Trump Chooses Experienced Ethics Lawyer for Impeachment Trial Defense


It’s up to Butch Bowers, a South Carolina elections and ethics lawyer, to defend Donald Trump as the Senate launches next week into an impeachment trial centered on accusations that the former president incited the mob that stormed through the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

This is the second time Trump has faced impeachment. If convicted, he could be barred from holding public office again, ending any hopes of mounting another White House bid in 2024.

The first impeachment trial turned on charges that Trump improperly solicited Ukraine’s help for his re-election campaign. The Senate acquitted him of those charges.

The new trial could hinge on broader issues, including “whether the Constitution even allows a post-impeachment action in the Senate,” according to Jay Sekulow, who represented Trump in the 2020 impeachment trial.

Bowers has years of experience representing elected officials and political candidates, including former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford in a failed impeachment effort.

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“He’s an excellent lawyer with a tremendous reputation who understands the law and politics,” Sekulow said Friday.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham recommended Bowers to Trump. Trump adviser Jason Miller, who also ran Sanford’s gubernatorial and congressional campaigns, said Bowers “will do an excellent job defending President Trump.”

Bowers did not respond to a message seeking comment.

His strategy for Trump’s defense is unclear, though questioning the validity of the trial is a clear option. Many Republicans in the Senate — the jurors he’ll need to persuade — have said they harbor doubts about whether an impeachment trial for an ex-official is constitutional.

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The nine House managers prosecuting the case, meanwhile, will almost certainly try to link Trump’s remarks to supporters at a rally before the riot to the chaos that soon followed.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will transmit the article of impeachment to the Senate on Monday, triggering the first phase of the trial.

Apart from serving as counsel to Sanford, Bowers has also guided another former governor, Nikki Haley, through a state ethics investigation. An ethics panel ultimately cleared Haley.

Rob Godfrey, a longtime Haley adviser who worked closely with Bowers during his representation of the governor, said the lawyer “works hard, has an eye for detail and knows the law.”

Joel Sawyer, Sanford’s longtime spokesman, said Bowers’ strengths lie in his calm demeanor and determination to examine legal arguments without concern for pomp and politics.

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“If Donald Trump lets Butch be Butch and doesn’t try to make him be someone he’s not, in terms of making nutty legal arguments and seeking out television cameras, this will be a great fit for Butch,” Sawyer said.

“If Trump wants him to be Rudy Giuliani or Sidney Powell 2.0, that’s not going to turn out well for anyone.”

Bowers represented Gov. Henry McMaster — a close ally of Trump — in a fight over excessive contributions, a 2016 case that ended with the then-lieutenant governor agreeing to pay more than $70,000 in fines and reimbursements.

Bowers was also a lawyer for former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and the South Carolina Election Commission in litigation over voter ID laws, as well as a former South Carolina sheriff who pleaded guilty to embezzlement and misconduct in office.

In 2018, he was attorney for University of South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley in her successful defamation suit against Missouri’s athletics director.

Bowers — also a colonel in the South Carolina Air National Guard — served as a special counsel on voting matters at the U.S. Department of Justice under President George W. Bush, was Florida legal counsel for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and chaired the South Carolina Election Commission from 2004-07.

With degrees from the University of South Carolina and College of Charleston, Bowers graduated from Tulane University School of Law in 1998.

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