WASHINGTON | Former US President Donald Trump announced on Sunday that he had recruited two new lawyers to defend him in the impeachment trial set to start on February 9.
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One, a former prosecutor, refused to prosecute comedian Bill Cosby for sexual assault. The other remains convinced that the financier Jeffrey Epstein did not commit suicide in prison. Donald Trump has chosen two controversial lawyers to represent him at his Senate trial.
Accused of having encouraged the assault on Capitol Hill on January 6, the Republican billionaire struggled to build a team to defend him. After the defection of five lawyers this weekend, and eight days before the start of his trial, he finally entrusted this task to Bruce Castor and David Schoen.
Without being leading figures, the two lawyers have already hit the headlines and could provide the show during hearings which will be broadcast live across the country.
Established in Alabama, the criminal lawyer David Schoen once boasted of having defended “all kinds of gangsters”, including leaders of the Russian or Italian mafia.
Among his most famous clients is Roger Stone, a longtime friend of Donald Trump. Sentenced for “perjury” in the context of the Russian investigation, the self-proclaimed specialist in “cheap blows” in politics was finally pardoned by the tenant of the White House just before he left power.
Mr. Schoen was mostly talked about after the death of billionaire Jeffrey Epstein in August 2019.
The lawyer claimed to have been hired to defend the financier, accused of sexual exploitation of minors, and to have met him before he was found hanged in his cell. “I do not believe it is suicide,” he assured the Atlanta Jewish Times at the time.
Faced with speculation of this type, the federal police and the Department of Justice had opened investigations, but the results of the autopsy confirmed a suicide. “I still think he was killed,” Mr Schoen repeated in September, however.
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Not hostile to media coverage, David Schoen has sometimes appeared on Fox News, participated in a documentary on the Epstein scandal and said he took acting lessons. He swore to have put an end to these solicitations: “it takes too much time on my legal work, three agents had nevertheless contacted me …”
As for Bruce Castor, he was for a long time a county attorney in Pennsylvania. In this influential position, he refused in 2005 to initiate proceedings against actor Bill Cosby, whom a woman accused of sexual violence.
The actor, implicated by dozens of other women in the following years, was finally sentenced thirteen years later to prison for these abuses.
Bruce Castor, a 59-year-old former Republican elected official, has also served as the acting attorney general of the state of Pennsylvania. But, in the midst of the #MeToo movement, his ambitions suffered because of his choices in the Cosby affair.
From February 9, the two lawyers will once again find themselves in the limelight during the trial of Donald Trump, the only president in the history of the United States to have twice experienced the infamy of an “impeachment”. “.
Slam the door
The former president will be tried for “incitement to insurrection”, in connection with the intrusion of his supporters in the Capitol at the time when the elected officials certified the victory of Democrat Joe Biden in the presidential election.
Some of the 50 Republican senators, overwhelmed by the violence of the assault, could join their voices to the 50 Democrats. However, it is unlikely that they will be numerous enough to reach the bar of 67 elected officials necessary for a conviction.
To avoid the substantive debate, Donald Trump’s lawyers should argue that the impeachment process does not apply to a former president. “MM. Schoen and Castor agree that this trial is against the Constitution, ”according to the press release announcing their recruitment.
Interviewed Monday night on Fox News, David Schoen reiterated his conviction that the trial is unconstitutional, and denounced a procedure that “is tearing the country apart, at a time when we do not need it”.
But will they try to justify Donald Trump’s post-election crusade by taking up his allegations of electoral fraud?
According to the American press, if some of his lawyers slammed the door this weekend, it is because they refused to take this path.
Mr. Schoen vowed to the Washington Post to share their position. “I am not a person ready to develop a theory on electoral fraud,” he said. “The trial will not deal with this.”