Former president Donald Trump has parted ways with lawyers who would have led his defence in the impeachment trial set to start on February 9 in the US Senate.
Butch Bowers, a South Carolina lawyer, whose appointment was announced last week, is leaving as are Deborah Barbier, Josh Howard, Greg Harris and Johnny Gasser, according to CNN, which first reported the abrupt departures on Saturday, just days from the start of the former president’s impeachment trial.
The former president had reportedly pressed the lawyers to argue that he lost the election because of fraud, a lie that did not stand scrutiny in more than 60 lawsuits and multiple recounts and audits, and eventually led Trump to incite a mob of supporters to storm the US Capitol on January 6.
The New York Times reported that a person close to Trump disputed this account (that the former president had asked the lawyers to make the election fraud plea) but acknowledged there were differences of opinion on the defence strategy.
Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives in a bipartisan vote on January 13 for incitement of insurrection. He is the first US president impeached twice, and the first to face impeachment trial after leaving office.
If convicted, Trump will be barred from holding any federal office in future, killing any pans that he may have of taking another shot at the White House.
But with most of the 50 Republicans in the 100-member Senate rallying to his support, a supermajority of two-thirds needed to convict him looks unlikely. Even if all 50 Democrats voted to convict him, they will need 17 Republicans to join them to punish the president.
Only five Republican senators had voted in support of a motion brought last Tuesday to declare the impeachment trial unconstitutional. The rest voted for the motion, which, however, was defeated in a 45-55 vote.
The former president has had trouble finding lawyers to defend him this time, according to reports. His personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani might be a witness himself as he was among those who addressed the mob on January 6, infamously calling for a “trial by combat” to settle the issue.