Trump adds legal heavyweights Starr, Dershowitz to impeachment team
Send a link to a friend
[January 18, 2020]
By Karen Freifeld, Susan Heavey and Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald
Trump turned to some legal heavyweights to help defend him in his Senate
impeachment trial with the addition on Friday of former independent
counsel Ken Starr, who paved the way for former President Bill Clinton's
1998 impeachment, and prominent lawyer Alan Dershowitz.
The team defending the Republican president will be led by White House
counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump private attorney Jay Sekulow, the White
Trump adviser and former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi and former
independent counsel Robert Ray will also be on the team, according to
the source familiar with the team's composition.
The White House also said Jane Raskin, one of Trump's private lawyers,
and Eric Herschmann, another former independent counsel, would be on the
president's legal team.
The trial in the Republican-led Senate formally got underway on
Thursday, though it will start in earnest on Tuesday with opening
statements. The trial will determine whether Trump is removed from
The Democratic-led House of Representatives voted on Dec. 18 to impeach
Trump on two charges arising from his dealings with Ukraine - abuse of
power and obstruction of Congress - after an investigation that centered
on his request that Ukraine investigate political rival Joe Biden, the
president's possible Democratic opponent in the Nov. 3 election.
The Senate is expected to acquit him, as none of its 53 Republicans has
voiced support for removing him, a step that requires a two-thirds
majority. Trump has denied wrongdoing and has called the impeachment
process a sham.
Starr is a former federal judge who held a senior Justice Department
post under Republican President George H.W. Bush. Starr's voluminous
investigative report on Clinton's sexual affair with White House intern
Monica Lewinsky served as the basis for his impeachment in the House on
charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. The Senate in 1999
acquitted Clinton, a Democrat. Starr had recommended impeachment on 11
In 2016, Starr was ousted as president of Baylor University, a private
Baptist institution in Texas, after an investigation by an outside law
firm determined that university leaders had mishandled accusations of
sexual assault by football players. Critics of Starr at the time accused
him of turning a blind eye to sexual violence on his campus after
pursuing Clinton for a sexual relationship.
Both Starr and Dershowitz also served as lawyers for financier and
convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who was found dead in his New
York jail cell last year where he was being held on new sex trafficking
In 1999, Trump made unflattering comments about Starr, saying in an
interview on NBC's "Today" show after Clinton's acquittal: "I think Ken
Starr's a lunatic." In a 1999 interview with New York Times columnist
Maureen Dowd, Trump said, "Starr's a freak. I bet he's got something in
Dershowitz has been a well-known figure in U.S. legal circles for
decades. He was a long-time Harvard Law School professor and was part of
the so-called "Dream Team" of lawyers who won a 1995 acquittal of former
National Football League star and actor O.J. Simpson on charges of
murdering his wife and a friend of hers. Dershowitz's past clients also
have included boxer Mike Tyson and televangelist Jim Bakker.
Both Starr and Dershowitz were defenders of Trump in media interviews
during the impeachment process. Sources working with the Trump legal
team said the president wanted Dershowitz because of his background as a
[to top of second column]
Alan Dershowitz leaves the Manhattan Federal Court in New York,
following a status conference in the defamation lawsuit brought by
Virginia Giuffre against Dershowitz over discovery issues in
Manhattan, New York, U.S., December 2, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Segar
A statement provided by Dershowitz from Trump's legal team said he
will present oral arguments at the trial to address the
constitutional arguments against impeachment and removal from
"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 statement said.
Ray succeeded Starr as independent counsel during the Clinton
investigation. On the day before Clinton left office, Ray announced
that he would not criminally prosecute him in connection with
perjury and obstruction.
One person who was not added to the team that will defend Trump at
the trial is his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who played a key
role in the Ukraine matter.
Democrat Adam Schiff heads a team of seven House members who will
serve as prosecutors. Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence
Committee, is a former federal prosecutor in Los Angeles.
Still to be determined is whether the Senate will allow witness
testimony and new evidence or whether senators will decide the case
as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has suggested
using only the material amassed by House investigators.
Trump involved the national collegiate champion Louisiana State
University football team in the impeachment drama during its
celebratory visit to the White House.
"A lot of presidents, some good, some not so good," Trump told the
team. "But you've got a good one now, even though they're trying to
impeach the son of a bitch. Can you believe that?" Citing themes he
has raised in his bid to win re-election on Nov. 3, Trump then
touted the economy and the U.S. military, adding, "We took out those
terrorists like your football team would have taken out those
A pivotal event in the Ukraine matter was Trump's firing of Marie
Yovanovitch last year as U.S. ambassador in Kiev, a move encouraged
by Giuliani, who was pressing Ukraine to investigate Biden.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo broke his silence on Friday on
documents released this week that suggested that Lev Parnas, a
Giuliani associate, was involved in monitoring Yovanovitch's
movements before Trump removed her, raising questions about her
"We will do everything we need to do to evaluate whether there was
something that took place there," Pompeo, who refused to cooperate
in the House impeachment inquiry, told conservative radio host Tony
"I suspect that much of what's been reported will ultimately prove
wrong, but our obligation, my obligation as secretary of state, is
to make sure that we evaluate, investigate," Pompeo said.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Karen Freifeld and Tim Ahmann;
Additional reporting by Makini Brice; Writing by Will Dunham;
Editing by Alistair Bell and Sonya Hepinstall)
[© 2020 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2020 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Thompson Reuters is solely responsible for this content.