Former President Donald Trump is still working to assemble a full legal team for his Senate impeachment trial, people familiar with the matter told CNN on Monday, even as he has begun to craft a defense strategy with Butch Bowers, the South Carolina lawyer who has agreed to represent him in the historic proceedings.
Bowers – a respected lawyer from Columbia, South Carolina, who once worked in the Justice Department under President George W. Bush – has been in conversation with Trump in recent days, according to two people familiar with the matter. Bowers was connected to Trump by Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who is also helping to add new lawyers to the team.
Charlie Condon, a former South Carolina attorney general who now works in private practice in Charleston, has been approached about joining the legal team, two people familiar with the matter said. In a brief statement to CNN on Monday evening, Condon wrote: “I am not representing former President Trump. Thanks.”
A spokesman for the former President declined to comment on any additions to Trump’s legal team.
But with just two weeks before the substance of the trial is set to get underway, Trump is still struggling to find other lawyers to join his team, people familiar with the matter said. Some law firms have raised questions about whether they would be paid and other layers have expressed a reluctance to associate themselves with the deadly insurrection of the US Capitol on January 6, the people said.
News of Trump’s struggles to secure counsel comes the same day that House impeachment managers formally triggered the start of the former President’s second impeachment trial. They walked across the Capitol on Monday evening and read on the Senate floor the charge against him, the first president in history to be impeached twice.
The contours of Trump’s Senate trial are starting to take shape as the ceremonial elements get underway, with the Senate’s longest-serving Democrat expected to preside over the trial and Democrats still weighing whether to pursue witnesses during proceedings that could take up a chunk of February.
Asked if he thinks Trump’s defense team will want to call witnesses, Graham, a close ally of Trump, said he did not know, adding, “I can’t imagine who you’d call” and noting that the House did not have anyone testify in their impeachment proceedings.
The South Carolina Republican argued for dismissing the trial based on a “constitutional lack of jurisdiction.”
Graham said he talked to Trump on Sunday, while the former President was golfing in Florida.
Asked about Trump’s mindset and preparations ahead of his second impeachment trial, Graham said, “Well, I think he’d like to get it over with.” He said he “wouldn’t think” Trump would come back from Florida for the proceedings, again emphasizing the desire for a quick trial.
The exact time frame of the trial itself, which will begin the week of February 8, is also unknown, but multiple impeachment managers have said they don’t think it will go as long as the 21 days of Trump’s trial in 2020. The expectation is still, however, that it will take up much of February and wrap up by month’s end, if not sooner.
The second impeachment is also expected to differ from the first in another key way. Chief Justice John Roberts will not be presiding, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
Instead, Vermont Democraict Sen. Patrick Leahy, the president pro tempore of the Senate, is expected to preside, the sources said. The Constitution says the chief justice presides when the person facing trial is the current president of the United States, but senators preside in other cases, one source said.
CNN’s Caroline Kelly and Jeremy Herb contributed to this report.