Trump impeachment lawyer saved Philandering Sanford in 2009

Erik Larson and Steven T. Dennis

Donald Trump will be represented at his impeachment trial by South Carolina lawyer Butch Bowers, who’s best known for helping save a former governor – and eventual Trump foe – from being removed from office following a scandal over an extramarital affair.

Trump adviser Jason Miller confirmed the hiring in a statement posted to Twitter on Thursday. The former president, who left office Wednesday after one term, will go on trial soon in the U.S. Senate after being impeached in the House for inciting an insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 that led to five deaths.

Gov. Mark Sanford, left, listens as his attorney Butch Bowers talks about the actions of the Ethics Commission during a news conference Thursday, Sept. 10, 2009, at the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C.

Bowers, who has worked on high-profile voting and election matters, represented former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford in 2009 when the Republican-led legislature weighed impeachment after he admitted lying to aides about hiking the Appalachian Trail when he was really in Argentina with his mistress.

Bowers didn’t return a phone call or email seeking comment.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and vocal supporter of the former president, said he knows Bowers and called him a “solid guy” who would be the “anchor tenant” of Trump’s legal team.

The former president “looks forward to getting this behind him,” Graham said. Trump “believes this is unconstitutional and damages the presidency, but you know he’s going to have his day in court and that’s the way the system works.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Friday that the House’s article of impeachment will be delivered to the Senate on Monday, triggering the process leading to a trial. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday told fellow Republicans that he favors delaying the start of the trial until February to give the former president time to mount a defense. Trump has said he doesn’t believe he’s guilty of inciting the mob with his fiery speech before the riot because he didn’t call for violence.

Trump is building his impeachment defense team as law firms continue to part ways with him following his challenge to the election result and the raid on the Capitol by his supporters. Seyfarth Shaw LLP and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP became the latest firms in a growing list to say they’re cutting ties with the former president and his companies. Seyfarth cited the former president’s role in stoking the Jan. 6 riot, while Morgan Lewis declined to offer a reason. A tax lawyer at Morgan Lewis is currently embroiled in a probe of Trump’s family business by New York’s attorney general.

Bowers, of Columbia, South Carolina, is known for defending North Carolina’s controversial voter-identification legislation as well as the state’s so-called bathroom bill in a lawsuit with the Obama administration. While the bill became law, the portion that targeted transgender residents was repealed after a boycott of the state by businesses and sporting events. Bowers also served as Special Counsel for Voting Matters at the U.S. Justice Department during President George W. Bush’s administration, and he was the chairman of the South Carolina State Election Commission from 2004 to 2007.

Sanford Defense

Bowers represented Sanford before a South Carolina House impeachment committee. Sanford had rejected a call from the state’s House speaker to resign amid a probe into his expenditures after his affair with a woman in Argentina was revealed. When the committee voted not to proceed with impeachment, Sanford finished his second term as governor.

Sanford then served in Congress, but narrowly lost a 2018 re-election primary after Trump endorsed his opponent and tweeted on election day that the lawmaker was “nothing but trouble.” Sanford went on to run a brief and unsuccessful primary campaign against Trump in 2019.

Trump was represented by former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Jay Sekulow in his first impeachment trial, which stemmed from the president’s attempt to get the president of Ukraine to open a criminal investigation into Joe Biden’s son Hunter. Trump’s pressure tactic failed, and the call led to his first impeachment. Biden was elected president and was sworn in Wednesday.