Former President Donald Trump has hired a lawyer, South Carolina attorney Butch Bowers, to defend him at his Senate impeachment trial, which could start as early as next week.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a Trump loyalist, told fellow GOP senators on Thursday that Bowers had agreed to represent Trump in the case, where the former president is accused of inciting the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S Capitol, according to the D.C. newsletter Punchbowl.
The New York Times soon after confirmed that report, and note that Trump’s other lawyers “had all bowed out” of representing him in what will be his second impeachment trial.
Bowers has a track record of representing Republicans facing potential sanctions from legislative bodies, having defenend former South Carolina governors Mark Sanford and Nikki Haley in past cases.
Bowers also served under President George W. Bush as special counsel for voting Matters in the U.S. Department of Justice.
Bowers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
News of his involvement in the impeachment case came hours after NBC News reported that Trump had not lined up a legal team for the trial despite having been impeached last week by the House of Representatives.
NBC also reported that Trump has has no clear legal strategy for the trial.
Democratic senators, and likely a number of Republican ones, hope to convict Trump and then vote to bar him from becoming president ever again.
The failure to prepare for the trial is consistent with Trump’s behavior this month, where he did little actual work related to the presidency.
Trump currently is staying at his Mar-a-Lago resort in South Florida, where he traveled Wednesday after refusing to attend the inauguration of Joe Biden as president.
Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, said Sunday that he will not represent him at the trial because he gave a speech at the same rally where Trump spoke just before the riot.
Giuliani had called for “trial by combat” at that rally, encouraging Trump supporters to pressure Congress to reverse Biden’s electoral victory.
The former New York City mayor and federal prosecutor told ABC News he was a “witness,” which precluded him from acting as Trump’s defender in the trial.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Thursday told reporters that she will be coordinating with Senate impeachment managers over the next few days.
“We had to wait for the Senate to be in session,” Pelosi said, explaining why she didn’t immediately send the article to the upper chamber after the House impeached Trump.
“They’ve now informed us they’re ready to receive [the article of impeachment],” Pelosi said of the Senate. “There are other questions about how a trial will proceed, but we are ready.”
She added, “The whole world bore witness to the president’s incitement.”
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told an NBC reporter earlier Thursday that it is also not clear whether the trial will be “a full-blown trial with evidence and witnesses,” or a quicker one without either of those.
Durbin noted that calling witnesses may not be necessary because “in addition to being jurists we are eyewitnesses to this crime.”
“You know, it isn’t like, oh, did somebody come into the Capitol,” Durbin said. “We know the Capitol policeman was killed, and we saw the damage that was done.”
“In that respect, it isn’t like what in the hell was going on in that telephone conversation with the Ukrainian president?” said Durbin, referring to Trump’s first Senate trial.
Trump was acquitted in his first impeachment trial, despite the fact that he had pressured Ukraine’s leader to investigate the Biden family at the same time he was withholding military aid from the country.
Democrats had blasted Republicans at the first trial for refusing to allow witnesses.
Durbin added, “we’ve seen the videos” of the riot, many of which were posted online by Trump supporters who were part of the mob.
When asked whether Trump’s then-reported lack of lawyers for the trial could delay the proceeding, Durbin said, “Well I suppose you can ask for a continuance, but it’s going to be hard to argue.”
“He knows what happened in the House with impeachment,” Durbin said.
Spokespeople for Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment from CNBC. Giuliani did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The riot at the Capitol began soon after Trump addressed supporters at a rally outside the White House, on the same day a joint session of Congress was being held to confirm the results of Biden’s election.
Trump, his adult sons, Giuliani and other speakers reiterated claims that Trump had actually won the election, and that Biden’s victory was based on widespread ballot fraud. There has been no evidence to support those claims.
Trump urged the crowd to march on the Capitol and pressure Republican lawmakers to stop the confirmation of Biden’s Electoral College victory in several swing states.
Trump by name called on then-Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to accept the results, even though Pence had no constitutional authority to do so.
“You’ll never take back our country with weakness,” Trump told his supporters during the speech, where he lied by saying he would march with them to the Capitol.
“You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.”
Thousands of his supporters then walked to the Capitol where they surrounded and then broke into the complex, smashing windows, beating and brushing by police, and roaming through the halls.
Five people died as a result of the riot, including a Capitol Police officer who was attacked by Trump supporters, and a woman who was fatally shot by police as she tried to crawl through a window in the Speaker’s Lobby near the House chamber.
Senators and House members fled to hide in secure locations as some members of the mob went into congressional offices, stealing items and searching for lawmakers.
Trump failed to immediately send reinforcements to the Capitol as the siege unfolded. Instead, he watched the chaos on TV, according to The Washington Post.
If the Senate convicts him, which requires a two-thirds majority vote, he faces the prospect of being banned from ever being president again.
The Senate can, by a simple majority, vote to bar a person from ever holding federal office if they are convicted in an impeachment trial.
The chamber is split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, but Vice President Kamala Harris has a tiebreaker vote that gives Democrats narrow majority control of the Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Tuesday said Trump was to blame for inciting the assault on the Capitol.
“The mob was fed lies,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.”
McConnell and other Republicans have refused to say how they will vote at the trial.
Lawmakers are pushing for a comprehensive investigation into the Capitol riot. On Thursday, House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., asked FBI Director Christopher Wray to look into the role that social media site Parler played in the attack.
Maloney asked the agency to examine Parler as “a potential facilitator of planning and incitement” and as a source of evidence related to the attacks.
Parler went offline after Google and Apple booted it from their app stores, and Amazon Web Services shut off the cloud service that supported its website.