Donald Trump’s impeachment trial could last a mere three days once the Senate begins the proceedings as the former president struggles to find lawyers to represent him.
Trump spent his first afternoon out of office at his Mar-a-Lago residence on the phone with allies.
He had two queries: asking if GOP senators will vote to bar him from ever running for office again, two people with knowledge of the calls told The Daily Beast. He also asked what lawyers should represent him in trial.
The former president is having trouble finding a legal team to represent him. Members of his first impeachment legal team, including Jay Sekulow and former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, aren’t interested.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally, is one of the people who spoke to the former president on Wednesday and confirmed the former president’s troubles.
‘[Trump] said, ‘I really don’t know the lay of the land here,’ and he’s looking for some lawyers,’ Graham told Punchbowl News. ‘I’m trying to help him there, and he’s just trying to put together a team.’
Former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate could last a mere three days once it gets started – the start date remains unclear
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (left) said he spoke to Trump and the former president was struggling to find a legal team to defend him
Other lawyers who have defended Trump in the past – including former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, Eric Herschmann, Pat Philbin and Marc Kasowitz – aren’t interested, Bloomberg Law reported.
It’s also unclear what role Rudy Giuliani, the president’s private attorney, would play.
Giuliani first told ABC News he would defend the president but other reports indicated Trump wasn’t sure he wanted the former New York City mayor on his team.
The following day he told the same outlet that he could not be involved because he was a ‘witness,’ having spoken at the Ellipse rally where he said: ‘Let’s have trial by combat.’
The only name which has been seriously floated so far is that of John Eastman, who spoke beside Giuliani at the same rally and who came up with the idea that Mike Pence could unilaterally reject states’ slates of electors – which the vice president refused to do.
Trump has called him a ‘respected constitutional scholar’ but Eastman has lost his job at the private Chapman University in California over speaking at the rally.
He was also the lawyer behind the ‘birther’ idea that Kamala Harris was not a ‘natural-born citizen’ because her parents were not citizens when she was born in California.
The claim was ridiculed by experts and criticized as racist.
Alan Dershowitz, who defended Trump at his first trial, has also ruled himself out, saying he would defend the president in ‘the court of public opinion.’
It’s unclear what role Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani would play, with the former New York mayor saying first that he would represent Trump, then that having spoken at the Ellipse rally before the MAGA riot, he could not because he was a witness. The only name floated as a defender is John Eastman (left) who also spoke at the rally. It cost him his job as a tenured law professor at Chapman University in California
Members of Trump’s first impeachment legal team, including attorney Jay Sekulow, center, his son, Jordan Sekulow, left, and then White House Counsel Pat Cipollone have all indicated they are not interested in representing Trump again
White House press secretary Jen Psaki down played concerns Trump’s trail would overshadow President Biden’s first weeks in office
WHERE THE GOP SENATORS STAND
To get a two-thirds majority of every voting senator Democrats need at least 17 Republicans, assuming all Democrats vote to convict. None of the 50-member GOP caucus has said they will vote to convict. Here are some of those in play.
