Comrade Trump has a new legal team. Another new legal team. A new new legal team. His original impeachment team declined to represent him in his repeachment, so he had to find a new legal team. Over the weekend, his new legal team walked away from him, which makes them his old new legal team. His new new legal team will probably defend him in his repeachment trial. I say ‘probably’ because this is Trump and who the hell knows?
The new new team revolves around two lawyers, David Schoen and Bruce Castor. These guys are taking a metric ton of shit about their previous clients and legal decisions. Castor, for example, was the prosecutor who initially chose NOT to prosecute Bill Cosby for drugging women and raping them. And Schoen? He represented Jeffrey Epstein, among others. He’s been quoted as saying the following:
“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.”
Me, I don’t have a problem with that. In the US every accused criminal has the right to defend themselves, and every defense lawyer has an obligation to defend their client to best of their ability. The fact that Trump’s new lawyers worked with some other nasty folks doesn’t bother me at all. It’s the least interesting aspect of the looming repeachment.
I like the sound of that. The looming impeachment. [Okay, tangent: loom as a verb is entirely unrelated to loom as a noun. A loom, of course, is a weaving machine, and the term originates from the Old English geloma, meaning a utensil or tool. An heirloom is a crafted thing bequeathed to one’s heirs. Nobody is quite certain how loom as a verb meaning ‘to be imminent, especially in some menacing or threatening way’ came into being. Some folks think it’s from the East Frisian lomen, which meant “to move slowly” and was probably related to the way ships move in a harbor. Which is appropriate, since Trump’s repeachment is slowly coming to the dock — and lawdy, there’s another etymological rabbit hole.]
Anyway, what I find interesting about the repeachment is how Trump’s defense is being framed. Trump, it seems, wants his lawyers to focus on the same thing the rioters and insurrectionists focused on — the ridiculous claim that the election was stolen from him by fraud. That would require Trump’s lawyers to present a case based on lies, which would get them soundly spanked by the American Bar Association. Instead, Trump’s lawyers apparently want to challenge the constitutionality of the repeachment, claiming that it’s unconstitutional to impeach a president who’s no longer president. Most constitutional scholars describe that strategy as “a load of stinking bullshit.”
Steve Bannon, Trump’s recently-pardoned former adviser, has been suggesting Trump should lead the defense team himself. It’ll never happen, but lawdy, there’s part of me that would love to see that, because there’d be a really good chance of a Colonel Jessup / A Few Good Men moment. “You can’t handle the truth! We live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns!”
But no, that’s not going to happen. Still, what’s interesting is that neither defense approach really addresses the crime with which Trump is charged: incitement of insurrection. The sole article of impeachment accuses Trump of engaging “in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence against the Government of the United States.” Claiming “the election was stolen from me” may speak to Trump’s motives, but it isn’t a defense against inciting violence against the government. Claiming it’s unconstitutional to impeach a former president isn’t a defense against inciting violence against the government either; it’s just an argument saying the Senate isn’t legally authorized to rule on Trump’s behavior since he’s no longer in government.
On February 9th Democrats are going to say, “Trump incited a riot.” Trump wants his defense team to argue, “The election was stolen from him; he was just trying to get it back.” His lawyers want to argue, “Y’all aren’t authorized to decide whether or not he incited a riot.” It appears nobody will be arguing, “No, Trump didn’t incite no riot.”
That’s because Trump did, in fact, incite a riot. To be clear, he hasn’t actually been charged with the federal crime of inciting a riot. I’m not a lawyer, but I suspect you could make a case that Trump violated 18 U.S. Code § 2101 in that he 1) traveled interstate, 2) told his supporters the election had been ‘stolen’ from him…and from them, 3) encouraged them to travel to DC, 4) on a specific date, where 5) he told them they had to “fight like hell” to stop Congress from ratifying the Electoral College results, and then 6) told them to walk to the Capitol building.
He may not have specifically told them to riot, or to break into the Capitol building, or to harm anybody, but he created the conditions that inflamed the crowd, then he pointed them in the direction of the Capitol, and told them to fight like hell. Which they did.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Republicans in the Senate will vote to find Trump guilty. They’ll probably never find him guilty of anything. Republicans have proven themselves to be invulnerable to evidence.