Trump parts with impeachment lawyers a week before trial

The upheaval injects fresh uncertainty into the make-up and strategy of Trump’s defence team

(FILES) In this file photo taken on January 20, 2021 outgoing US President Donald Trump boards Marine One at the White House in Washington, DC.  Several of former US president Donald Trump's impeachment lawyers have left his team a little over a week before his trial, US media reported on January 30, 2021. CNN cited unnamed sources as saying that five lawyers -- including two who were thought to be leading the team -- had parted ways with the Republican billionaire after disagreeing over his legal strategy.
 / AFP / MANDEL NGAN

Former US president Donald Trump parted ways with his lead impeachment lawyers about a week before his Senate trial is set to begin, sources said on Saturday.

Butch Bowers and Deborah Barbier, both South Carolina lawyers, are no longer with Mr Trump’s defence team, according to the sources.

One described the parting as a "mutual decision" that reflected a difference of opinion on the direction of the case.
Another said additions to the legal team were expected to be announced in a day or two.

The upheaval injects more uncertainty into the make-up and strategy of Mr Trump’s defence team as he prepares to face charges that he incited the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6.

However, all but five Republicans senators this week voted in favour of an effort to dismiss the trial before it even started, making clear a conviction of the former president is unlikely, regardless of his defence team.

Mr Trump has struggled to find lawyers willing to defend him, after becoming the first president to be impeached twice.

He is set to stand trial in the week of February 8 on a charge that he incited his supporters to storm Congress before President Joe Biden’s inauguration, in an attempt to halt the peaceful transition of power.

After numerous lawyers who defended Mr Trump previously declined to take on the case, Mr Trump was introduced to Mr Bowers by one of his closest allies in the Senate, South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham.

Mr Bowers, a familiar figure in Republican legal circles, has years of experience representing elected officials and political candidates, including Mark Sanford, South Carolina governor at the time, against a failed impeachment effort that turned into an ethics investigation.

Republicans and aides of Mr Trump have made clear that they intend to make a simple argument in the trial: Mr Trump’s trial is unconstitutional because he is no longer in office.

While Republicans in Washington seemed eager to part ways with Mr Trump after the deadly events of January 6, they have since eased their criticism, wary of angering Mr Trump's loyal voter base.

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