COULD VOTE TO CONVICT
Mitt Romney (Utah)
Voted to convict before and slammed Trump’s actions after riot
Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)
Said Trump should quit over the riot. Already survived a primary defeat
Mitch McConnell (Kentucky)
Publicly OKed his caucus voting guilty and says he is genuinely undecided
Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania)
Not running again and already condemned Trump’s conduct
Richard Burr (North Carolina)
Not running and said Trump ‘bears responsibility’
Ben Sasse (Nebraska)
Targeted before by Trump, slammed GOP leaders for violence already
Susan Collins (Maine)
Moderate who said when she acquitted first time Trump had ‘learned a lesson’
John Thune (South Dakota)
Number two in the Senate caucus, already target of Trump demand for a primary
Roy Blunt (Missouri)
Called riot ‘darkest stain’ and ‘unpardonable.’ State GOP establishment is furious at Josh Hawley
Richard Shelby (Alabama)
At 86 considered unlikely to run again. Called riot ‘dark day’
Rob Portman (Ohio)
Called attack ‘assault on democracy.’ Up in 2022, never a Trump loyalist
James Inhofe (Oklahoma)
Apologized to black voters for planning to overturn election
Chuck Grassley (Iowa)
Oldest GOP senator at 87 and unclear if he plans to run again
Kevin Cramer (North Dakota)
Said Trump voters ‘want my head off’ for not overturning election
Mike Lee (Utah)
Legal conservative, represents state where Trump wasn’t personally popular
Thom Tillis (North Carolina)
Not up for election until 2026 in purple state
Marco Rubio (Florida)
Up in 2022 and could face Ivanka; convicting her father might help
Mike Braun (Indiana)
Friend of Mike Pence, could be moved by calls for him to ‘hang’
LEANING TO NO
John Cornyn (Texas)
Not personally loyal to Trump but also called trial ‘bad idea’
Joni Ernst (Iowa)
Says she doubts trial is constitutional but will listen to arguments
Tom Cotton (Arkansas)
Called trial unconstitutional
Lindsey Graham (South Carolina)
Says impeaching will destroy GOP
Trump will face trial on the charges of ‘incitement of insurrection’ for his role in the January 6th riot on Capitol Hill, where his MAGA supporters stormed the Capitol building, interrupting the certification of the election.
Lawmakers have privately discussed a three-day impeachment trial, Politico’s Playbook reported, which would be a record for any such matter.
Some consider the case open-and-shut given Trump’s actions on the day of riot. In comparison, the president’s first impeachment trial was a web to untangle regarding his call to the Ukrainian president and the legalities there.
At a rally the morning of riot, Trump told his supporters to march on the Capitol – a speech that resulted in many Republicans blaming him for the subsequent mob.
But a speedy trial also has its benefits.
Republicans don’t believe there are 16 votes to convict the president – the number of senators needed to join Democrats. And many are ready to move on from their former president.
‘Some people are for censure, some are for [convicting Trump], some say it’s unconstitutional. People are all over the place,’ a Republican senator told Punchbowl.
Notably, unlike Trump’s last impeachment trial, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is telling senators to vote their conscience – a dramatic difference from last year when McConnell actively worked to acquit Trump when he was impeached the first time.
An alternative would be for senators to vote to disqualify Trump from holding future office. The Senate could apply that punishment by a simple majority vote, but only if two-thirds of senators first found Trump guilty. It’s an option that could appeal to many Republican senators since it would prevent Trump from running for president again in 2024.
A short trial would also allow the Senate, now controlled by Democrats, to focus on President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda and confirming his Cabinet nominees.
Biden’s ambitious legislative plans include a $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan and reforming immigration.
The White House is downplaying any questions about concerns Trump’s trial could overshadow their first weeks in office.
‘We are confident that … the Senate … can do their constitutional duty while continuing to conduct the business of the American people,’ White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at her first briefing.
‘He’s going to leave the mechanics, the timing and the specifics of how Congress moves forward on impeachment to them,’ she noted.
But there has been no decision on when to start the trial. Speaker Nancy Pelosi still has to send the article of impeachment to the Senate – a technical matter but the upper chamber cannot begin the process without it.
Senator Dick Dubin, a member of the Democratic leadership, told reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday morning it’s unclear when they’ll receive the article and what form the trial will take.
‘It’s still unresolved as to when she’s sending it over. It could be today, unlikely. Could be tomorrow. And then what we’re going to do with it, is whether or not it’s going to be a full blown trial with evidence and witnesses. Or quote expedited whatever that means that final decision isn’t even closed,’ he said.
There’s also the issue of whether Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will preside over the trial.
The Constitution states that ‘When the President of the United States is tried the Chief Justice shall preside.’
But Trump is a former president, which could give Roberts a way out of presiding.
That would put Vice President Kamala Harris as next in line to preside over the trial, in her constitutional role as the Senate’s presiding officer.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer seems unlikely to ask Harris to do it.
It is up to the Senate to set the rules of the trial and if the two party leaders, Schumer and McConnell, want to see Roberts preside, it is difficult to see how he would not, short of formally turning down their request.
Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who serves as president pro temp, is another potential candidate.
Schumer and McConnell are in talks about a possible power-sharing deal governing daily Senate operations, similar to one struck two decades ago.