Former President Donald Trump made a critical move in the upcoming impeachment trial in the Senate on Thursday — hiring the defense team that will fight on his behalf.
Butch Bowers, a former counsel to former South Carolina Govs. Nikki Haley and Mark Sanford, will be representing Trump, according to an adviser.
Democrats announced on Friday that Trump’s trial would begin next week.
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Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina helped Trump find Bowers after members of his past legal teams indicated they did not plan to join the new effort. Trump is admittedly undermanned compared to his first trial, in which he had the full resources of the White House counsel’s office to defend him.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is proposing to push back the start of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial to February to give the former president time to prepare and review his case.
House Democrats who voted to impeach Trump last week for inciting the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot have signaled they want to move quickly to trial as President Joe Biden begins his term, saying a full reckoning is necessary before the country — and the Congress — can move on.
But McConnell is saying: Hold the phone.
In a statement Thursday evening suggested a more expansive timeline that would see the House transmit the article of impeachment next week, on Jan. 28, launching the trial’s first phase. After that, the Senate would give the president’s defense team and House prosecutors two weeks to file briefs. Arguments in the trial would likely begin in mid-February.
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“Senate Republicans are strongly united behind the principle that the institution of the Senate, the office of the presidency, and former President Trump himself all deserve a full and fair process that respects his rights and the serious factual, legal, and constitutional questions at stake,” especially given the unprecedented speed of the House process, McConnell said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is reviewing the plan and will discuss it with McConnell, a spokesperson said. The two leaders are also negotiating how the new 50-50 Senate will work and how they will balance other priorities.
A trial delay could appeal to some Democrats, as it would give the Senate more time to confirm Biden’s Cabinet nominees and debate a new round of coronavirus relief. Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, a key ally of the president’s, told CNN that Democrats would consider a delay “if we are making progress on confirming the very talented, seasoned and diverse team that President Joe Biden has nominated.”
The ultimate power over timing rests with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who can trigger the start of the trial at any point by sending to the Senate the charge of incitement of an insurrection. The California Democrat has not yet said when she will do that.
“It will be soon. I don’t think it will be long, but we must do it,” Pelosi said Thursday. She said Trump doesn’t deserve a “get-out-of-jail card” just because he has left office.
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Pelosi’s nine impeachment managers, who will be prosecuting the House case, have been regularly meeting to discuss strategy. Pelosi said she would talk to them “in the next few days” about when the Senate might be ready for a trial.
Pelosi said it would be “harmful to unity” to forget that “people died here on Jan. 6, the attempt to undermine our election, to undermine our democracy, to dishonor our Constitution.”
McConnell, who said this week that Trump “provoked” his supporters before the riot, has not said how he will vote. He told his GOP colleagues that it will be a vote of conscience.
Democrats would need the support of at least 17 Republicans to convict Trump, a high bar. While a handful of Senate Republicans have indicated they are open to conviction, most have said they believe a trial will be divisive and questioned the legality of trying a president after he has left office.
Graham said that if he were Trump’s lawyer, he would focus on that argument and on the merits of the case — and whether it was “incitement” under the law.
“I guess the public record is your television screen,” Graham said. “So, I don’t see why this would take a long time.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article