A little less than two weeks before the start of President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial, five of the lawyers from his legal team resigned.
The legal team's lead, South Carolina lawyer Butch Bowers, will no longer be working on the trial. Others, including fellow South Carolina lawyer Deborah Barbier, and prospective North Carolina lawyer Josh Howard, are also out. Two other lawyers, Johnny Gasser and Greg Harris, both from South Carolina, have also departed, The Hill reported.
According to POLITICO, Bowers' departure was part of a "mutual" agreement between the lead attorney and the president. Bowers was responsible for assembling Trump's impeachment team.
The reason for the last minute shakeup has to do with legal arguments that will be made in front of the Senate. President Trump reportedly wants to focus on mass election fraud he says took place in the 2020 election. The impeachment team, however, wanted to focus on the constitutional issues surrounding impeaching a former president, CNN reported.
The five lawyers have an impressive legal background (via CNN):
Bowers, a respected lawyer from Columbia, South Carolina, once worked in the Justice Department under President George W. Bush.
Barbier, a South Carolina litigator, worked closely on several high-profile cases and was a former federal prosecutor for 15 years in the state before opening up her own boutique criminal defense firm.
Gasser and Harris are both former federal prosecutors. Gasser served as the interim US attorney for South Carolina earlier in his career. Both have worked closely with Barbier on the defense side.
Howard worked as an associate independent counsel on the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky investigations during the Clinton presidency and spent a decade in the Justice Department where he worked on the confirmations of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. Howard once served as the chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, leaving the post at the beginning of 2016.
The final impeachment defense team is still up in the air.
"The Democrats' efforts to impeach a president who has already left office is totally unconstitutional and so bad for our country. In fact, 45 Senators have already voted that it is unconstitutional," Trump advisor Jason Miller said in a statement. "We have done much work, but have not made a final decision on our legal team, which will be made shortly."
The Senate trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 8. Based on the Senate makeup, it's highly unlikely Trump will be convicted on the article of impeachment for "inciting an insurrection."