Dershowitz to defend Trump at impeachment to protect ‘integrity of constitution’
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Dershowitz to defend Trump at impeachment to protect ‘integrity of constitution’

Harvard law professor says he will present oral arguments during Senate trial; Whitewater investigator Ken Starr and ex-Florida AG Pam Bondi also part of the team

Attorney Alan Dershowitz leaves federal court in New York on December 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Attorney Alan Dershowitz leaves federal court in New York on December 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump’s legal team will include former Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr, the former independent counsel who led the Whitewater investigation into president Bill Clinton, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The team will also include Pam Bondi, the former Florida attorney general and a Trump ally.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the person wasn’t authorized to speak on the record.

Dershowitz confirmed his role in a series of tweets on Friday, saying he would “present oral arguments at the Senate trial to address the constitutional arguments against impeachment and removal.”

“While Professor Dershowitz is non-partisan when it comes to the constitution — he 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,” he said in another tweet.

“He is participating in this impeachment trial to defend the integrity of the Constitution and to prevent the creation of a dangerous constitutional precedent,” he said.

Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor and author, is a prominent defender of Israel and has consulted with Trump on his Israel policy. He has appeared on cable news as a defender of Trump during the recent impeachment crisis and is often touted by the president’s defenders as a liberal who is defending a conservative president on principle.

With past clients including convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, O.J. Simpson, film director Roman Polanski and Mike Tyson, Dershowitz is probably the best known lawyer to the stars in the United States.

President Donald Trump speaks to attorney Alan Dershowitz, right, as he arrives for Christmas Eve dinner at Mar-a-lago in Palm Beach, Fla., Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The additions give the president additional experience both in constitutional law and in the politics of impeachment. Starr’s investigation into Clinton’s relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky helped set in motion Clinton’s impeachment, the last such case before Congress.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump personal lawyer Jay Sekulow are expected to have the lead roles on the defense team. Other members include Jane Raskin, who was part of the president’s legal team during special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, and Robert Ray, who was also part of the Whitewater investigation.

Trump faces two charges after the House voted to impeach him last month. One, that he abused his presidential power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden, using military aid to the country as leverage. Trump is also charged with obstructing Congress’ ensuing probe.

The US Senate opened the trial on Thursday and senators were sworn in as jurors. The trial resumes Tuesday.

The trial, only the third such undertaking in American history, is unfolding at the start of the election year, a time of deep political division in the nation. Four of the senators sitting in judgment on Trump are running for the Democratic Party’s nomination to challenge him in the fall.

The president insists he did nothing wrong, and he dismissed the trial anew on Thursday at the White House: “It’s totally partisan. It’s a hoax.”

Eventual acquittal is expected in the Republican-controlled Senate. However, new revelations are mounting about Trump’s actions toward Ukraine.

The Government Accountability Office said Thursday that the White House violated federal law in withholding the security assistance to Ukraine, which shares a border with hostile Russia.

This undated image released by the House Judiciary Committee from documents provided by Lev Parnas to the committee in the impeachment probe against President Donald Trump, shows a photo of Lev Parnas with Trump in Florida. Parnas, a close associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani is claiming Trump was directly involved in the effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden. Trump on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, repeated denials that he is acquainted with Parnas, despite numerous photos that have emerged of the two men together. (House Judiciary Committee via AP)

At the same time, an indicted associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnas, has turned over to prosecutors new documents linking the president to the shadow foreign policy being run by Giuliani.

The developments applied fresh pressure to senators to call more witnesses for the trial, a main source of contention that is still to be resolved. The White House has instructed officials not to comply with subpoenas from Congress requesting witnesses or other information.

The Senate will issue a formal summons to the White House to appear, with the president’s legal team expected to respond by Saturday. Opening arguments will begin on Tuesday.

The president suggested recently that he would be open to a quick vote to simply dismiss the charges, but sufficient Republican support is lacking for that.

Instead, the president’s team expects a trial lasting no more than two weeks, according to senior administration officials. That would be far shorter than the trial of Clinton, in 1999, or the first one, of president Andrew Johnson, in 1868. Both were acquitted.

It would take a super-majority of senators, 67 of the 100, to convict the president. Republicans control the chamber, 53-47, but it takes just 51 votes during the trial to approve rules, call witnesses or dismiss the charges.

Former independent counsel Kenneth Starr signs a copy of his recent book “Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation” at the University of New Mexico School of Law in Albuquerque, N.M., Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Mary Hudetz).

Besides his 1990s role as an independent counsel, Starr is also a former US solicitor general and federal circuit court judge.

He was removed as president of Baylor University and then resigned as chancellor of the school in the wake of a review critical of the university’s handling of sexual assault allegations against football players. Starr said his resignation was the result of the university’s board of regents seeking to place the school under new leadership following the scandal, not because he was accused of hiding or failing to act on information.

Dershowitz, meanwhile, has been embroiled in the Jeffrey Epstein scandal. A woman who went public with claims she was a teenage victim of Epstein’s sex trafficking ring has said Epstein trafficked her to several prominent men, including Dershowitz.

She says she had sex with Dershowitz on several occasions— allegations Dershowitz has vehemently denied.

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