Meet the legal team defending Trump in his impeachment trial

Washington — Former President Donald Trump is standing trial in the Senate for the second time, with this week’s proceedings stemming from his conduct in the run-up to and wake of the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.

Unlike his first impeachment trial, during which he had an army of lawyers defending him before the Senate, Mr. Trump’s legal team for the historic proceedings is much smaller and was thrown together in haste days before the trial kicked off.

Representing the former president in last year’s trial, which ended with his acquittal by the Senate, was a cadre of well-known attorneys that included White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Jay Sekulow, Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz, former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and former independent counsel Ken Starr, among others.

But for his second trial, which began Tuesday, the former president is relying on a trio of lawyers: Bruce Castor, David Schoen and Michael van der Veen, all of whom have done criminal defense work. Mr. Trump initially hired South Carolina attorney Butch Bowers and Deborah Barbier to defend him in the Senate, but the parties split two weeks before the start of proceedings. 

Already, the former president’s lawyers have received lackluster reviews from Senate Republicans, though most of them voted not to proceed with the trial, believing it to be unconstitutional because Mr. Trump is no longer in office. Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana called Mr. Trump’s team “disorganized,” while Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John Cornyn of Texas said Castor took too long to address the question of the trial’s constitutionality.

Here are the lawyers tasked with defending Mr. Trump against the charge of “incitement of insurrection” in the Senate. 

Bruce Castor

Impeachment trial of former U.S. President Trump begins in Washington
Attorney Bruce Castor addresses the U.S. Senate as it begins the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, on February 9, 2021. 

U.S. Senate TV/Handout via Reuters

Castor is the former district attorney of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, serving from 2000 to 2008. He also served as the Pennsylvania solicitor general and briefly as the state’s acting attorney general in 2016. He was also elected twice as a Montgomery County commissioner.

Castor graduated from Washington and Lee University School of Law. He is well known for declining to prosecute comedian Bill Cosby in 2005 after Temple University employee Andrea Constand accused Cosby of sexually assaulting her in his home. Castor testified as a witness for the defense during a pre-trial hearing to Cosby’s trial in 2016.

The first member of Mr. Trump’s legal team to address senators, he raised eyebrows with his meandering and at times confusing presentation that seldom touched on the issue of whether the Senate had the authority to try a former president.

David Schoen

Second Impeachment Trial Of Donald Trump Begins In Senate
David Schoen, defense attorney for former President Donald Trump, speaks in the Senate Chamber on Tuesday, February 9, 2021.

Senate TV/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Schoen is a civil rights lawyer from Alabama who has tried cases in several federal courts of appeals, the Texas Court of Appeals and the Alabama Supreme Court, according to his biography on his law firm’s website. He also has represented parties before the U.S. Supreme Court.

A graduate of Boston College Law School, he clerked for the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama and opened his practice, the Law Office of David I. Schoen, after completing his clerkship. 

The American Bar Association honored Schoen with an award for his pro bono work in 1995.

In addition to his civil rights work, Schoen has done criminal defense work, litigating cases involving capital murder, rape, robbery and drug crimes, according to his website. He defended alleged mobsters, an accused member of the Latin Kings and alleged drug traffickers. He also was involved in a class-action lawsuit that challenged Alabama’s foster-care system and actions involving the state’s ballot access laws.

Schoen, an Orthodox Jew, initially requested the impeachment trial break after sundown Friday and all day Saturday to observe the Sabbath. Senate leaders were prepared to honor the request, but it was dropped before a resolution detailing the parameters of the proceedings was taken up and passed by the Senate. As a result, the Senate is expected to work until a verdict is delivered.

Castor and Schoen’s presentations did not please their client — two sources familiar with Mr. Trump’s reaction to Tuesday’s Senate proceedings told CBS News that he was angry about his attorneys’ performances. 

Michael van der Veen

Van der Veen’s name first appeared on a trial memorandum submitted by Mr. Trump’s lawyers Monday. He is the founder of the Pennsylvania law firm where Castor works.

A graduate of Quinnipiac School of Law, he is involved in civil litigation and criminal defense, and has represented clients accused of murder.

While van der Veen is involved in Mr. Trump’s defense, he sued the former president and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in August on behalf of a congressional candidate over operational changes made to the Postal Service that resulted in mail delivery delays, which he said would “deprive Pennsylvania voters of the fundamental right to vote and have that vote counted.”

In the complaint filed with a federal court in Pennsylvania, van der Veen raises the “repeated claims by President Donald J. Trump that voting by mail is ripe with fraud, despite having no evidence in support of these claims.”

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