Bruce L. Castor and David Schoen will now lead the defense when the former president stands trial in the Senate next week on one charge of "incitement of insurrection"

By Sean Neumann
February 01, 2021 01:12 PM
President Donald Trump speaks before boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base
President Donald Trump waves as he boards Marine One at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.
| Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP/Shutterstock

Donald Trump announced Sunday that he has a new legal team after a group of attorneys who had agreed to represent him during his upcoming impeachment trial abruptly departed this weekend, according to reports.

Trump's office said in a statement that Bruce L. Castor and David Schoen would now lead the defense when the former president, 74, stands trial in the Senate next week on one charge of "incitement of insurrection" in the wake of the deadly U.S. Capitol riot.

CNN and The New York Times reported this weekend that the five lawyers who first agreed to take the case, their names confirmed as recently as last week, have since left. The exact reason was unclear.

Trump pushed his attorneys to hinge his defense on his baseless claims of election fraud, according to CNN; though the Times, citing a source, disputed that and said there were broader conflicts over strategy while Trump has also talked about what he calls the case's simplicity and why he can't handle his defense himself rather than pay for lawyers.

(The Times reported that the previous attorneys had not signed a letter of intent to represent Trump.)

Neither representatives for Trump nor his former attorneys, who were to be led by Butch Bowers, responded to PEOPLE's request for comment on the matter on Monday.

CNN reported that the five lawyers' departures were "a mutual decision" with the Trump team and that the former president "was not receptive" to other options for his defense — including arguing instead whether it was constitutional to convict a president who has left office.

pro Trump protesters breach Capitol building
Pro-Donald Trump rioters at the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6.
| Credit: Tasos Katopodis/Getty

Castor, 59, is likely best known nationally as the former district attorney for Montgomery County in Pennsylvania who declined, in 2005, to prosecute Bill Cosby for assaulting Andrea Constand. At the time, Castor cited "insufficient credible and admissible evidence."

Cosby, 83, was convicted of that crime in 2018, and dozens of women have come forward with similar claims of abuse. (He has adamantly denied wrongdoing and is appealing.)

Castor went on to work in the state attorney's general office and briefly served as acting attorney general of Pennsylvania in 2016. He has also served as a Montgomery County commissioner.

In a statement about joining Trump's team on Sunday, Castor said it would be "a privilege" to represent Trump and that "the strength of our Constitution is about to be tested like never before in our history."

Schoen, 62, was previously tapped to represent longtime Trump ally Roger Stone before the president commuted Stone's prison sentence and later pardoned him for lying to the House Intelligence Committee during the Russia investigation.

The Alabama-based attorney also met with accused child sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, who previously pleaded guilty to soliciting a person under 18 for prostitution, days before Epstein apparently killed himself in August 2019, Schoen told The Atlanta Jewish Times.

"Notably, Schoen has already been working with the 45th President and other advisors to prepare for the upcoming trial, and both Schoen and Castor agree that this impeachment is unconstitutional - a fact 45 Senators voted in agreement with last week," the former president's office said in its statement.

At least 17 Republican senators would need to join all 50 Democratic senators to convict Trump, though only a handful of conservatives so far seem likely to vote against him.

Last week, as Trump's statement noted, 45 Republican senators objected to Trump's impeachment trial, arguing it was unconstitutional. The vote failed.

"You want to unify America? You need truth and accountability. That's how to unify America," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told MSNBC last week. "I don't think you can just say 'never mind' with some of the egregious things that Trump has done."