Starr, Dershowitz headline Trump impeachment defense team

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White House counsel Pat Cipollone is defending President Donald Trump at his impeachment trial in the Senate

White House counsel Pat Cipollone is defending President Donald Trump at his impeachment trial in the Senate (AFP Photo/Drew Angerer)

Washington (AFP) - President Donald Trump named a legal team of nine to defend him in his impeachment trial starting in earnest next Tuesday in the Senate -- headlined by Bill Clinton prosecutor Ken Starr and celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz.

Here is the full line up:

- Lead lawyer: Pat Cipollone -

In a White House of colorful characters, Trump's official counsel Pat Cipollone, 53, flies under the radar, rarely speaking to the media. As the president's stealth weapon, though, he has already left a devastating mark.

It was Cipollone who sent a letter in October to the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives, bluntly telling them the administration was refusing to cooperate with the impeachment investigation.

The whole thing was "partisan and unconstitutional" and as a result Trump and his entire staff "cannot participate," Cipollone said.

Trump is now relying on the fervent Catholic, who has 10 children, to save his presidency.

Trump's summary of the man: "He's the strong, silent type."

- Impeachment veteran: Ken Starr -

Starr, 73, has more impeachment experience than almost anyone: as a special prosecutor he led the investigation that saw Bill Clinton impeached and tried in 1998-99.

Despite his own years-long, constantly mutating probe of Clinton that finally caught the former president in a lie over sex, Starr was a strong critic of the Russia collusion investigation into Trump by special counsel Robert Mueller.

He called the House Democrats' probe into the Ukraine affair that brought about Trump's impeachment a "coup d'etat".

- Star power: Alan Dershowitz -

One of America's most storied lawyers, the 81-year-old Harvard Law School professor has spent a lifetime taking on the most indefensible, high-profile cases -- and often winning.

He defended kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst, boxer Mike Tyson, and accused murderers O.J. Simpson and Claus von Bulow.

The Bulow case made him internationally famous after his book on it became an Academy Award-winning movie, "Reversal of Fortune."

Dershowitz, who publicly opposed Clinton's impeachment, shrugs off the ignominy of past clients, saying he is standing up for individual rights under the law.

But last year, during the prosecution of his friend and former client Jeffrey Epstein -- who later killed himself in jail -- Dershowitz himself was accused of being a witness and participant in Epstein's sex crimes. The lawyer denies the allegations.

- Personal lawyer: Jay Sekulow -

Trump's 63-year-old personal lawyer made his name leading the American Center for Law & Justice to promote conservative Christian ideals. Raised Jewish, he converted to syncretic Messianic Judaism -- a movement that combines Christianity with elements of Judaism.

Sekulow made a fortune from televised evangelism, and won several Supreme Court cases on religious freedom, allying himself with other key supporters of Trump from the conservative legal community.

He has proven a shrewd and telegenic defender of Trump, helping fortify the president's connection to his voter base in regular broadcasts on Christian-focused airwaves.

- Florida ally: Pam Bondi -

The twice-divorced 54-year-old lawyer is a regular at Trump's Palm Beach Mar-a-Lago resort and, as a former Florida attorney general, has pursued Trump policies from challenging Obamacare to investigating unsupported claims of widespread "voter fraud" by Democrats.

In 2013, the Trump Foundation donated $25,000 toward her re-election, and weeks later she declined to have Florida join a multimillion dollar fraud lawsuit against his Trump University. Both denied the two actions were linked.

While still attorney general in 2018, she hosted a program on Fox News. Last November she joined the White House communications team to help prepare for the president's expected impeachment.

Four others will be on the team: Trump's longtime personal lawyer Jane Raskin; Robert Ray who succeeded Starr as special prosecutor; and Michael Purpura and Patrick Philbin, both Justice Department veterans now in the White House counsel's office.