WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial is starting to take shape this week, as Democrats outline their case and the former president prepares a defense amid a shake-up on his legal team.
Trump is due to file a response to the impeachment charge on Tuesday. The deadline comes days after Trump replaced his lead legal counsel over the weekend.
His new team, led by lawyers David Schoen and Bruce Castor, will have just over a week to get ready before the trial begins Feb. 9. The announcement followed news that Trump had parted ways on Saturday with the two lead lawyers working on the team.
Democrats are seeking his conviction on one count of “incitement of insurrection” following the U.S. Capitol riots on Jan. 6, but they face an uphill climb.
They must convince at least 17 of the U.S. Senate’s 50 Republicans that Trump is guilty of inciting the attack in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in November’s presidential election. Five people died in the chaos.
Despite Trump’s term ending Jan. 20, a vote to convict could clear the way for a vote to prevent him from holding public office in the future.
House Democrats, who will be prosecuting the case in the Senate, will submit a pre-trial brief laying out their case against Trump. They are also due to indicate as soon as Tuesday whether they plan to call witnesses.
Trump’s response to the charge likely will indicate whether he will continue to argue without merit that he lost the presidential election because of widespread voter fraud. Numerous federal and state courts have rejected those claims, including judges Trump appointed and members of his former administration.
Most Republican senators now are lining up against conviction. While few defend Trump’s actions, many argue that Congress does not have the power to impeach a former president. They also have maintained that another trial will hurt efforts to unify the country in the post-Trump era.
Trump’s legal team could also argue that Trump was simply exercising his First Amendment right to free speech on Jan. 6 when he addressed his supporters outside the White House before they marched to Capitol Hill.
Schoen previously represented Trump’s longtime advisor Roger Stone, who was convicted in November 2019 of lying under oath to lawmakers who were investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump pardoned Stone in December.
Castor is a former Pennsylvania district attorney known for his decision to not prosecute entertainer Bill Cosby in 2005 after a woman accused Cosby of sexual assault. In 2017, he sued Cosby’s accuser in the case for defamation, claiming she destroyed his political career in retaliation.
The pair issued statements through a Trump adviser over the weekend, saying that they were honored to take the job.
Reuters contributed to this report. All reporting by Richard Cowan and James Oliphant.