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On its face these choices are absurd. Ray is a less ridiculous figure than the first two. He took over for Starr after he resigned as Independent Counsel. Neither Starr nor Dershowitz bring any obvious experience or advantage to the effort on the merits. In addition to his very checkered record as Independent Counsel, Starr was effectively fired as Chancellor of Baylor University for the massive sexual harassment and rape scandal that occurred on his watch. Dershowitz meanwhile, in addition to all his other nonsense, continues to be embroiled in controversy over his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein and allegations, which he firmly denies, that he had sex with an underaged girl Epstein procurred for him. These are, to put it mildly, unfortunate distractions for members of the President’s impeachment legal team.
The best way to see this is that this is a septuagenarian Fox News’s watchers idea of a legal dream team. They are also three men who have reliably argued Trump’s case on TV for months. At the end of the day Donald Trump is a man who sees himself as an outsider who gets no respect. Dershowitz is the fancy, famous Harvard smarty who now misses no opportunity to go on TV and argue Trump’s case, whatever it happens to be on a given day, and that clearly appeals to Trump in a very deep and affirming way. Starr, pretty much the same.
With Starr and Ray, the two men who ran the Independent Counsel investigation against Bill Clinton Trump also seems to feel some elaborate sense of gotcha he brings to the trial.
For Trump, he’s in it for ratings. If he has to go on trial he wants it big and in the faces of his enemies. And it’s true that he could put really any clowns in charge of his defense and he’d still be acquitted and continue as President.
But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.
We almost certainly know how this trial ends. What we don’t know is just how we get there. This just makes it messier and harder for Senate Republicans, especially the half dozen or more who face tough reelection races in November. Trump is always all about must-see TV. For him there may be no downside. But there is a downside for those who have to acquit him. Mitch McConnell has, wisely, wanted this whole exercise fast, low-key and boring. Trump, unable to be anything but Trump, is intent on making that as hard as possible.