A personal-injury lawyer, former prosecutor and defense attorney walk into a bar. Actually, it was a hotel conference room. But not long after they did, the shouting begins as Bruce Castor, whose rambling, listless presentation to the Senate the previous day in Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial was widely mocked, was told he was banned from television by his client. Castor, the Pennsylvania district attorney who ignored the claims of a Bill Cosby rape accuser, was so incensed at the demotion he stormed out of the room.
That’s just one of the details reported by The New York Times about the behind the scenes drama of Trump’s latest, hastily assembled legal team that presented the former president’s defense against the article of impeachment for inciting the deadly Jan. 6 insurrectionist riot on Capitol Hill. Interviews with numerous players familiar with the group’s inner workings describe a dynamic of clashing egos fueled unfamiliarity and distrust.
Just 10 days before the Senate trial Trump’s original group of lawyers quit en masse, reportedly refusing to argue – under oath – in front of the 100 Senators that were Trump’s jury that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen from the sitting president.
That’s when Trump recruited Castor and defense attorney David Schoen. Castor later added Philadelphia PI lawyer Michael van der Veen to the anti-impeachment squad. The result, the Times writes, “was an airplane held together with duct tape as it tried to land.”
Originally Schoen was slated to deliver the former president’s opening presentation, which followed the House impeachment managers’ riveting presentation of video, some of it never before seen, of the violent riot. Instead, Castor jumped into the lead role, persuading others on the defense team that his style would be helpful in calming emotions in the Senate chamber. The result was low-energy monologue that was replete with digressions and odd references that earned Castor widespread scorn. Trump, watching the proceedings from his Mar-a-Lago estate, reportedly was incensed about the appearance.
Trump called a long-time assistant who was coordinating with the legal team with the order, “Bruce doesn’t go on TV again.” It was that phone call that precipitated the shouting match in the Trump International Hotel conference room in Washington, D.C.