Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.President Donald Trump has chosen his defense team for his upcoming Senate impeachment trial and it includes some extremely familiar names.The five-person team will be led by Trump’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow and White House counsel Pat Cipollone, according to multiple reports on Friday. It will also include former Harvard law professor and O.J. Simpson lawyer Alan Dershowitz as well as two former heads of the now-defunct Office of Independent Counsel which investigated the Clinton administration, Ken Starr and Robert Ray.
The team will represent Trump and present his defense during the Senate impeachment trial, which officially kicked off yesterday and is set to get going in earnest next week. They’ll respond to accusations that Trump abused his office and attempted to stifle a Congressional investigation brought by members of the House of Representatives, who’ve been tasked to be the so-called “impeachment managers.”A spokesman for Trump’s legal team told CNN that Dershowitz will be one of the attorneys personally responsible for presenting Trump’s defense during the hearings. Dershowitz has frequently defended Trump in the media and in columns published by the Hill, including on the subject of impeachment."While Professor Dershowitz is non-partisan when it comes to the Constitution — he opposed the impeachment of President Bill Clinton and voted for Hillary Clinton — he believes the issues at stake go to the heart of our enduring Constitution,” the legal team said in a statement. "He is participating in this impeachment trial to defend the integrity of the Constitution and to prevent the creation of a dangerous constitutional precedent.”Starr is most well-known for his role as the special counsel in the Whitewater investigation, which ultimately resulted in uncovering President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. Ray, who succeeded Starr in 1999, went on to submit the final report on the Whitewater investigation.
The House of Representatives voted to impeach Clinton in 1998, although the Senate acquitted him on both counts. Trump is only the third president ever to be impeached by the House, after Clinton and Andrew Johnson. No president has ever been removed from office, although Richard Nixon resigned before Congress had a chance.Trump’s picks are bound to be controversial. In addition to the ties Starr and Ray have to investigating a former political rival’s family, Starr lost his job in 2016 as Baylor University president and law professor after an investigation found that he mishandled sexual assault allegations against members of the Baylor football team. More recently, Starr has re-emerged as a frequent voice in conservative media.For his part, Dershowitz is currently entangled in a legal battle with a former sex trafficking victim of Jeffrey Epstein, who has alleged that Dershowitz sexually assaulted her. Dershowitz is suing the woman, Virginia Giuffre, alleging that her claims are “lies, disparagement, defamation, harassment” that are “beyond the bounds of decency and not tolerated in civilized society.”
Cover image: President Donald Trump smiles during an event on prayer in public schools, in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)