President Donald Trump‘s impeachment trial defense team was announced late Friday morning. Chief among the familiar cast of characters are Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz, attorneys who famously served as defense attorneys for since-deceased pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Both men are, of course, seasoned, elite attorneys and prolific media personalities. Dershowitz is a best-selling author and Harvard professor; Starr is a Fox News contributor.
The scandalous aspects of these choices don’t quite end there. Starr was hounded out of his former job at Baylor University after it was revealed that he covered up a series of rapes committed by star football players. Dershowitz himself has been accused of raping underage girls alongside his late friend and client while on Epstein’s private island—and was a documented passenger on the Lolita Express. Dershowitz has repeatedly denied the allegations, saying that the accusations were part of a money-grab or extortion plot.
Reaction to the selections was largely of a piece:
this is definitely an “are you fucking kidding me?” kinda day.
— Monica Lewinsky (@MonicaLewinsky) January 17, 2020
“I’m jaded,” noted Daily Beast Editor-in-Chief Noah Shachtman. “I’m cynical. But I can’t believe, of all the attorneys out there, Trump brought in Jeffrey Epstein’s lawyers for this. (Remember, Starr worked for Epstein, too.)“
In fact, there was scorn and ridicule aplenty:
yeah i know man, jerry nadler wasn't even on epstein's plane, clearly the dems aren't taking this serious! https://t.co/T2zGZlbiLz
— jordan (@JordanUhl) January 17, 2020
Since everyone knows the outcome of the trial already, why *not* turn it into a circus complete with a clown car like this?
These people weren't selected because of their big legal brains; they were picked because they'll turn the whole thing into a Fox & Friends show. https://t.co/spMnCbLaBr
— Ari Kohen (@kohenari) January 17, 2020
Of all the lawyers in the country, Trump chose Ken Starr — who was fired from Baylor University over a rape scandal — and Alan Dershowitz — who helped pedophile rapist Jeffrey Epstein stay out of prison.
That's the message Trump wants to send for his impeachment?
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) January 17, 2020
CNN legal analyst Elie Honig said the choices evidenced the White House’s desire to go to “war” over impeachment in the Senate.
“It tells me they’re bracing for war,” Honig said. “This is a really serious team. And one thing where they have a lot of experience is in criminal [law]. Both prosecution and defense work. I mean, there’s decades worth of criminal experience here.”
Honig later cautioned that Starr’s selection was likely to also give Democrats ample ammunition viz. witnesses and evidence:
Trump has added Ken Starr to his defense team.
Now House Managers can point across the well and say: “There’s the same guy who interviewed @MonicaLewinsky’s ex-boyfriends, WH window washers and Kathleen Willey’s dentist. Now he doesn’t want us to hear from Bolton and Mulvaney.”
— Elie Honig (@eliehonig) January 17, 2020
National security attorney Bradley P. Moss was none too wowed:
Alan Dershowitz has been making a full throated defense of the president’s constitutional authority to do what he did for months now on cable news. The only difference here is he will now be doing it from the floor of the Senate. The substantive validity of his arguments will remain dubious.
As for the Starr selection, Moss predicted he’d be used for “scholarly heft only. He’s not going to be a facts guy.”
Former New Jersey prosecutor and current Law&Crime Network host Bob Bianchi was not surprised by the president’s choices.
“I don’t see anything unusual about this pick. Mr. Dershowitz has been a vocal critique of the proceedings against the President and has demonstrated he is willing to take the fight to his critics,” Bianchi told Law&Crime in an email. “And, he certainly has the legal credentials to be part of the team.”
“I also think that it is a smart move as Mr. Dershowitz is a media savvy attorney, knows the issues at hand, and can position the President well in the court of public opinion which is highly relevant in any impeachment proceeding,” Bianchi added.
Bianchi also said the Starr choice was particularly noteworthy:
Ken Starr is also another obvious choice to me. Although the investigation of President Clinton (which Mr. Starr led) occurred under substantially different rules, he was nevertheless the person in charge of a very unique investigation of a president. This Experience would be very helpful to President Trump.
Starr actually “walked the walk” as to impeachment proceedings, and as such, he has practical knowledge of the tactics of impeachment.
UPDATE: Dershowitz told Law&Crime founder Dan Abrams that he was not a “full fledged” member of Trump’s impeachment defense team.
“I think it overstates it to say I’m a member of the Trump team,” Dershowitz said. “I was asked to present the constitutional argument that I would have presented had Hillary Clinton been elected and had she been impeached.”
[image via Mark Wilson/Getty Images]