Attorney Bruce Castor was pilloried Tuesday for what critics derided as a rambling and disjointed argument against the conviction of Donald Trump on the first day of the former president’s second Senate impeachment trial, fueling speculation that his time on Trump’s legal team may end sooner than expected.
Castor, a former Pennsylvania prosecutor who served briefly as the state’s acting attorney general, was mocked on social media and sparked bewilderment among news media pundits and even some Trump allies for his opening argument against the charge that Trump incited the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
“I thought I was watching a legal proceeding but there’s now just some guy on TV rambling on about random things,” attorney George Conway said on Twitter as Castor spoke.
“There is no argument. I have no idea what he’s doing. I have no idea why he’s saying what he’s saying,” said attorney Alan Dershowitz, a member of Trump’s defense team during his first impeachment trial, during an appearance on the conservative cable news network Newsmax.
Castor’s client was also reportedly disappointed with his attorney’s work. One person told The Associated Press that Trump was “furious” as he watched Castor on television from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. CNN’s Kaitlin Collins said people told her Trump “was basically screaming as Castor made a meandering opening argument.”
Takeaways from day 1:What to know from the first day of Trump’s Senate impeachment trial
No stranger to controversy
Castor, 59, is no stranger to high profile or controversial cases. After having worked in the Montgomery County district attorney’s offices for several years, Castor eventually ran and was elected as the county’s DA twice.
Castor made headlines after declining to prosecute comedian Bill Cosby on sexual assault allegations after Andrea Constand, one of Cosby’s accusers, went to police in 2005.
Castor decided there was “insufficient credible and admissible evidence” to prosecute Cosby. But other Montgomery County prosecutors came to a different conclusion more than a decade later, and Cosby was convicted in 2018 for drugging and sexually assaulting Constand in 2004.
After serving as a district attorney, Castor faced a series of political losses including the primary for state attorney general. Castor attempted to return to the district attorney’s office, but lost to a Democratic opponent who ran an onslaught of ads attacking Castor’s decision to not prosecute Cosby.
Constand later sued Castor for defamation, claiming he had implied in several interviews that her accusations were inconsistent and “exaggerated her claims in a lawsuit and therefore was not to be believed.” In response, Castor filed a lawsuit against Constand, accusing her of ruining his political career. The judge threw out his case, and the two settled Constand’s lawsuit out of court in 2019, according to reports.
A rushed defense
Castor and defense attorney David Schoen were announced as Trump’s defense team little more than a week ago, giving them little time to prepare their case, including just over two days to write their 14-page response — which included some prominent typos — to the Democratic House impeachment managers’ brief.
Trump had trouble putting together the legal team, which initially was going to be led by South Carolina attorney Butch Bowers. But Bowers and lawyer Deborah Barbier dropped out, reportedly because Trump wanted them to argue his baseless claim that he, and not President Joe Biden, was the real winner of the 2020 election.
Castor and Schoen offered no such arguments Tuesday. Castor actually affirmed Biden’s victory and pointed to the voters’ decision not to reelect Trump as a reason the impeachment was unnecessary. He told the The Washington Post that Trump never pushed him to try and relitigate the election.
“The president and the guys around him had plenty of opportunity to pressure me into using an election-fraud defense,” Castor said. “The case is a winner. Why would I inject a problem?”
Castor has never met Trump, only speaking with him for the first time in January, he told the Post. Castor said someone in Trump’s inner circle had recommended him to the former president.
Negative reactions from GOP senators
Several Republican senators publicly shared their confusion and consternation after Castor’s opening argument.
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., called Trump’s defense “disorganized” and said they “did everything they could but to talk about the question at hand.” Cassidy was one of six Republicans who voted that the trial was constitutional and could move forward, after previously casting a vote declaring the trial unconstitutional.
Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine both were confused by Castor’s argument. Murkowski said she could not follow Castor’s line of thinking, while Collins said that Castor “did not seem to make any arguments at all.”
Similarly, Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said, “I thought I knew where it was going,” Graham told reporters on Tuesday, “and I really didn’t know where it was going.”
Another Trump ally in the Senate had criticism for his defense team. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said that Castor “rambled on and on and on and didn’t really address the constitutional argument.”
A quick exit from Trump’s team?
Trump’s anger at Castor’s performance could mean his days on the former president’s legal team could be numbered.
Trump ally and former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro had argued before the trial even started that Trump needed someone to defend him capable of putting on an impassioned show to win over the audience, such as Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.
“You gotta get rid of those guys. These people don’t understand. This is a political trial,” Navarro said.
Several of Trump’s critics said it wouldn’t matter who argued his case, or how ineffective they were in doing so, because too many Republican senators were already determined to acquit Trump.
“In any other case, if a plaintiff saw their defense so outmatched by the prosecution, they’d try to cut a plea deal or start putting their affairs in order before going to jail,” tweeted conservative Trump opponent and CNN commentator Ana Navarro-Cárdenas. “But in this case, Trump knows he’s got the jury bought. So embarrassing for Trump’s minions in Senate.”
Despite Trump’s reported fury at Castor’s opening arguments, when asked Wednesday if Trump had shared his displeasure with him, Castor told reporters, “Far from it.”
And when asked his take on the barrage of criticism his performance had faced, Castor replied, “Only one person’s opinion matters.”
Contributing: The Associated Press