AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Former President Trump has a new legal team for his second impeachment trial after the first group of lawyers who were going to defend him dissolved over the weekend. The trial is scheduled to open next week in the Senate. And joining us now with more details is NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas.
RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Hi there.
CHANG: All right, I am honestly losing track of all these lawyers now.
CHANG: Who is now signed on to represent Trump next week?
LUCAS: Well, Trump is a notoriously difficult client, and he has had, certainly, difficulty finding folks to represent him for this trial. It looked about a week and a half ago as though he had found his team. It was to be led by Butch Bowers, a South Carolina attorney who came recommended by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. Bowers was viewed as a good choice. He's defended Republican governors in South Carolina. He's been a reliable lawyer for state GOP luminaries. But he and Trump decided over the weekend to part ways. It was a mutual decision. And now Trump's office says David Schoen and Bruce Castor Jr. will head his defense. And this has all been a bit of a scramble. And it is, of course, just over a week now until the trial is scheduled to start.
CHANG: Yeah, just over a week - well, tell us a little more about these two lawyers, Schoen and Castor.
LUCAS: Castor is the former county commissioner and a former district attorney for Montgomery County, Pa. One of the most notable things from his time as district attorney is actually a case that he didn't pursue. Back in 2005, he declined to prosecute Bill Cosby. Castor said at the time that the case was too weak. And Cosby, of course, later was tried and convicted of sexual assault.
CHANG: Right. OK, so that's Castor. What about Schoen?
LUCAS: Schoen's been around for a long time. He's done TV legal commentary, including on Newsmax. He worked briefly as counsel for Trump's longtime friend, Roger Stone, when he was appealing his conviction last year. Schoen also has a link to Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced financier and convicted sex offender. Schoen told the Atlanta Jewish Times back in 2019 that he met with Epstein in prison just days before Epstein hanged himself. Schoen said that he had agreed in that meeting to take over Epstein's defense. He also said that he didn't think that Epstein had killed himself. Now, for the record, authorities have declared Epstein's death a suicide. And then, actually earlier in Schoen's career, back in the '90s, he represented some organized crime figures in New York, including Russian mobsters.
CHANG: Interesting. OK, well, what do you think this shakeup in Trump's legal team indicates about the strategy his lawyers are likely to take in the upcoming trial?
LUCAS: Well, Bowers and the other attorneys who parted ways with Trump were seen as measured, kind of even-keeled, very much straight shooters. There have been reports that Trump wants his legal team to push his baseless claims of election fraud during the trial. But congressional Republicans and some Trump advisers have actually focused their defense of Trump on the fact that he's out of office, which they say makes this all unconstitutional. Legal scholars are split on what the country's founders intended in the Constitution. Some say removal from office is the only purpose of impeachment. Others say it's only one of the purposes.
But ultimately, the decision on this is going to lie with senators. And arguing that it's unconstitutional provides a reason for Republicans to vote to acquit. And we've already seen 45 Republican senators vote last week that the trial is unconstitutional. That is a clear signal that the House managers will have a hard time getting enough Republican senators on board to vote to convict Trump.
CHANG: Indeed. That is NPR's Ryan Lucas.
Thank you, Ryan.
LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.