The Trump administration and its state propaganda media arm, Fox News aka Trump TV, are so interconnected with one another in the conservative ecosystem as to be indistinguishable. They are effectively one and the same.
So it should come as no surprise to anyone that President Trump has built his impeachment defense team from celebrity-lawyers who regularly appear on Fox News spouting legal nonsense in defense of Trump in order to maintain consistency of messaging with Fox Nation viewers tuning in to his impeachment trial. For impeachment defense team, Trump recruits from Fox News. It is a way to reinforce the legal nonsense that these celebrity-lawyers have been spoon-feeding Fox Nation viewers for years in order to maintain a comfort level with his MAGA cult followers who otherwise might be tempted to stray when they learn of the facts for the first time while watching the impeachment trial.
The reality TV show president intends to turn his impeachment trial into a shit-show circus via Fox News aka Trump TV.
Jeremy Stahl at Slate breaks down the Trump defense team for you. Meet Trump’s Deplorable Impeachment Defense Team:
On Friday, Donald Trump named his legal team to represent him in the Senate impeachment trial.
Monica Lewinsky, whose extramarital relationship with President Bill Clinton while she was a White House intern was at the center of the last impeachment, had perhaps the most apt reaction to the news.
That team includes:
Kenneth Starr: Starr is the former independent counsel who uncovered a lot of details around Lewinsky and Clinton’s affair, put them in a 435-page report that led to Clinton’s impeachment, and then became a Fox News host who opposes impeaching Trump for attempting to bribe a foreign power into helping him cheat in the 2020 election. In defending Trump on TV this time around, Starr has argued against the “evils of impeachment,” saying “impeachment has become a terrible, terrible thorn in the side of the American democracy and the conduct of American government since Watergate.”
In between being really pro-impeachment and really anti-impeachment, Starr spent some time as the president of Baylor University, a job he lost after a report demonstrated that his administration showed a “fundamental failure” in responding to sexual assaults, including an epidemic of cases involving players on the school’s football team. Presumably, Trump hired him for his gravitas and to lend historical perspective to the case, but it also could be because he just has a thing for defending sexual predators.
More: Trump Just Hired Jeffrey Epstein’s Lawyers: Kenneth Starr and Alan Dershowitz (below) who helped Jeffrey Epstein walk free in a sweetheart plea deal — and allegedly abuse again — are now on Trump’s legal team for his impeachment trial.
Trump’s own opinion on Ken Starr: Here is a clip of Donald Trump speaking with MSNBC in 1999: “I think Ken Starr is a lunatic. I really think that Ken Starr is a disaster. I hated the way the president handled it, it was a long and terrible process. I really think that Ken Starr was terrible.” And he told Maureen Dowd in 1999, ”Starr’s a freak. I bet he’s got something in his closet.”
Alan Dershowitz: Dershhowitz is a former Harvard Law professor who is famous for his legal defense of O.J. Simpson, Claus von Bülow, and a litany of others. In recent years, he has come under scrutiny for his work representing now-deceased serial sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. One of Epstein’s accusers also accused Dershowitz of sexual assault, a charge he denies. Dershowitz has said he received a massage at Epstein’s house, which was one of the bases of Epstein’s trafficking, but insists he “kept my underwear on during the massage,” and that the massage was done by an “old, old Russian woman.”
Dershowitz is on Team Trump to argue the extremist position, unsupported by historical fact or law, that a president cannot be impeached for abuse of power or obstruction of Congress. Here’s What Alan Dershowitz Has Planned For Trump’s Impeachment Trial: “My position is that, to be impeached, it has to be treason or bribery or other high crimes… So in my view, it has to be criminal like conduct — akin to bribery and treason — and vague concepts like obstruction of Congress or abuse of power don’t fit that description.”
Alan Dershowitz is a controversial criminal defense attorney, he is not a constitutional law scholar, despite the high opinion he holds of himself, which is painfully obvious from his uninformed opinion above.
Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, who is a constitutional law scholar and who wrote the damn book on impeachment – To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment – dismisses Dershowitz as running a ‘bizarro defense’ of Trump:
Professor Laurence Tribe, who has also been associated with Harvard Law for five decades, was asked about Dershowitz’s argument during an interview with Chris Hayes.
“What do you think about this idea that abuse of power is not impeachable, even if you establish on the facts that he abused his power?” Hayes asked.
“Well, I almost don’t know where to start. I mean, my colleague has it upside down,” Tribe replied.
“I knew that the Trump defense was going to rely in large part on alternative facts, but I didn’t know they were also going to use alternative law. There is no — there is no legal principle that says something has to violate a federal criminal statute in order to be impeachable,” he explained.
“When the impeachment power was put in the constitution, there were no federal criminal statutes,” Tribe added.
“Allen is just completely wacko on this. I don’t understand why the president thinks it will help him to have this kind of bizarro defense,” he charged.
Let me explain it to you, professor: Dershowitz has been selling this “bizarro defense” on Fox News aka Trump TV for some time, and the MAGA cult followers have been inculcated to believe him. He is on Team Trump to reinforce this bizarro defense and to give Republican senators cover with his extremist position. We are not in a court of law where the facts and law matter, professor. We are in the court of public opinion, where ignorance of the law and disregard of the facts out of GOP tribalism matters on Fox News.
Robert Ray: Ray is the former federal prosecutor who took over from Starr as independent counsel after the Lewinsky scandal. One of Ray’s main jobs was to conclude the investigation of the Whitewater land deal, a failed business investment by Bill and Hillary Clinton, that originally prompted the independent counsel appointment. Ray is the much less famous independent counsel, having concluded there was not enough evidence to prove wrongdoing in the land deal and worked out essentially a plea bargain with Clinton over his false testimony in the Lewinsky case. Ray went on to be arrested for stalking in 2006. As the New York Times reported at the time: “Mr. Ray had been sending e-mail messages to and visiting a 40-year-old Manhattan woman against her wishes after she broke off their relationship about four months ago, the police said.” Only the best people!
Jay Sekulow: Sekulow is the former general counsel for Jews for Jesus. He became a stalwart litigator in support of religious freedom, defending school prayer and government funding of religious institutions. In 2011, he sued to block the construction of an Islamic community center in Manhattan and lost. Sekulow hosts a call-in radio show and has been on Trump’s legal team since at least 2017, making him the longest-standing member of that team. As part of his legal defense, Sekulow got the president to approve an arrangement for the president’s former lawyer, John Dowd, to represent Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Guliani. Parnas has since started cooperating with the impeachment investigation and publicly implicated the president.
Lev Parnas also implicated Jay Sekulow in the Ukraine conspiracy in his interview with Rachel Maddow, making him a potential fact witness. Sekulow is compromised and legal ethics require him to withdraw as counsel if he is going to be a fact witness. Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow knew about Ukraine scheme, ‘didn’t want to be involved,’ Lev Parnas says: “In an interview that aired Thursday night, Parnas, an associate of Giuliani, said Sekulow was ‘in the loop’ but ‘didn’t want to be involved in the Ukraine stuff.’ He said he heard Sekulow and Giuliani talk about the matter, and Sekulow ‘didn’t agree with what Rudy was doing, but he knew what he was doing.'”
Pat Cipollone: Cipollone succeeded Don McGahn as White House counsel in October 2018 after McGahn alleged to special counsel Robert Mueller that Trump had ordered him to falsify records to cover up previous orders to have Mueller removed. Cipollone, who worked as an assistant to Attorney General William Barr in the early 1990s, has been stalwart in his defense of the presidency during the impeachment saga. Most notably, he crafted the strategy of absolute non-cooperation with the impeachment inquiry, penning what has to be the most unhinged letter in the history of the OLC, a legal argument that basically amounted to “witch hunt!” Cipollone’s strategy, which entails refusing to comply with every single lawful subpoena the impeachment inquiry has issued for the White House, resulted in a second impeachment count against Donald Trump, obstruction of Congress, but it has also prevented the disclosure of many possibly important facts surrounding the Ukraine bribery scandal. In that way, Cipollone has probably been Trump’s most effective counsel.
