U.S. President Donald Trump is bringing in high-profile legal firepower to help defend him in the Senate impeachment trial, with the addition on Friday of former independent counsel Ken Starr, who paved the way for the impeachment of Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1998, and prominent lawyer Alan Dershowitz.
The team defending the Republican president will be led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump private attorney Jay Sekulow, Trump's legal team and a source said. 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.
The trial formally got underway on Thursday, though it will start in earnest on Tuesday with opening statements.
The Democratic-led House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump on two charges arising from his dealings with Ukraine - abuse of power and obstruction of Congress - on Dec. 18. The trial in the Republican-led Senate will determine whether Trump is removed from office.
The Senate is expected to acquit Trump, as none of its 53 Republicans has voiced support for removing him, a step that requires a two-thirds majority. Trump has denied wrongdoing and has called the impeachment process a sham.
The House voted to impeach Clinton after Starr investigated his sexual affair with a White House intern. The Senate acquitted Clinton.
Dershowitz has been a well-known figure in U.S. legal circles for decades. He is a Harvard Law School professor and was part of the so-called "Dream Team" of lawyers who won a 1995 acquittal of former National Football League star and actor O.J. Simpson on charges of murdering his wife and a friend of hers.
Trump's legal team issued a statement saying Dershowitz 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 in a statement provided by Dershowitz. "He is participating in this impeachment trial to defend the integrity of the Constitution and to prevent the creation of a dangerous constitutional precedent."
Ray succeeded Starr as independent counsel during the Clinton investigation.
One person who was not added to the team that will defend Trump at the trial is his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who played a key role in the Ukraine matter.
Democrat Adam Schiff, who heads a team of seven House members who will serve as prosecutors, appeared on the Senate floor on Thursday to read the two charges passed by the House on Dec. 18 that accused Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress arising from his dealings with Ukraine.
Schiff is a former federal prosecutor in Los Angeles.
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