The US Senate is set to formally begin its second impeachment trial of Donald Trump next week on charges that he helped incite a riot at the Capitol on 6 January. The formal article of impeachment is a charge of incitement of insurrection that the US House approved, with support from 10 Republicans, earlier this month.
Trump is the first US president to face an impeachment trial after leaving office and the votes of 67 senators are needed for a guilty verdict and conviction. Trump abruptly hired a new legal team on Sunday, less than two weeks before his impeachment trial was set to begin. He parted ways with Butch Bowers, a well-known South Carolina lawyer who was set to lead his defense. There are reports the breakup was over strategy and legal fees. Trump’s new lawyers have filed a flimsy 14-page brief arguing Trump cannot be impeached because he has already left office and was not responsible for inciting violence at the Capitol. Trump told supporters they needed to “fight like hell” before the riot.
The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has tapped nine Democrats to be House impeachment managers and essentially serve as prosecutors against Trump. Here’s a look at some of the major players in the trial.
David Schoen The Georgia-based attorney is no stranger to controversy. He briefly represented Roger Stone, Trump’s longtime ally, during an appeal of Stone’s criminal conviction last year. He told the Atlanta Jewish Times that Stone, who was eventually, pardoned by Trump was “was very bright, full of personality and flair” and that the case against him was “very unfair and politicized”. During the same interview, he touted his work defending unsavory clients.
“I represented all sorts of reputed mobster figures: alleged head of Russian mafia in this country, Israeli mafia and two Italian bosses, as well a guy the government claimed was the biggest mafioso in the world,” he said.
In 2019, Schoen met with Jeffrey Epstein in jail after Epstein was arrested on sex trafficking charges. After Epstein died by suicide, he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he planned to get into the case to fight and win. In the interview with the Atlanta Jewish Times, he embraced a conspiracy theory, saying he believed Epstein was murdered.
Schoen told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he considers himself primarily a civil rights lawyer.
Bruce Castor A former prosecutor in Pennsylvania, Castor is best known for declining to bring sexual assault charges against Bill Cosby when Andrea Constand, a Temple University employee, accused him of drugging and raping her in 2005. Castor has said he did not believe he could win the case and secured an agreement from Cosby not to plead the fifth amendment in a civil case. Dozens of women would come forward to say Cosby sexually assaulted them and in 2018, Cosby was convicted on three counts of sexually assaulting Constand.
Castor, who briefly became Pennsylvania’s acting attorney general during a 2016 scandal, has a flair for the spotlight, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. In 2015, when reporters came to his home amid scrutiny of the Cosby case, he threatened them. And in 2008, he made it known that he hung the certificate marking his position as Montgomery county commissioner above his toilet, according to the Inquirer, symbolizing his feelings about the local government.
Castor’s cousin is Stephen Castor, who questioned witnesses on behalf of House Republicans during Trump’s first impeachment. Stephen Castor reportedly recommended his cousin for the job to Trump, according to the New York Times.
Senate party leaders
Mitch McConnell The cunning House minority leader, McConnell won’t be making a case for or against Trump during the trial, but will remain one of the most powerful Republicans. In a significant move, McConnell has left the door open towards voting for impeaching Trump, which could encourage other Republicans following along. Even if they do get McConnell’s vote, Democrats would still need to get at least 16 other senators to vote for impeachment – a high bar.
Chuck Schumer The newly elected Senate majority leader, Schumer will be responsible for keeping his caucus aligned and trying to win over Republican support, all while helping to maintain messaging during the trial. Schumer has been outspoken about the need to impeach Trump.
House impeachment managers
Jamie Raskin The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, tapped Raskin, a Maryland congressman first elected in 2016, to be the lead House impeachment manager to make the case for convicting Trump. A longtime constitutional law professor at American University, Raskin has been unsparing in his criticism of the role Trump played in inciting the 6 January riot. He reportedly began drafting the article of impeachment against the president hours after the attack.
Raskin is taking on the role at a time when his family is in mourning – his 25-year-old son Tommy died by suicide on New Year’s Eve. Raskin has pointed to his son as one of the reasons why he chose to take on leading the impeachment effort. “I’ve devoted my life to the constitution and to the republic. I’m a professor of constitutional law, but I did it really with my son in my heart, and helping lead the way. I feel him in my chest,” he told the Guardian.
Diana DeGette DeGette has represented Denver and some of its suburbs since 1997. A former civil rights and employment law attorney, has called Trump “one of the greatest threats to the future of our Democracy”.
David Cicilline A Democrat on the House judiciary committee, Cicilline has represented Rhode Island in Congress for the last decade, and before that served as the first openly gay mayor of Providence. A former public defender, Cicilline signed on to the article of impeachment days after the 6 January riot.
Joaquín Castro The Texas congressman from San Antonio has been in Congress since 2013 and serves on the intelligence and foreign affairs committees. He is also the twin brother of Julián Castro, the former HUD secretary and presidential candidate. In an interview on ABC’s This Week earlier this month, Castro defended impeaching Trump after he left office, saying impeachment was in part about making sure Trump could never run for office again. If Trump is convicted, senators can take another vote on whether to bar him from holding public office again.
Ted Lieu A four-term congressman representing the Los Angeles area, Lieu reportedly helped organize the impeachment effort while the Capitol was still under attack. Hiding in an office, Lieu sent text messages to every member on the House judiciary committee, saying it should immediately begin drafting articles of impeachment, with or without the blessing of House leadership, according to the Los Angeles Times. Lieu, an immigrant from Taiwan and an air force veteran who frequently needled Trump on Twitter, told the New York Times that on the day of the attack he was unbothered over whether or not top Democrats would support his effort. “I was just super pissed off,” he said.
Stacey Plaskett A delegate representing the US Virgin Islands, Plaskett was picked by Pelosi to serve as an impeachment manager after passing her over for Trump’s first trial. A former prosecutor in the Bronx and litigator at the justice department, Plaskett said in 2019 being picked to be an impeachment manager would be symbolic to her constituents, who do not get to cast votes for president (as a delegate, Plaskett also does not get to vote on House legislation), according to BuzzFeed. Plaskett also told Pelosi in 2019 it would be symbolic to pick a Black woman to serve as an impeachment manager. “I understand the importance of being a House manager and know that there will be quite a few young ladies and women for that fact of color who will be looking to me as I take on the position of House manager,” she wrote to Pelosi, according to BuzzFeed.
Eric Swalwell A former prosecutor and outspoken critic of Trump, Swalwell has represented his Bay Area California district for almost a decade. A member of the House judiciary committee, he worked on the first Trump impeachment and briefly ran for president but ended his campaign in July 2019.
Madeleine Dean First elected in the 2018 Democratic wave, Dean represents a district that includes the Philadelphia suburbs and sits on the House judiciary committee. A lawyer, she reportedly requested to serve on the committee to apply her legal skills. “The first impeachment was serious and grievous and amounted to high crimes and misdemeanors against our country, but this one is so much worse,” she told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Joe Neguse A second-term congressman from Colorado, Neguse is the son of Eritrean refugees who ran for Congress in response to Trump’s immigration policies, according to the Washington Post. The 36-year-old will be the youngest lawmaker to ever serve as an impeachment manager, according to the Post.