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Ken Starr, Clinton prosecutor to defend Trump in impeachment trial

Media caption Trump and Clinton's impeachment

18.1.2020

The defence team of Donald Trump in his Senate trial will include special prosecutors from President Bill Clinton’s impeachment.

The US President Donald Trump will be represented by Ken Starr and Robert Ray, who investigated Mr Clinton, and Alan Dershowitz, whose past clients include OJ Simpson.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Mr Trump’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow will lead the team.

Opening statements in the Trump impeachment trial will begin next week.

Mr Starr was the US Department of Justice independent counsel who investigated the Whitewater affair, a scandal-plagued mid-1980s land venture in Arkansas involving Bill and Hillary Clinton.

The inquiry ultimately uncovered unrelated evidence that Mr Clinton had been having an affair with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.

The investigation resulted in the Democratic president’s impeachment by the US House of Representatives in 1998. Mr Clinton was acquitted by the Senate.

Mr Ray succeeded Mr Starr as the independent counsel. 

Ms Lewinsky tweeted on Friday shortly after Mr Trump’s team was announced: “This is definitely an ‘are you kidding me?’ kinda day”, though she inserted an expletive. 

In 2016, Mr Starr was forced out of his position as president of Baylor University after an inquiry found the school had mishandled rape accusations against its football players.

He later also resigned from his roles as chancellor and law professor at the university.

Who is Alan Dershowitz? 

Mr Dershowitz is a retired Harvard University law professor and constitutional law expert with a list of past celebrity clients.

He told CBS News, the BBC’s US partner, that he had spoken to the president on Wednesday about the impeachment case. 

“I agreed to do it as an independent constitutional scholar,” Mr Dershowitz said. “I take no position on the politics – just on the constitution.” 

He added he was “very, very concerned” about the precedent this impeachment could establish.

“It could weaken the presidency and weaponise impeachment as a partisan tactic,” he said.

Media caption How did we get here?

Mr Dershowitz said in a statement that he had also opposed Mr Clinton’s impeachment, and voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

Mr Dershowitz and Mr Starr both represented disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein during his 2008 abuse trial. 

Axios reported that some White House officials were against Mr Dershowitz joining the team, given his ties to Mr Epstein.

On Friday, the president shared Mr Dershowitz’s comments criticising a Government Accountability Office ruling that the White House had broken the law by withholding aid to Ukraine.

Twitter post by @realDonaldTrump: “The GOA got it exactly backwards. Here’s what they said. The law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities to those Congress has enacted into law. It’s exactly the opposite. The Constitution does not allow Congress to substitute its own priorities....
Twitter post by @realDonaldTrump: ....for the foreign policies of the President.” @AlanDersh Alan Dershowitz @seanhannity @FoxNews  They do what the House asks. The Swamp!

Who else is on the legal team?

Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has also been asked to join the team.

Mrs Bondi, a longtime Trump ally, joined the White House communications team last November to focus on “proactive impeachment messaging”.

The president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, a central figure in the Ukraine investigation, had also hoped to join the defence, but he did not make the cut. 

Media captionTrump and Clinton’s impeachment – what’s different?

He was apparently referring to a discredited theory that Ukraine intervened in the last White House election.

One of Mr Giuliani’s associates, Ukrainian-American businessman Lev Parnas, has said he went to Ukraine to pressure local officials on behalf of Mr Trump and Mr Giuliani. 

Mr Trump’s allies have rubbished Mr Parnas’ claims, pointing out that he is facing unrelated campaign finance charges.

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