Source: Dershowitz, Starr on Trump legal team as impeachment trial opens

President Donald Trump’s legal team will include former Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr, the former independent counsel who led the Whitewater investigation into President Bill Clinton, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The team will also include Pam Bondi, the former Florida attorney general and a Trump ally.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the person wasn’t authorized to speak on the record.

Dershowitz confirmed his role in a series of tweets on Friday, saying, he would “present oral arguments at the Senate trial to address the constitutional arguments against impeachment and removal.”

“While Professor Dershowitz is nonpartisan when it comes to the constitution — he opposed the impeachment of President Bill Clinton and voted for Hillary Clinton — he believes the issues at stake go to the heart of our enduring Constitution,” he said in another tweet.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump personal lawyer Jay Sekulow are expected to have the lead roles on the defense team. Other members include Jane Raskin, who was part of the president’s legal team during special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, and Robert Ray, who was also part of the Whitewater investigation.

Trump was impeached on charges of abuse of power and obstructing Congress stemming from his pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democratic rivals as he was withholding security aid, and obstructing the ensuing congressional probe.

The U.S. Senate opened the trial on Thursday and senators were sworn in as jurors. The trial resumes Tuesday.

The president insists he did nothing wrong, and he dismissed the trial anew on Thursday at the White House: “It’s totally partisan. It’s a hoax.”

Eventual acquittal is expected in the Republican-controlled Senate. However, new revelations are mounting about Trump’s actions toward Ukraine.

The Government Accountability Office said Thursday that the White House violated federal law in withholding the security assistance to Ukraine, which shares a border with an invading Russia.

At the same time, an indicted associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnas, has turned over to prosecutors new documents linking the president to the shadow foreign policy being run by Giuliani.

The developments applied fresh pressure to senators to call more witnesses for the trial, a main source of contention that is still to be resolved. The White House has instructed officials not to comply with subpoenas from Congress requesting witnesses or other information.

“What is the president hiding? What is he afraid of?” asked Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.

“The gravity of these charges is self-evident,” he said. “The House of Representatives has accused the president of trying to shake down a foreign leader for personal gain.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the new information from Parnas demands an investigation, which she doesn’t expect from Trump’s attorney general. “This is an example of all of the president’s henchmen, and I hope that the senators do not become part of the president’s henchmen.”

Thursday, all eyes were on Schiff as he stood at a lectern in the well of the chamber, a space usually reserved for senators.

“House Resolution 755 Impeaching Donald John Trump, president of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors,” he began, reading the nine pages. The six other House prosecutors stood in a row to his side.

Senators said later that when Roberts appeared the solemnity of the occasion took hold. Security was tight at the Capitol.

“I thought this is a historic moment, and you could have heard a pin drop,” said Republican John Cornyn of Texas. “And so I think the gravity of what we are undertaking I think was sinking in for all of us.”

Republican House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took a far different view of the charges and proceedings.

He opened the chamber decrying Pelosi’s decision to hand out “souvenir pens” on Wednesday after she signed the resolution to transmit the charges to the Senate.

“This final display neatly distilled the House’s entire partisan process into one perfect visual,” McConnell said. “It was a transparently partisan process from beginning to end.”

GOP Sen. James Inhofe was absent, home in Oklahoma for a family medical issue, but plans to take the oath when he returns as the full trial begins next week, his office said.

The Senate will issue a formal summons to the White House to appear, with the president’s legal team expected to respond by Saturday. Opening arguments will begin Tuesday.

The president suggested recently that he would be open to a quick vote to simply dismiss the charges, but sufficient Republican support is lacking for that.

Instead, the president’s team expects a trial lasting no more than two weeks, according to senior administration officials. That would be far shorter than the trial of President Bill Clinton, in 1999, or the first one, of President Andrew Johnson, in 1868. Both presidents were acquitted.

It would take a super-majority of senators, 67 of the 100, to convict the president. Republicans control the chamber, 53-47, but it takes just 51 votes during the trial to approve rules, call witnesses or dismiss the charges.

A group of four Republican senators is working to ensure there will be votes on the possibility of witnesses, though it’s not at all certain a majority will prevail for new testimony.

Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee are among those involved.

“I tend to believe having additional information would be helpful,” Collins said in a statement. “It is likely that I would support a motion to call witnesses.”

Romney said he wants to hear from John Bolton, the former national security adviser at the White House, who others have said raised alarms about the alternative foreign policy toward Ukraine being run by Giuliani.

The House managers are a diverse group with legal, law enforcement and military experience, including Schiff, House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, and Reps. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Sylvia Garcia of Texas, Val Demings of Florida, Jason Crow of Colorado and Zoe Lofgren of California.

Two are freshmen — Crow, a former Army Ranger who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Garcia, a former judge in Houston. Demings is the former police chief of Orlando, and Jeffries is a lawyer and member of party leadership. Lofgren has the rare credential of having worked on a congressional staff during President Richard Nixon’s impeachment — he resigned before the full House voted on the charges — and then being an elected lawmaker during Clinton’s.

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