President Donald Trump has officially assembled his legal defense for the Senate impeachment trial, and much of it looks like a Fox primetime line-up.
This is, at least in part, by design. Two sources close to the president say that he’s routinely stressed the importance of how his legal defenders perform on cable news—a common metric for virtually any Trump official with a public facing job.
On Friday, Team Trump announced that Alan Dershowitz; Ken Starr, the independent counsel during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial; former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi; as well as Robert Ray, who succeeded Starr at the Office of the Independent Counsel during the Clinton administration; and Jane Raskin, who helped defend Trump during the Mueller probe, would join White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow in defending the president on the Senate floor.
Dershowitz said in a brief phone interview on Friday morning that he’d been finalizing his involvement with Trump’s “people” for the past couple days, and that the president called him on Wednesday night to thank him. “He knew my positions, and he asked me to present those arguments [on the Senate floor],” Dershowitz said, adding that Trump’s call was largely him “thanking me and showing his appreciation.”
According to the left-wing media monitoring organization Media Matters for America, Dershowitz, Starr, and Ray have made roughly 300 appearances on Fox News since January of last year.
Moments after it was announced that Starr, a Fox News contributor, had been added to the president’s impeachment legal team, a Fox News spokesperson confirmed to The Daily Beast on Friday that Starr was no longer a network employee.
Starr’s appointment to the president’s legal squad drew a literal “are you fucking kidding me” from Monica Lewinsky, whose affair with Clinton was at the heart of the impeachment that Starr oversaw.
For weeks, Trump had personally courted Dershowitz, an outspoken celebrity attorney and longtime supporter of the Clintons, to officially join the ranks of Team Trump. Despite self-IDing as a liberal, Dershowitz has informally advised Trump and other senior officials on matters such as the administration’s efforts on Middle East peace. Dershowitz has also spent years vociferously defending the president on Fox News and other TV and print outlets, arguing that the Democrats’ impeachment drive and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation were baseless or running afoul of civil liberties.
“I’ve been at dinner with the president when out of nowhere he’ll start asking the table if we’ve seen Dershowitz’s latest Fox News appearance,” a former senior administration official said. “[Trump] values his legal analysis as much as anyone else’s.”
As for Ray, he succeeded Starr as the head of the Office of the Independent Counsel, serving in that role from 1999 to 2002 and issuing the final Whitewater reports. He also issued the last report from the office on the Lewinsky scandal. In recent months, he, too, has been a fixture on Fox News, mostly appearing to rail against the Mueller report and then impeachment. For instance, during a November Fox & Friends appearance, Ray dismissed the bombshell deposition claim of U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland that there was a quid pro quo with Ukraine, saying that it was just Sondland’s belief and opinion.