Speaking with "New Day" host Victor Blackwell, CNN legal analysts and former prosecutor Elie Honig explained the likely reasons why Donald Trump's entire impeachment legal team quit on him late Saturday just days before the ex-president faces a trial in the U.S. Senate.
With CNN reporting, "A person familiar with the departures told CNN that Trump wanted the attorneys to argue there was mass election fraud and that the election was stolen from him rather than focus on the legality of convicting a president after he's left office," Hoenig said it likely went deeper than that.
"What a mess," Honig began when asked about the latest developments.
"Here we are, we are a week and change out from trial and the former president has nobody representing him," he explained. "So lawyers generally have a very broad obligation to represent their clients; criminal defending, impeachment defending, whatever it may be. When you see something like this, what it tells you there was a difference in terms of not necessarily just strategy, but if a defense lawyer believes he is be made to make an argument that is either a lie or dangerous or unethical, that's where you see resignations like this."
"So I think it makes a lot of sense," he added. "If President Trump said to the lawyers -- and by all appearances they are legitimate lawyers, they're DOJ alumni, one of them is an ethics expert -- if President Trump said 'I want you to argue this election was stolen,' they have every right and they did the right thing to say, 'no, we're out.'"
"We all knew, they knew, everybody knew that the president told this lie that the election had been stolen from him," host Blackwell offered. "He did that from the night when the returns started to come in and they joined the team anyway. What does that tell you about how central that lie he wanted to be part of, of the case that they were making? It couldn't be just a part of it because they knew that that would be something he wanted to happen, that he wanted that maybe to be the central element."
"Yeah, Victor, he is sticking with it," the ex-prosecutor replied. "If I was a lawyer in that situation, if the former president came to me, I would say something like I am not doing that big lie thing. I will argue constitutionality all day long. Maybe that your speech you gave didn't quite step over the line of the First Amendment. I don't agree with those arguments, but they are fair play. If he said, no you are going to rant and rave about this election was stolen, rigged, rigged, rigged -- no, I would do what these lawyers did."
"The Senate does not have to allow this defense," he added. "Real judges in real trials all the time say to defense lawyers you can't argue that, that's not a proper defense. The Senate controls how this impeachment trial goes, they need to think hard about whether they want to countenance that sort of a lie as a defense."