I have said before that Cipollone is an active participant in obstruction of Congress and obstruction of justice, and should be disbarred for his actions which are made in bad faith to cause unnecessary delay, and which are not warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing existing law.
Jeremy Stahl concludes with this observation, “This impeachment defense squad is truly an AYFKM all-star team.”
Daily Kos adds:
Pam Bondi: Bondi is the former Florida attorney general who took a $25,000 contribution from Trump shortly before she decided not to pursue a case against the fraudulent Trump University. She was also photographed with Lev Parnas multiple times. Bondi has been a prominent Trump defender on Trump TV.
The only thing missing from this shit-show circus is Trump’s coconspirator Rudy Giuliani, who claims that he will continue to advise the president, and the husband and wife celebrity-lawyer team of Joe DiGenova and Gloria Toensing, who are also up to their necks in this conspiracy according to Lev Parnas.
Trump’s good friend from Fox News, Judge Jeanie Pirro, would have been the cherry on the top.
UPDATE: The New York Times adds, Jane Raskin, Who Helped Trump in Mueller Inquiry, Joins President’s Defense Team:
[For the Mueller probe] Mr. Trump hired Marty and Jane Raskin, married lawyers who are based in Mr. Trump’s adopted state of Florida.
Ms. Raskin is now part of the legal team who will defend Mr. Trump in his Senate impeachment trial.
She and Mr. Raskin were originally brought into the Trump fold through another of Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers, Jay Sekulow, who, along with Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel, will lead the president’s defense in the trial.
But Ms. Raskin has been a constant but little-known presence in Mr. Trump’s orbit since the Mueller inquiry.
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During the Mueller investigation, the Raskins declined to speak to the news media. But people close to the president credited them with effectively fighting for him behind the scenes as he faced the investigation by the special counsel, as well as the investigation into Mr. Cohen in the Southern District of New York.
As the impeachment inquiry has unfolded, she quietly advised Mr. Sekulow before she formally joined the team, according to people familiar with the discussions.
It remains to be seen whether she will have a speaking role during the Senate trial. If history is any guide, she will remain a silent partner.
UPDATE: Axios adds, Trump’s Fox-friendly Senate trial team:Four of the team members — Ken Starr, Alan Dershowitz, Pam Bondi and Robert Ray — have made at least 365 weekday Fox News appearances since January 2019, according to progressive research center Media Matters for America.
UPDATE: Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara covers many of the same points above, but here are some excerpts from Trump’s circus of defense lawyers:
To make a mockery of the impeachment process, Trump has in turn, made a mockery of his own legal team by announcing the additions of Kenneth Starr, Alan Dershowitz and Pam Bondi before the Senate impeachment trial is slated to resume next week. Cipollone will now have to stand with a group of discredited lawyers who will contribute to the spectacle that will play out on the Senate floor because the President thinks they do a great job on Fox News.
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I don’t believe Trump set out to put a subpar legal team on the floor of the Senate, although that is what he’s doing. He set out to make the impeachment trial the latest episode in his reality show presidency. The President is deliberately creating a circus show bringing back some of the best acts from the last three decades. It seems he hopes to entertain his supporters, rather than defend his conduct. And the 40% of the country that still approve of Trump will be undoubtedly entertained.
But the rest of the country will get a real window into the character of our President. Rather than mount a defense of his conduct with the best legal team, he’s choosing a group mired in controversies including scandal, alleged corruption and misogyny. The majority of America in my view will be repulsed. But they won’t be surprised. The President let us know who he was when he stepped off that Access Hollywood bus. And now he’s picked a legal team that has no problem at all with it.