Trump impeachment defence team includes former Epstein lawyer Alan Dershowitz and controversial Clinton investigator Ken Starr

Clark Mindock
AP

Donald Trump's impeachment defence team will include a controversial lawyer with a history representing men like Jeffrey Epstein and Harvey Weinstein, as well as one who was a prominent figure in the most recent presidential impeachment in the 1990s.

Ken Starr, the former independent counsel who led the investigation that led to the impeachment Bill Clinton, has signed on and will reportedly help present constitutional arguments to the Senate when Mr Trump's impeachment trial begins in earnest next week.

Working alongside him is a team that includes defence attorney Alan Dershowitz, the controversial lawyer who has made a name for himself with high-profile clients who have or do include Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein and OJ Simpson. Mr Dershowitz's controversial past clients have reportedly given some in the White House pause, but ultimately Mr Trump took a liking to him after seeing him numerous times on TV, according to Axios.

The legal team has been formed to represent the president as he faces charges of abuse of power for pressuring Ukraine to launch an investigation into a potential 2020 presidential rival, and of obstructing Congress during the hearings in the House that ultimately resulted in Mr Trump becoming the third president in US history to be impeached.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Mr Trump's personal attorney Jay Sekulow have been tasked with leading the team, which includes other prominent lawyers including Robert Ray and former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi. Mr Ray succeeded Mr Starr as independent counsel in 1999 and filed the final reports on the Whitewater scandal, which formed the basis of the investigation that led to Mr Clinton's impeachment. Ms Bondi is a well-known backer of the president with a penchant for publicity, and has reportedly been called on to act as the public face of the defence team.

"The president asked me to do this, and the legal team asked me to do this," Mr Dershowitz said on Friday morning during an interview with CNBC.

Mr Trump's Senate impeachment trial is set to start on Tuesday, after House impeachment managers read the charges they have approved on Thursday.

While the impeachment drama in the Senate has been kept to a minimum so far — the highlight of the mostly sombre proceedings on Thursday came when Chief Justice John Roberts, who is overseeing the affair, seemingly forgot to gavel the Senate out of session — that is likely not to last.

In the months since House speaker Nancy Pelosi announced their investigation into Mr Trump's apparent effort to leverage American foreign aid to Ukraine to compel that country's government to launch an investigation into Joe Biden and his family, the White House and Mr Trump's lawyers have remained relatively quiet on the president's side of the story.

While Mr Trump has spoken out loudly and frequently to claim he has done nothing wrong, it will be up to his lawyers in the Senate to provide a compelling argument for why the president used his powers in the way he did.

It will mark the first time that lawyers representing the president will directly engage in the process, after Mr Trump declined to send his legal team to the House Judiciary Committee hearings as they investigated the allegations against the president. In their stead, Republican lawmakers have been forced to defend the president themselves, and have in the process underscored an unwavering support for Mr Trump through this process.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has promised to work hand-in-hand with the White House throughout the trial, and the odds against Mr Trump's being thrown out of office remain astronomical at this point. Mr Trump is unlikely to testify in his own defence.

Read more

Iran doubles down on anti-US defiance: ‘Trump’s a clown’

Trump says 13 times in two minutes he does not know Lev Parnas

Trump is abandoning my brother and Egypt's 60,000 political prisoners

Harry Dunn’s parents say PM has no ‘wish or intention’ to see them