WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump plans to tap two long-time lawyers on Friday to lead his impeachment defense team - White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and private attorney Jay Sekulow - as well as well-known attorneys who have often defended him on television.
The latter group is expected to include Alan Dershowitz, a noted Harvard law professor; Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel who prosecuted the President Bill Clinton impeachment case, and Robert Ray, who replaced Starr as independent counsel during the last year of the Clinton presidency.
An official confirmed the planned appointments, speaking on condition of anonymity because a formal announcement is expected later Friday.
The team will work to defend Trump against the impeachment allegations. Trump was impeached Dec. 18 on two articles: obstruction of Congress and abuse of power. The allegations stem from Trump's request that Ukraine investigate political rivals, including Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who had business interests in the country. Impeachment investigators also said Trump held up military aid to Ukraine as well as a White House meeting until it complied with the request to investigate Biden and others. House Democrats alleged the White House's refusal to give testimony and documents resulted in obstructing Congress.
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On Twitter, Dershowitz issued a statement saying he will "present oral arguments at the Senate trial to address the constitutional arguments against impeachment and removal."
Dershowitz also said that he is "non partisan" on this issue, and noted that he opposed Clinton's impeachment. He said he wants to defend Trump because he "believes the issues at stake go to the heart of our enduring Constitution" and wants "to prevent the creation of a dangerous constitutional precedent."
In his role as the White House's top lawyer, Cipollone made the legal arguments to support the administration's refusal to participate in the House impeachment inquiry.
Cipollone also worked to block administration officials from testifying before the House or providing documents to impeachment investigators, arguing that Congress is not entitled to information about internal deliberations within the executive branch - an argument he may continue to make during the Senate trial.
"This baseless and highly partisan inquiry violates all past historical precedent, basic due process rights, and fundamental fairness," Cipollone said in a letter to the House saying the White House would not participate in the impeachment inquiry.
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House Democrats protested what they called White House stonewalling, and made it part of an impeachment article accusing Trump of obstruction of Congress.
Sekulow, meanwhile, represented Trump during the special counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Before his work with Trump, Sekulow was best known as a Supreme Court litigator who specialized in religious liberty cases; he is also a frequent guest on television news programs and hosts a daily radio talk show.
The team will be assisted by Cipollone's two top deputies, Patrick F. Philbin and Michael M. Purpur.
Others could be added to Trump's team later, including some House Republicans who participated in the impeachment inquiry.
The attorneys are already busy preparing a legal brief defending Trump against the impeachment charges. It is due to be submitted to the Senate by noon on Monday.
The trial itself is set to begin Tuesday, though Trump himself is scheduled to watch his legal team's work from afar: He plans to be at an international economic conference in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday and Wednesday.
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The president's lawyers are expected to mount an aggressive defense.
Trump and aides said he did not improperly pressure Ukraine, and that he only wanted the nation to address problems with corruption. Concern about corruption is the reason the administration gave for holding up military aid to the nation that was finally released in September.
Trump's legal team will likely be involved in Senate arguments about whether to call witnesses in the trial.
Senate Democrats have said they will push for witnesses to talk about Trump's dealings with Ukraine. Their list includes former National Security Adviser John Bolton and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
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Trump and his attorneys are likely to oppose any testimony from a current employee like Mulvaney, saying his conversations with the president are subject to executive privilege.
At the same time, the president and aides have said that if the Senate compels prosecution witnesses, they will seek to call witnesses of their own. They include Hunter Biden and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., one of the leaders of the impeachment inquiry in the House.
Trump himself suggested he may want to invoke executive privilege in the case of Bolton because his testimony would deal with matter discussed when he was in the White House.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump impeachment legal team to include Dershowitz, Starr