Former US president Donald Trump’s impeachment defence team has shrunk dramatically amid reports the lawyers had been asked by Trump to argue the election had been “stolen” as his defence in the upcoming senate trial.
Five members, according to CNN, have left Trump’s team just days ahead of the trial where he stands accused of inciting a deadly insurrection on January 6.
With lawyers who would have led Trump through the upcoming trial having resigned, the former president appears to be left high and dry. However new additions to the legal team are expected to be announced in a day or two.
Butch Bowers was the lead attorney and assembled the team, but has now walked away and taken Deborah Barbier with him. The pair reportedly came to a mutual agreement to leave Trump’s defence team.
A further three lawyers also recently left including Josh Howard, a North Carolina attorney, and Johnny Gasser and Greg Harris, both from South Carolina, CNN reported.
Those familiar with the situation told the publication the lawyers had wanted to focus on legal matters pertaining to convicting a president after he had left office, after questions had been raised (and largely dismissed by legal scholars) about the constitutional basis for convicting a former president.
Trump however apparently wanted to steer his defence in the direction of trying to argue debunked claims of election fraud, which the lawyers weren’t on board with.
A third attorney, Josh Howard, who was also recently added to Trump's defense team, has also left, I'm told. Trump wanted the attorneys to argue there was mass election fraud and it was stolen from him rather than focus on proposed arguments about constitutionality.
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) January 31, 2021
None of the lawyers had been paid advances or signed letters of intent, CNN reported.
A conviction in the senate is expected to include a vote to bar the former president from running for public office again.
Trump has struggled to find attorneys willing to defend him after becoming the first president in history to be impeached twice.
However all but five senate Republicans last week voted in favour of an effort to dismiss the trial before it even started, making clear a conviction of the former president is unlikely regardless of his defence.
The trial is set to kick off in the senate in the week starting February 8 when the Democrats will make their case that Donald Trump is guilty of inciting deadly riots in the Capitol, when he told his supporters to “fight like hell” to overturn his election defeat.
While Republicans in Washington had seemed eager to part ways with Trump after the deadly events of January 6, they have since eased off of their criticism, weary of angering the former president's loyal voter base.
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