‘This guy’s career is going to disappear’: Trump’s lawyers turn on each other

Team had disagreements over strategy, who would speak when, and one reportedly threatened to quit

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Tuesday 16 February 2021 23:53
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They might’ve eked out a win, but there was reportedly chaos behind the scenes between former president Donald Trump’s impeachment lawyers, who are starting to turn on each other now that the trial is over.

David Schoen told Jewish Insider on Tuesday that he was only approached a few weeks before the trial began, and despite being told to “quarterback the whole thing” as lead counsel, other attorneys on the team like Bruce Castor tried to grab the spotlight, such as a “spur of the moment decision” for Mr Castor to deliver the opening remarks.

“[Castor] seemed to think he was the best lawyer on the team, or something. So he stood up and said, ‘I think I better jump in here,’” Mr Schoen said. “He jumped in and obviously it was like a filibuster. It was not a good presentation.”

Trump allies panned Mr Castor’s opening remarks, and Mr Trump himself was reportedly “screaming at the TV” he was so dissatisfied.

“I tried to back Castor up because everybody was coming down on him after that first performance. I thought, ‘This guy’s career is going to disappear,’” Mr Schoen added. “But he didn’t… He still thought he did a good job.”

The law firm van der Veen, O’Neill, Hartshorn, and Levin, where impeachment layers Michael van der Veen and Bruce Castor work, did not respond to a request for comment from The Independent.

Mr Schoen also told Jewish Insider that coordination between the fellow lawyers and the president was lacking.

“The president had this other idea that he wanted me to speak more. He said, ‘I’ve made you the lead person. Why is it that you’re only doing that one part?’” Mr Schoen said.

But his fellow attorneys reportedly weren’t hearing it.

“I didn’t tell them — I sort of did, I thought, but anyway they weren’t hearing it that I was supposed to be the lead person — but it’s just not my personality,” Mr Schoen said. “They have a whole firm there. I’m just not going to say to another person I’m a better lawyer.”

As a result, Mr Schoen believes the piecemeal legal defence contributed to the surprising total of seven Republicans who voted to convict their own party member, the most bipartisan impeachment in history.

As Mr Trump tried tinkering with the legal team just days before the impeachment trial, The New York Times reported that Mr Schoen threatened to quit the legal team entirely, which he denies, over disagreements about how to lay out their case.

Attorney drama is nothing new for the former president. In 2018, John Dowd, the attorney representing Mr Trump in the Russia investigation, reportedly quit because his famously mercurial client wouldn’t listen to his counsel.

The lawyers who represented Mr Trump in his first impeachment reportedly refused to defend him a second time, and five of those who initially agreed to represent him the second time left with little over a week before the trial.

During the trial, Michael van der Veen, another of the president’s lawyers, complained that the process was his “worst experience in Washington.”

The former president will need a coherent legal team to survive the next few years, as officials in multiple states, as well as individual members of Congress, are pursuing fraud, incitement, election-tampering, and tax investigations  and lawsuits against Mr Trump, who will no longer enjoy the legal safeguards and resources of the presidency. 

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