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5 lawyers leave Trump impeachment team ahead of trial: reports

Butch Bowers, the lead attorney who was slated to represent former President Trump during his second impeachment trial in just more than a week, has left the legal team along with four other members, according to multiple reports.  

Last week, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). announced that Bowers, a South Carolina attorney, would act as the Trump legal team's "anchor" during the trial.

"I think [Trump’s] gonna have a good [legal team]," Graham said. "Butch Bowers I think will be sort of the anchor tenant. I’ve known Butch for a long time, solid guy. And I think, you know, over time, they'll put the team together."

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Now, Bowers is no longer on the defense team, two attorneys close to the situation told Politico. 

Deborah Barbier, another South Carolina lawyer, has also dropped off the Trump legal team, one person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press.

Trump spokesman Jason Miller did not directly address Bower's exit to Politico.

"The Democrats' efforts to impeach a president who has already left office is totally unconstitutional and so bad for our country," Miller told the outlet. "In fact, 45 Senators have already voted that is unconstitutional. We have done much work, but have not made a final decision on our legal team, which will be made shortly." 

Later Saturday night, CNN confirmed that North Carolina attorney Josh Howard, a recent addition to the legal team assembled by Bowers, has also left. Johnny Gasser and Greg Harris, two additional lawyers from South Carolina, have left the team as well. 

The exodus is reportedly due to disagreements over the defense strategy.

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The team members reportedly wanted to focus on the legality of the impeachment, while Trump insisted on pushing narratives of election fraud, CNN reported.

On Jan. 13, days before he left office, Trump was impeached by the House for the second time in his presidency on the charge of "incitement of insurrection" for his involvement in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol that resulted in several deaths. 

Trump's team and Bowers did not immediately respond to The Hill's requests for comments.

The news about Bowers's departure from the Trump team injects new uncertainty into an already unprecedented situation as Senate gears up for the second impeachment trial of a U.S. president amid a pandemic and after the former president has been voted out of office. 

Trump's impeachment trial has caused controversy, with many Senate Republicans arguing that the trial is unconstitutional now that Trump is a private citizen.

On Tuesday, 45 GOP senators backed a motion from Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulAlarm grows over impact of states banning trans youth treatment The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - World mourns the death of Prince Philip The Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings MORE (R-Ky.) to argue that that the chamber's impending trial was unconstitutional.  

It is unlikely once again that Trump will be convicted in the upper chamber, as the Democrats would need 17 Republicans to vote for conviction.

President Biden has indicated to Senate Democratic leadership that he would like to keep the trial short, according to White House officials and sources close to the president. Biden has a large agenda to push through Congress, starting with a $1.9 trillion stimulus package he hopes to deliver to the public. 

Bowers has previously acted as an attorney for key Republicans, including South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, former South Carolina Govs. Nikki HaleyNikki HaleyBiden funding decision inflames debate over textbooks for Palestinian refugees The Hill's Morning Report - Biden: Let's make a deal on infrastructure, taxes Pence launches conservative political group MORE and Mark SanfordMark SanfordLobbying world 5 lawyers leave Trump impeachment team ahead of trial: reports South Carolina GOP votes to censure Rep. Rice over impeachment vote MORE, and former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory.

Updated on Jan. 31 at 7:13 a.m.