The new lawyers who signed on to lead former President Donald Trump’s impeachment defense team brought a curious history of experience with them as they defended the former President on Tuesday during the first day of his second Senate trial.
Already one of the attorneys – Bruce L. Castor, Jr., a well-known lawyer and the former Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, district attorney – caused a stir during his opening remarks, befuddling jurors by clling out a Republican senator and eliciting a critical early review from one of Trump’s former lawyers who defended him during the first impeachment trial.
“I have no idea what he’s doing,” Alan Dershowitz, who served on Trump’s impeachment defense team during last year’s trial, said of Castor’s opening remarks during an interview with Newsmax. “Maybe he’ll bring it home, but right now, it does not appear to me to be effective advocacy.”
But, Dershowitz said, Castor is “a folksy lawyer, and folksy lawyers sometimes do very, very well with juries.”
The harsh comments come as both Castor and David Schoen, a seasoned civil and criminal lawyer, begin their defense of Trump during the multi-day Senate trial, in which the body’s members will sit in judgment of a former President who faces the impeachment charge of inciting a deadly insurrection at the US Capitol. A potential conviction could also result in Trump being barred from holding federal office ever again.
The two attorneys, both of whom have legal careers peppered with curiosities, kicked off their portion of the trial in an unexpected way, having swapped speaking turns at the last minute, according to two people familiar with the plan.
Castor told the Senate that Trump’s legal team “changed what we were going to do” because they thought the House managers’ presentation was “really well done.”
With Castor going first, he used some of the team’s early time before the Senate to call out Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska in a moment that appeared to confuse the senator and several of his colleagues.
“There seem to be some pretty smart jurists in Nebraska, and I can’t believe the United States senator doesn’t know that. A senator like the gentleman from Nebraska … faces a whirlwind even though he knows what the judiciary in his state thinks,” he said, referring to the fact that the senator is facing censure by his state’s Republican Party for rejecting Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results.
Sasse was not initially paying attention until Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican who was sitting nearby, said something and he looked up. The Nebraska senator had a bewildered look as Castor went on about Nebraska being a “judicial thinking place.”
As the lawyer spoke about Sasse facing backlash in his state, both he and other senators around him were confused by whatever point Castor was trying to make by pointing to one Republican senator who has been skeptical of Trump.
Castor and Schoen joined Trump’s defense team a day after five members of his defense left, effectively collapsing the team.
CNN has reached out to Schoen and Castor for comment.
For Schoen, whose website says he “focuses primarily on the litigation of complex civil and criminal cases before trial and appellate courts,” Trump is just the latest controversial figure his career has brought him to in recent years.
Schoen was on the team of lawyers representing Roger Stone, Trump’s longtime friend and former adviser, in the appeal of his conviction related to issues Stone took with the jury. Stone dropped that appeal after the then-President commuted his prison sentence, but before Stone received a full presidential pardon for convictions, including lying to Congress to protect Trump.
Seth Ginsberg, a criminal defense lawyer who worked with Schoen on Stone’s appeal, described his former fellow counselor as a “highly experienced litigator who is very thorough and hard-working.”
“He will leave no stone unturned and he will advocate vigorously and relentlessly on behalf on his client,” Ginsberg told CNN, adding he doubted they had delineated their roles just yet. “David is no stranger to short deadlines and needing to burn the midnight oil.”
Schoen also had the opportunity to represent a much more controversial figure.
He has publicly discussed, with outlets including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, that he met with accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein in prison days before he died by suicide and that he didn’t believe Epstein killed himself.
“I saw him a few days earlier,” Schoen once told Fox News. “The reason I say I don’t believe it was suicide is for my interaction with him that day. The purpose of asking me to come there that day and over the past previous couple of weeks was to ask me to take over his defense.”
Schoen, who holds a master of laws from Columbia University and a juris doctorate from Boston College, according to his biography, serves as chair of the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Subcommittee of the Civil Rights Litigation Committee.
Castor, meanwhile, served as Montgomery County district attorney from 2000 to 2008, before serving two terms as the county commissioner, according to a release from Trump’s office.
He was involved in at least one high-profile case as district attorney, when he declined in 2005 to prosecute Bill Cosby after Andrea Constand reported the actor had touched her inappropriately at his home in Montgomery County, citing “insufficient credible and admissible evidence.”
Cosby was later tried and convicted in 2018 for drugging and sexually assaulting Constand at his home in 2004, despite the fact that Castor argued during a pre-trial hearing that he’d already committed the state to not prosecuting the actor.
Constand sued Castor in 2015, alleging defamation and false light. Her lawsuit claimed Castor gave various interviews with media outlets and directly or indirectly implied she had been inconsistent in her accusations against Cosby and “exaggerated her claims in a lawsuit and therefore was not to be believed.”
In response to the suit, Castor, who at the time was running for his old position as district attorney, alleged his opponent was behind the lawsuit, which was later settled, according to The Washington Post.
Castor later sued Constand and her attorneys, claiming they ruined his political career, among other things, in order to help get his opponent elected, a suit that was ultimately thrown out, according to The Washington Post.
Castor, who holds a law degree from Washington and Lee University and also served as solicitor general and acting attorney general of Pennsylvania, recently joined a law firm that had brought a case against the US Postal Service in 2020 in which lawyers said then-President Trump had “no evidence” for his claims of widespread voter fraud.
The former President’s new attorney arrived at the firm after the case was filed.
CNN’s Katelyn Polantz, Kara Scannell, Jim Acosta, Kaitlan Collins, Pamela Brown, Jean Casarez, Sonia Moghe, Aaron Cooper, Jason Hanna, DJ Judd, Manu Raju and Caroline Kelly contributed to this report.