US President Donald Trump has assembled a made-for-TV legal team for his Senate trial that includes household names like Ken Starr, the prosecutor whose investigation two decades ago resulted in the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Former Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz said he will deliver constitutional arguments meant to shield Trump from allegations that he abused his power.
The additions Friday bring experience in the politics of impeachment as well as constitutional law to the team, which faced a busy weekend of deadlines for legal briefs before opening arguments begin Tuesday even as more evidence rolled in.
The two new Trump lawyers are already nationally known both for their involvement in some of the more consequential legal dramas of recent American history and for their regular appearances on Fox News, the president's preferred television network.
Dershowitz is a constitutional expert whose expansive views of presidential powers echo those of Trump. Starr is a veteran of partisan battles in Washington, having led the investigation into Clinton's affair with a White House intern that brought about the president's impeachment by the House. Clinton was acquitted at his Senate trial, the same outcome Trump is expecting from the Republican-led chamber.
Still, the lead roles for Trump's defence will be played by White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump personal lawyer Jay Sekulow, who also represented Trump during special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.
Democrats released more documents late Friday from Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, with photos, text and audio, as they make their case against the president over his actions toward Ukraine.
There are some signs of tension involving the president's outside legal team and lawyers within the White House.
Some White House officials bristled that the announcement was not coordinated with them. The White House waited until late Friday night to confirm the full roster of the president's lawyers.
Hours after Dershowitz announced his involvement with the team in a series of tweets Friday, he played down his role by saying he would be present for only an hour or so to make constitutional arguments.
"I'm not a full-fledged member of the defence team," he told "The Dan Abrams Show" on SiriusXM. He has long been a critic of "the overuse of impeachment," he said, and would have made the same case for a President Hillary Clinton.
A legal brief laying out the contours of the Trump defence, due at noon Monday, was still being drafted, with White House lawyers and the outside legal team grappling over how political the document should be. Those inside the administration have echoed warnings from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that the pleadings must be sensitive to the Senate's more staid traditions and leave the sharper rhetoric to Twitter and cable news.
White House lawyers were successful in keeping Trump from adding House Republicans to the team, but they also advised him against tapping Dershowitz, according to two people who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal discussions. They're concerned because of the professor's association with Jeffrey Epstein, the millionaire who killed himself in jail last summer while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.
A Fox News host said on the air that Starr would be parting ways with the network as a result of his role on the legal team.
Australian Associated Press