WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former President Donald Trump has hired South Carolina-based lawyer Butch Bowers to represent him in his Senate impeachment trial over a charge that he incited insurrection, a source familiar with the matter said on Thursday.
Bowers did not respond to requests for comment.
While relatively unknown on the national stage, Bowers has represented former Republican governors in South Carolina and served in the U.S. Justice Department under Republican former President George W. Bush, according to his website.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Trump ally, recommended him, the source said.
In 2012, Bowers represented then-Governor Nikki Haley in an ethics hearing over allegations that she engaged in illegal lobbying while she was a state representative. Haley was cleared of wrongdoing.
In 2009, Bowers represented then-Governor Mark Sanford in an ethics hearing over his use of a state aircraft for a secret five-day trip to Argentina to see a woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair. Sanford agreed to pay $74,000 to settle charges that his personal travel and campaign spending violated state ethics laws, but he continued to deny wrongdoing.
Bowers, also known as Karl Smith Bowers Jr., is a graduate of Tulane University’s law school, has his own law firm and is associated with the Miller Law Group. Bowers said on the group’s website that he enjoyed “bird hunting” and “good bourbon.”
“I’ve always found him to be competent and ethical,” said South Carolina lawyer Jay Bender, a Democrat who has known Bowers professionally for over 20 years.
But he said Trump would not be his first controversial representation. “I’ve found many of his clients to be objectionable,” Bender said.
Trump’s trial is likely to begin sometime around mid-February in order to give Bowers time to prepare, Republican Senator Mike Braun told reporters on Thursday.
The Democratic-led House of Representatives on Jan. 13 made Trump the first U.S. president to be impeached twice, charging him with inciting an insurrection, focused on an incendiary speech he delivered to thousands of supporters on Jan. 6 shortly before a pro-Trump mob rampaged through the U.S. Capitol.
The rioters disrupted the formal certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory over Trump in the Nov. 3 election, sent lawmakers into hiding and left five people dead, including a police officer. Trump has falsely claimed the election was stolen from him as a result of widespread fraud.
Trump appears to have had a difficult time retaining counsel for his impeachment defense.
Earlier this month, Rudy Giuliani was poised to help defend the president, people familiar with the matter said.
But in recent days, Giuliani said he would not do so, citing his participation in the rally shortly before the attack on the Capitol. Giuliani led the legal team that tried unsuccessfully to overturn Trump’s election defeat. The often chaotic effort further battered the former New York City mayor’s reputation.
John Eastman, a professor who represented Trump in his election challenges at the U.S. Supreme Court last month, was also said to be under consideration. He told Reuters last week he was open to defending Trump, but this week said he was unlikely to do so, citing his participation in the same rally.
Eastman said he was constrained by the bar code of the District of Columbia. “A lawyer shouldn’t be an advocate in a case in which he is a witness,” he said.
Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump personal lawyer Jay Sekulow, who helped lead the defense in the first impeachment trial in early 2020, were not expected to be involved, people familiar with the situation have said.
Trump was first impeached by the House in late 2019 on a charge of abusing his power by asking Ukraine’s government to announce investigations to discredit Biden. The then Republican-controlled Senate acquitted him.
(Reporting by Steve Holland, Karen Freifeld and Jan Wolfe; Writing by Jan Wolfe and Noeleen Walder; Editing by Alistair Bell, Peter Cooney and Grant NcCool)