After members of his first legal team quit, former President Donald Trump has acquired a pair of new lawyers to represent him in his looming second impeachment trial.
Two trial lawyers, David Schoen and Bruce Castor Jr., will head the legal team defending Trump in the Senate against the charge that he incited the deadly invasion of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
The hiring of Schoen, a civil rights and criminal defense lawyer who previously represented Trump’s longtime ally Roger Stone, and Castor, a former district attorney known for declining to prosecute Bill Cosby on sexual assault charges, was announced Sunday in a press release from Trump’s office.
The current team was installed after multiple outlets reported that Trump’s previous impeachment lawyers departed after the 45th president asked them to focus his defense on unfounded election fraud claims.
Trump, who lost to President Joe Biden in the November contest, spent weeks falsely asserting the race had been stolen from him through widespread fraud. He repeated those claims and called on then-Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the results of the election during a rally outside the White House just before a group of his supporters stormed the Capitol.
A source told NBC News that leaving Trump’s legal team was a “mutual decision.” The New York Times, citing a person familiar with the matter, reported that one of the since-departed lawyers, Butch Bowers, had no chemistry with Trump.
The impeachment trial is set to begin Feb. 9, nearly three weeks after Trump left the White House to make way for Biden. Last week, 45 Republican senators voted in support of a motion declaring it unconstitutional to hold a trial to convict a president who has left office — a view embraced by Trump’s new legal team.
“Schoen has already been working with the 45th President and other advisors to prepare for the upcoming trial, and both Schoen and Castor agree that this impeachment is unconstitutional,” Trump’s office said in a statement.
The process-focused argument is seen by some as a potential escape route for Republicans who have refused to defend Trump’s conduct ahead of the Capitol riot but are reluctant to publicly cross their former party leader, let alone vote to convict him in an impeachment trial.
Democrats reject that argument. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., vowed that if Trump is convicted, there will be another vote to ban him from running for president ever again. But if the 45 GOP senators who voted to dismiss the trial ultimately move to acquit Trump, Democrats will fall far short of the 67 votes required to convict.
“I consider it a privilege to represent the 45th President,” Castor said in the statement from Trump’s office.
“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,” he said.
Castor had served as the district attorney of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, from 2000 to 2008. He had also served as the county’s commissioner and solicitor general, and briefly served as acting attorney general of the Keystone State.
Castor in 2005 had decided not to file sexual assault charges against the world-famous entertainer and comedian Cosby after former Temple University employee Andrea Constand told police that Cosby had violated her at his mansion in Pennsylvania.
A decade later, Cosby was arrested by the same district attorney’s office and charged with drugging and sexually assaulting Constand. Cosby’s lawyers argued that he had an agreement with Castor that he would not be charged. Castor said in 2016 that he wanted the prosecutors to win.
Cosby in 2018 was sentenced to three-to-10 years in prison. Last June, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted Cosby an appeal.
Castor is the cousin of Stephen Castor, a House Republican staff lawyer involved with Trump’s first impeachment in 2019, according to The New York Times. Stephen Castor recommended his cousin to Trump for his second impeachment defense team, according to the Times.
Schoen, meanwhile, is connected to Trump through his representation of Republican operative Roger Stone in an appeal of his criminal conviction.
Stone in 2019 had been charged as part of then-special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe with counts of obstruction, false statements and witness tampering. The charges related to Stone’s efforts during the 2016 presidential campaign to get information from document disclosure group WikiLeaks about emails stolen from prominent Democrats.
Stone was convicted and sentenced to 40 months in prison. Days before he was set to report to a federal prison camp, Trump, a frequent critic of Mueller, commuted Stone’s sentence “in light of the egregious facts and circumstances surrounding his unfair prosecution, arrest, and trial.”
In his final month in office, Trump pardoned Stone amid dozens of other grants of clemency.
Schoen said in Sunday’s statement from Trump’s office that “It is an honor to represent the 45th President, Donald J. Trump, and the United States Constitution.”
Schoen also reportedly met with accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein on Aug. 1, 2019, days before Epstein’s death in New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center. Schoen was considering whether to become Epstein’s lead attorney.
Epstein’s death was ruled a suicide by hanging in his jail cell. But before the New York medical examiner made that determination, Schoen told the Atlanta Jewish Times, “I don’t believe it was suicide … I think someone killed him.”
In a more recent interview with the outlet, Schoen said he has represented “all sorts of reputed mobster figures: alleged head of Russian mafia in this country, Israeli mafia and two Italian bosses, as well a guy the government claimed was the biggest mafioso in the world.”
Castor and Schoen have little time to get adjusted to their latest assignment. Trump is due to file a response to his impeachment charge on Tuesday, a week before the trial begins.