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Trump attorneys leave legal team, less than 2 weeks before impeachment trial

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Washington — Less than two weeks before his second impeachment trial, former President Donald Trump has parted ways with two key members of his legal team. South Carolina attorney Butch Bowers, who was expected to be the lead attorney, and Deborah Barbier are no longer part of his team, Trump spokesman Jason Miller said Saturday night.

"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. We have done much work, but have not made a final decision on our legal team, which will be made shortly," Miller said. 

A Trump adviser told CBS News the decision was mutual. CBS News has reached out to Bowers and Barbier for comment.

CNN, which first reported the news, has also said that three other attorneys have left the legal team.    

Mr. Trump's second impeachment trial is set to begin on February 9. The House impeached Mr. Trump on January 13 on a charge of "incitement of insurrection." One week earlier, Mr. Trump had encouraged his supporters to "fight like hell" to stop Congress from counting the Electoral College votes, the final step in affirming President Biden's victory. A mob of his supporters then stormed the U.S. Capitol, sending lawmakers fleeing and delaying the count for nearly six hours. Five people died in the melee. 

Mr. Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani, who was a public figure in the former president's fruitless battle to overturn the election results, said he would not be part of Mr. Trump's impeachment legal team because he was at the rally. "Due to the fact that I may be a witness, the rules of legal ethics would prohibit me from representing the President as trial counsel in the impeachment trial," Giuliani told CBS News on January 18.

Mr. Trump's star lawyers from his first impeachment trial, including Mr. Trump's long time attorney Jay Sekulow and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, are not defending him this time. Cipollone, in particular, was one of the White House officials who a group of Republican senators called in the aftermath of the assault to convince them to stay on until Mr. Trump left office, an aide to Senator Mike Lee said on January 7.

When asked who would be representing Mr. Trump, Miller said the team will likely make an announcement "in the next couple of days." 

Senator Lindsey Graham announced last week that Bowers, a powerhouse Columbia lawyer with an impressive record defending Republican politicians, would be the "lead anchor" on Mr. Trump's defense team. Miller confirmed that Bowers would join the team in a tweet on January 21.

Bowers represented former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford when the legislature considered impeaching him after he admitted to lying to aides about hiking the Appalachian trail when he was actually with his mistress in Argentina. Sanford was ultimately censured instead. 

Bowers also represented Trump ally Nikki Haley when she faced ethics charges of illegal lobbying while she was still in the South Carolina legislature. Haley was cleared in that inquiry. 

Bowers is a member in good standing in both the South Carolina Bar and the District of Columbia Bar, according to their directories. Bowers previously told the South Carolina Post and Courier he looks "forward to representing the former president." 

Barbier, who runs a small firm in Columbia, joined the legal team earlier this week, according to the South Carolina Post-Courier. In perhaps her most high-profile case, Barbier defended Joey Meeks, a friend of the Emanuel AME shooter Dylann Roof. Meeks, who pleaded guilty to telling others not to share with authorities that Roof was behind the massacre, was sentenced to 27 months in prison, according to the Post-Courier.

Barbier also defended a powerful South Carolina political operative charged in 2017 with conspiracy and illegal lobbying at the statehouse, the Post-Courier reported. That case was ultimately dropped. 

Kathryn Watson contributed to this report.

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