Former U.S. President Donald Trump broke with his top impeachment attorneys just a week before the Senate process begins, two people familiar with the situation said Saturday.
Butch Bowers and Deborah Barbier, both South Carolina attorneys, are no longer on the defense team. One of the people described the breakup as “a mutual decision” reflecting differences of opinion about the direction of the case. They both insisted on anonymity to comment on private conversations.
One of them said new additions to the legal team were expected to be announced in a day or two.RELATED
The latest changes are now bringing further uncertainty to the preparation and strategy of Trump’s defense team, which is preparing to be charged with inciting the January 6 US Capitol uprising. Yet all but five Republican senators this week voted to dismiss the case before it even started, making clear that Trump is unlikely to be convicted regardless of his defense team.
Greg Harris and Johnny Gasser, two former South Carolina law clerks, also left the team, according to one of those surveyed.
According to another person with knowledge of the hiring, Bowers and Barbier dropped out of the project because Trump wanted them to make a defense based on the allegations of voter fraud, something they were unwilling to do. The person was not authorized to comment publicly on the situation and requested anonymity.
Trump has struggled to find lawyers willing to defend him after he became the first president in history to be challenged twice. He is expected to go to trial on February 8, accused of inciting his followers to storm Congress before President Joe Biden is inaugurated in an attempt to stop the peaceful transfer of power.
After numerous attorneys who had defended him earlier declined to take up the case, one of Trump’s closest allies in the Senate, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, introduced him to Bowers.
The lawyer, known in Republican legal circles, has years of experience representing elected officials and political candidates, such as then-South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford during a failed impeachment trial that led to an ethics inquiry.
Bowers and Barbier did not immediately respond to messages requesting comment Saturday night.
Republicans and Trump aides have made it clear that they intend to make a simple argument at trial: that the process is unconstitutional because he is no longer in office.
Although Republicans in Washington seemed eager to distance themselves from Trump after the deadly January 6 assault, they have since downplayed criticism, wary of angering the former president’s loyal voters.
CNN was the first to report the lawyers’ march.