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Alan Dershowitz, Kenneth Starr expected to be on Trump impeachment legal team

Former independent counsel Ken Starr, who paved the way for the impeachment of Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1998, and prominent lawyer Alan Dershowitz will join President Trump's impeachment trial defence team, Trump's legal team and a source said on Friday.

Dershowitz to present in Senate trial according to a statement, while Starr's role unclear

Alan Dershowitz, seen outside Manhattan Federal Court in September 2019, said in a statement that impeaching President Donald Trump would establish 'a dangerous constitutional precedent.' (Jefferson Siegel/Reuters)

Former independent counsel Ken Starr, who paved the way for the impeachment of Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1998, and prominent lawyer Alan Dershowitz will join President Donald Trump's impeachment trial defence team, Trump's legal team and a source said on Friday.

The team will be led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump private attorney Jay Sekulow. Trump adviser Pam Bondi and former independent counsel Robert Ray will also be on the team, according to the source who is familiar with the team's composition.

Trump's legal team issued a statement saying Dershowitz, 81, will present oral arguments at the trial to address the constitutional arguments against impeachment and removal from office.

"While Professor Dershowitz is non-partisan when it comes to the Constitution — he opposed the impeachment of President Bill Clinton and voted for Hillary Clinton — he believes the issues at stake go to the heart of our enduring Constitution," the Trump legal team said. "He is participating in this impeachment trial to defend the integrity of the Constitution and to prevent the creation of a dangerous constitutional precedent."

Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor, has been part of the legal team for a number of high-profile defendants, including accused murderers O.J. Simpson and Claus von Bulow, as well as Jeffrey Epstein and Mike Tyson.

He has been a frequent defender of Trump in media interviews.

Watch: Dershowitz talks to CBC about the Mueller report in March 2019

Attorney General William Barr concluded there was no obstruction of justice based on Robert Mueller's investigation into Donald Trump. But does that mean the president is exonerated as he claims? CBC's Andrew Nichols speaks with Harvard law professor, Alan Dershowitz, about what this all means 6:40

Starr, 73, succeeded Robert Fiske as independent counsel investigating Bill and Hillary Clinton's past real estate dealings in the mid-1990s. Under Starr, the investigation shifted focus to include the president's actions and statements concerning Paula Jones, who accused Clinton of sexual harassment when he was Arkansas governor, and White House intern Monica Lewinsky, with whom Clinton had an affair.

Starr produced a 445-page report that formed the basis for the House impeachment of Clinton in late 1998, just the second time a U.S. president had been impeached.

Kenneth Starr, seen in 2014, served as independent counsel, providing findings that helped lead to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1998. He will be one of Trump's lawyers in his impeachment trial. (Lauren Victoria Burke/The Associated Press)

More recently, Starr served as Baylor University president, but was forced out after an outside review excoriated the school and its football program for inaction in the wake of a host of sexual assault accusations involving players over an extended period of time.

Cipollone, Sekulow continue to advise

Cipollone, 53, will lead Trump's defence. He has aggressively defended the president during the impeachment inquiry, and refused to produce documents and witnesses requested by Congress.

Before he joined the administration in 2018, Cipollone was a name partner at a small Washington litigation firm.

He also has been involved with the conservative Federalist Society, the influential legal group that helps vet potential right-of-centre candidates for the Supreme Court.

Sekulow, 63, will help lead Trump's defence. He is a private attorney for Trump, who was initially hired during Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. He also has helped manage other cases against Trump, including in the fight over disclosure of his tax returns.

Jay Sekulow, left, and Pat Cipollone, right, both lawyers long known to back conservative causes, will be part of Trump's legal team as he tries to avoid a conviction in a Senate trial. (Pablo Martinez Monsivai/The Associated Press, Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

Sekulow is host of a daily radio talk show and chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, a non-profit that advocates for religious freedoms and is known for supporting Christian causes. He has argued a dozen times before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Procedural matters commenced in the Senate this week for impeachment, with Chief Justice John Roberts and the senators sworn in. A two-thirds majority of the 100-member body would be needed in favour of removing the president from office, an outcome not expected in the Republican-majority chamber.

Opening statements in the Senate trial are expected next week.

The Democrats named seven managers, who serve in effect as prosecutors, led by House intelligence chair Adam Schiff, a former federal prosecutor.

Watch: Scope of evidence to be presented still not clear

As U.S. senators were sworn in as jurors for President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, it remained unclear whether new evidence about a pressure campaign on Ukraine would be admitted. 2:02

Still to be determined in the trial is whether the Senate will vote to allow witness testimony and new evidence, or whether senators will decide the case as Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has suggested, using only the material amassed by House investigators.

Following a White House directive, several key figures in the Trump administration's dealings with Ukraine refused to provide testimony or documents in the House impeachment inquiry.

But John Bolton, the former White House national security adviser who left his post in September after a falling out with Trump, has said he is willing to testify at the impeachment trial if the Senate issues a subpoena.

With files from CBC News

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