentator, Dershowitz has made a career of flocking to controversial, high-profile cases. He defended O.J. Simpson from murder charges and helped negotiate a nonprosecution agreement for financier Jeffrey Epstein when he was investigated in Florida for alleged sexual abuse of underage girls. He said his role on Trump’s team is to address constitutional issues related to impeachment. Dershowitz said his position on the constitutional issues is nonpartisan and he “would be making exactly the same arguments if Hillary Clinton had been elected and impeached on the same grounds.” He wrote a book titled “The Case Against Impeaching Trump” that was released after Mueller’s Russia investigation. Some Trump allies were wary of Dershowitz’s inclusion on the team because he faces a defamation suit from a woman who says she was forced to have sex with Epstein’s friends, including Dershowitz, who denies the allegations.
Kenneth Starr, former Whitewater independent counsel
The roles have been reversed for Starr, whose report alleging that Bill Clinton lied under oath about an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky led to the former president’s impeachment. Starr’s public criticism of Trump’s impeachment on cable TV has drawn scorn from Democrats who considered Clinton’s impeachment to be an overreach by Republicans. Starr resigned as president of Baylor University in 2016 amid accusations of mishandling of on-campus sexual assault allegations. He also represented Epstein in the 2008 Florida case.
Pam Bondi, special White House adviser
Bondi, a former Florida attorney general, joined Trump’s West Wing staff last fall to bolster the president’s defense. She has made appearances on Fox News and other cable TV outlets defending Trump against the impeachment charges brought by the House. In Florida, Bondi helped lead an unsuccessful lawsuit filed by a group of states that sought to overturn Obamacare. Her entry into the White House, however, was complicated by her lobbying on behalf of the government of Qatar. She wound down her foreign lobbying work before joining the White House staff.
Robert Ray, former Whitewater independent counsel
Ray succeeded Starr as independent counsel and submitted the final report on the Whitewater investigation. Ray has defended Trump from allegations that he obstructed justice by attempting to fire Mueller as special counsel. He also spoke to GOP senators about impeachment in November, according to a person familiar with the conversations.
Jane Raskin, Florida lawyer
Trump previously relied on Raskin and her husband, Marty Raskin, who practice law in Miami, to help with his response to the Mueller investigation. The two worked closely with Sekulow. Earlier in her career, she worked in the Justice Department’s criminal division and at the Washington law firm Hale & Dorr, now called WilmerHale.
Michael Purpura, deputy White House counsel
One of Cipollone’s top lieutenants, Purpura is expected to play a behind-the-scenes role. He has been involved in the White House’s trial preparations as well as the broader response to the impeachment inquiry. Purpura is a veteran federal prosecutor and worked in the George W. Bush White House alongside Emmet Flood, who went on to serve as the top White House lawyer for Trump handling the Mueller probe.
Patrick Philbin, deputy White House counsel
Cipollone will call on his other senior assistant to help represent the president at trial. Philbin was one of the aides involved in the drafting a Dec. 17 letter to Pelosi likening impeachment to the Salem witch trials.
A former appointee in the Bush Justice Department, Philbin was present in 2004 when then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey sought to stop White House officials from persuading ailing Attorney General John Ashcroft to renew a warrantless wiretapping program. Comey was fired as FBI director in 2017 by Trump.
(Josh Wingrove contributed to this report.)
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