Trump starts taking his second impeachment seriously

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Donald Trump appears to be finally getting serious about his upcoming impeachment trial.

The former president has hired Butch Bowers, a longtime Republican attorney with experience in election law, to represent him when the Senate considers an article of impeachment, likely in a matter of days or weeks.

The hiring comes after Trump opted against building out a war room or communications infrastructure to push back against impeachment when it was considered by the House. The former president had also initially struggled to find someone to lead his impeachment defense, as attorneys who previously represented him declined to sign on for a second trial and suggested his political opponents had a stronger case this time.

“This is political theater and I am neither a politician or an actor. I don’t see a role for me as a lawyer,” said Alan Dershowitz, the Trump-allied attorney who joined Trump’s impeachment defense team last January.

Unlike Dershowitz, who’s faced scrutiny from bipartisan lawmakers over his ties to the late convicted sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, Trump’s new defense attorney received praise on Thursday from some of his former Republican clients. The South Carolina-based attorney previously represented former Govs. Nikki Haley and Mark Sanford, and serves as a judge advocate general officer for the South Carolina National Guard.

“Butch is a good friend and a fine lawyer. President Trump is fortunate to have him on his team,” Haley said through a spokesperson.

Sanford, who was represented by Bowers during his own battle with impeachment after he fled to Argentina with a mistress during his term as South Carolina governor, described Bowers as “ethical and competent.”

“Butch is a first-class human being. In the fifteen years … where I’ve worked with Butch in different capacities, it was just sort of run of the mill. He was perfunctory and professional,” Sanford said, adding that he does not believe Bowers will use his position on Trump’s defense team to amplify the ex-president’s baseless voter fraud allegations.

The news of Bowers hire was first reported by Punchbowl News.

Some Trump allies believe the president plans to use his trial to further his baseless claims that the election was stolen from him, according to two former aides familiar with his strategy. One of the aides cautioned that no defense strategy had been definitively agreed upon, though.

Bowers’ history suggests that the ex-president is keen on focusing on how votes were cast and counted during the 2020 cycle. Bowers served under President George W. Bush as special counsel for voting matters in the Justice Department, and worked as counsel in Florida for John McCain’s 2008 presidential run.

“All I can say is based on the Butch Bowers I know and respect, I would hope that he wouldn’t be sucked in as a tool in advancing the president’s conspiracy theories,” Sanford said.

Trump’s push to bolster his defense team comes one week after House Democrats impeached him for a second time on charges of inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Hundreds of pro-Trump demonstrators stormed the building — injuring law enforcement officials and forcing the evacuation of members of Congress — after rallying with the ex-president outside the White House.

During that rally, Trump encouraged protesters “to walk down to the Capitol” — a phrase likely to become a focal point of his impeachment trial. Less than two hours after Trump made the remark, hundreds of his supporters burst through a security perimeter outside the building and eventually made their way inside.

Trump’s decision to hire Bowers was announced by his ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) during a Senate GOP meeting on Thursday. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has asked for Trump to receive two weeks to prepare his legal case for trial. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said they had received a proposal from McConnell “that only deals with pre-trial motions” and that they would “review it and discuss it with him.”

Graham, who said he has known Bowers for “a long time,” said Trump is still putting together his legal team. “Butch Bowers I think will be the sort of the anchor tenant,” Graham said.

Trump, Graham told reporters, believes a post-presidential impeachment is “unconstitutional and damages his presidency.” Legal scholars disagree with that assessment arguing that one form of punishment that Trump could receive–a prohibition from running for future office–makes clear that the founders envisioned impeachment as a tool that could be applied to current and former presidents.

Bowers could not be reached for comment.

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