Politics

Trump impeachment defense team will include Clinton prosecutor Ken Starr and Jeffrey Epstein lawyer Alan Dershowitz

Key Points
  • President Trump's impeachment defense team will include Ken Starr, whose investigation led to President Bill Clinton's impeachment and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.
  • Also on the team is ex-Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.
  • Former Whitewater prosecutor Robert Ray is expected to join the team.
  • Dershowitz's past clients include the pedophile Jeffrey Epstein and O.J. Simpson.
The Honourable Kenneth W. Starr , former Independent Counsel (L) and U.S. Solicitor General and Attorney Alan Dershowitz.
Getty Images

President Donald Trump's impeachment defense team will include Ken Starr, whose investigation led to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, whose clients have included notorious pedophile Jeffrey Epstein and O.J. Simpson.

Also on the team is ex-Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, CNBC has learned. In addition, Robert Ray, who succeeded Starr as independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation of Clinton, is expected to be on the team. White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump's personal lawyer Jay Sekulow are heading the defense effort.

The Trump team choices came to light four days before his trial is set to begin in earnest in the Senate.

The Republican president was accused in impeachment articles passed by the House of abusing power and obstructing Congress. The charges relate to Trump asking Ukraine's new president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden — the frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination — while withholding congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine.

The legal lineup will not include Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and another personal attorney for Trump. Giuliani's push last year to get Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son Hunter Biden were the subject of extensive testimony and evidence in House impeachment proceedings.

"The president asked me to do this, and the legal team asked me to do this," Dershowitz said in an interview with CNBC after his role on the defense team became known.

Dershowitz said he will be making oral arguments in the Senate "to address the constitutional arguments against impeachment and removal."

He also said that although he opposed Clinton's impeachment and voted for Hillary Clinton against Trump in 2016, he "is participating in this impeachment trial to defend the integrity of the Constitution and to prevent the creation of a dangerous constitutional precedent."

Pam Bondi, former Florida attorney general.
Zach Gibson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Dershowitz is a renowned appellate lawyer whose high-profile cases have included that of Claus von Bulow, the socialite whose conviction for trying to kill his wife, Sunny, was overturned through Dershowitz's efforts, as detailed in the movie "Reversal of Fortune."

More recently, Dershowitz has been known for his defense of Trump on television and for his past work for Epstein, a wealthy investor who was charged by federal prosecutors in New York last summer with child sex trafficking. Epstein killed himself in a Manhattan jail last August while awaiting trial.

Later Friday, Dershowitz sought to downplay his role in an interview with Dan Abrams, ABC News' chief legal analyst, saying that he will "be there for one hour, basically, presenting my argument." 

"I think it overstates it to say I'm a member of the Trump team. I was asked to present the constitutional argument that I would have presented had Hillary Clinton been elected and had she been impeached," he said. 

Starr also had represented Epstein when he under investigation in the mid-2000s in Florida by federal and state authorities for sexual misconduct with young women and girls.

Epstein, a former friend of Trump and Bill Clinton, avoided federal prosecution in that earlier investigation. But he pleaded guilty in 2008 to state charges that included paying for sex with a minor.

He served 13 months in jail, although he was allowed out for many hours each day on work release.

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The House delivers Pres. Trump impeachment papers to the Senate

Starr, a former federal appeals court judge, oversaw the wide-ranging Whitewater investigation of President Clinton from 1994 through 1998.

Starr's findings that Clinton had lied under oath by denying a sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky led to Clinton's impeachment by the Republican-led House in late 1998. Clinton was acquitted after a trial in the Senate.

On Friday morning, shortly after news about Starr joining Trump's legal team broke, Lewinsky wrote in a Twitter post: "this is definitely an 'are you f---ing kidding me?' kinda day."

More recently, Starr lost his job as president of Baylor University, and soon after quit as chancellor and law professor there, after claims that the Texas school had grossly botched its handling of cases where female students said they were raped or sexually abused.

Starr's wife declined to comment when contacted by CNBC.

Ray, in a text message to CNBC, said, "You can confirm that I expect an announcement this afternoon."

Bondi has work in the Trump administration for the past several months on messaging about impeachment.

-- CNBC's Eamon Javers contributed reporting