President Donald Trump is willing to accept, for now, a shorter impeachment trial without witnesses in hopes of a Senate acquittal -- but what he wants is a TV spectacle.
White House aides are proceeding on the assumption that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will back down on her threat to withhold articles of impeachment in her showdown with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the president seems willing to follow his lawyers' advice on strategy, reported The Atlantic.
No matter how it plays out, an impeachment trial will play out as political theater.
But Trump is looking for lawyers with a little more dramatic heft than White House counsel Pat Cipollone, a career litigator with little TV experience.
“This is not a venue for a legal beagle person," an administration official told The Atlantic. "It’s someone who needs political chops and TV skills. This is not a court of law, which Pat would be great at. It’s political theater.”
Trump advisers told the magazine the president is considering adding his longtime outside lawyer Jay Sekulow, who hosts a syndicated radio show, and Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard Law professor emeritus with an extensive television background.
But Dershowitz could serve as a huge distraction due to his connection to billionaire sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, who was found hanged in his jail cell this summer while awaiting trial on additional charges.
Trump also has lengthy connections to the late Epstein, who Dershowitz once represented, and the attorney has also been accused of sex crimes by one of Epstein's accusers.
Advisers are worried that any random encounter or persuasive talking head could change Trump's mind on strategy.
"One former senior White House official told me that if Trump were to venture to the gas station and talk to an attendant who recommended a lawyer who once quashed his uncle’s subpoena, the president might be sufficiently impressed to hire the guy," wrote The Atlantic's Peter Nicholas.
Advisers are assuring the president that impeachment will only help him, and they are saying the complexity of the Ukraine scandal will help him skate away from the charges.
"Trump has no incentive to keep matters clear and simple," Nicholas wrote. "If impeachment leaves voters confused, he benefits. When a Senate trial rolls around, we can expect him to keep up a running commentary about how his rights were trampled and how his accusers have been improperly shielded. It’ll be empty rhetoric, though. Trump will be happy with the acquittal. He long ago backed off."