23/09/2020

White House counsel Pat Cipollone will lead the president’s defense

WASHINGTONPresident Trumps impeachment team in his Senate trial will include former Whitewater Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, constitutional-law professor Alan Dershowitz and former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a person familiar with the matter said Friday.The team, which will be led by White House counsel
Pat Cipollone,
will also include Jay Sekulow, a personal lawyer to the president, and Robert Ray, who succeeded Mr. Starr in the broad Whitewater inquiry, which led to the impeachment and acquittal of former President
Bill Clinton.
Mr. Dershowitzs role in the Senate trial will focus on the constitutional arguments against impeachment and against removing the president from office, the team said Friday.
While Professor Dershowitz is nonpartisan when it comes to the constitutionhe opposed the impeachment of President Bill Clinton and voted for
Hillary Clinton
he believes the issues at stake go to the heart of our enduring Constitution, the team said in a statement.
Ms. Bondi, who joined the White House in November as an adviser on impeachment, will also be part of the team, another person familiar with the matter said. She was a prosecutor and assistant state attorney before her election as Florida attorney general and frequently appeared on Fox News.
The Senate accepted the articles of impeachment against President Trump, marking the official start of the trial. Photo: Associated Press
The news of the appointments came a day after the Senate opened its impeachment trial, in which President Trump faces two charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Mr. Trumps team will be tasked with defending the president against the impeachment charges. Once the trial kicks off in earnest next week, each side is expected to have about 24 hours over two days to make their arguments, said people familiar with the planning of the Senate trial.
Democrats allege that Mr. Trump, a Republican, improperly pressed Kyiv to launch investigations that would help him politically in the 2020 election. Mr. Trump has denied wrongdoing. He is the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.
In his selections, Mr. Trump has picked lawyers who have defended him on television. The president often watches Messrs. Starr, Ray and Dershowitz on cable networks and tweets their quotes.
Mr. Starr, a frequent Fox News contributor, has often appeared favorable to the presidents case on impeachment. Last month, he told Fox News that he believed impeachment was absolutely an effort to overthrow the president. However, he also chided Mr. Trump over a tweet in which he criticized former Ambassador to Ukraine
Marie Yovanovitch,
a witness in the House impeachment probe, while she was testifying on Capitol Hill.
Obviously this was quite injurious, he said on Fox News. I dont think it rises to the level of intimidation of a witness, but I think thats the way it will be characterized.
Mr. Dershowitz is one of the most high-profile defense attorneys in the country. In the 1980s, Mr. Dershowitz successfully defended Claus von Bülow, erasing his convictions for attempted murder of his wife, Sunny. In the mid-1990s, he worked on O.J. Simpsons murder defense. He was the youngest full professor in the history of Harvard Law School and has written more than 40 books. Mr. Dershowitz and Mr. Starr worked on the 2007 team representing financier
Jeffrey Epstein,
and helped hammer out a controversial nonprosecution agreement between him and federal authorities.
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Mr. Dershowitz faces a defamation suit filed against him in April by a woman who says she was a victim of financier Mr. Epstein and was forced to have sex with his friends, including Mr. Dershowitz. Mr. Dershowitz has countersued for defamation and infliction of emotional distress, saying her accusations were fabricated and baseless.
After serving as independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation, Mr. Starr returned to private practice, working on campaign-finance and death-penalty cases among others. He was later named president of Baylor University. In 2016, he was forced out as president amid allegations he turned a blind eye to accusations of sexual assaults by football players. Mr. Starr said at the time that he was profoundly sorry to victims who werent treated with proper care and concern.
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Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com and Michael C. Bender at Mike.Bender@wsj.com
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