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Former President Trump’s entire impeachment legal team bailed on him over the weekend, and the two guys he picked as their replacements are bringing some, um, interesting baggage.
One of the lawyers, David Schoen, has made headlines for insisting that the infamous accused sex-offender Jeffrey Epstein was murdered in jail. Schoen had agreed in principle to represent him just before he died.
The other, Bruce L. Castor Jr., is most famous for declining to prosecute convicted sex offender Bill Cosby while he had the chance. Then, after Castor lost an election for district attorney in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, he sued one of Cosby’s victims over claims that she helped ensure his defeat.
They’re who Trump is left with after his initial legal dream team quit over reports that Trump insisted they argue the election was stolen from him, instead of pushing more technical, constitutional grounds—a less contentious argument that Trump’s team now says they’ll pursue anyway.
All five of Trump’s former lawyers backed out over the weekend, including the high-profile and well-regarded Butch Bowers, a lawyer who’s handled prominent political cases in the Carolinas and was referred to Trump by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham. The change-up occurred just a week before Trump’s impeachment trial is due to start on Feb. 9 in the Senate, giving the new guys a tight window to prepare his defense.
Yet both of Trump’s new lawyers have lengthy experience handling controversial legal matters in the spotlight.
Schoen has worked for a wide cast of characters.
“I 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,” Schoen told the Atlanta Jewish Times in September.
Schoen met with Epstein shortly before the billionaire, who was facing trial on sex-trafficking charges, was found dead in his jail cell in an apparent suicide by hanging. Schoen has said that Epstein didn’t look suicidal to him, however, and that he simply doesn’t buy the idea that Epstein killed himself—even though most observers dismiss the idea that Epstein was murdered as a baseless conspiracy theory. Schoen said he’d agreed to represent Epstein and was still sorting out final details at the time that Epstein died.
He also defended Trump’s longtime friend and confidante Roger Stone in Stone’s 2019 criminal trial over lying to Congress. Stone was convicted by a jury and then pardoned by Trump last year.
Castor declined to prosecute the disgraced actor Cosby while he was a prosecutor in 2005.
During his stint as District Attorney, he was sued by one of Cosby’s victims, Andrea Costand, who alleged defamation. That case was eventually settled.
Now, Castor and Schoen will have just one week to turn their legal chops, and penchant for taking controversial stances in the glare of the spotlight, to Trump’s advantage.
Behind closed doors, Trump had reportedly insisted that his lawyers push his discredited theory that the election was somehow yanked out from under him with extensive voter fraud, even though dozens of courts and even Trump’s own former Attorney General Bill Barr have dismissed this idea as unfounded.
Trump will almost certainly be able to convince a majority of Republican senators that the proceeding is unconstitutional, following a vote last week in which 45 of them voted that it should be dismissed on those grounds.
Trump spokesman Jason Miller has denied those reports, however, telling The Washington Post: “The only guidance offered has been to focus on the unconstitutional nature of the impeachment to which 45 senators have already voted in agreement.”
And Schoen insisted he wouldn’t rehash the fraud falsehoods, telling the Post: “I am not a person who will put forward a theory of election fraud. That’s not what this impeachment trial is about.”