NORRISTOWN, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) – For years, Bruce Castor dominated courtrooms and thrived in the spotlight as district attorney in Montgomery County. But after an attempt at statewide office went down in flames in a battle with Republican party leaders, Castor left the limelight.
Now, after years in the shadows, Castor is about to take part in the largest trial in the country – heading up Donald Trump’s impeachment defense.
He says it’s incredible to be chosen, but "the enormity and the gravity" of his role hasn’t fully set in.
"I have experience in being able to defer those feelings, because when I’d be confronted with multiple dead people and had to go find who did it and make sure they paid for it, I didn’t have time to think about the enormity of that responsibility," the former district attorney said.
"I’m sure that at some point it will hit me – maybe when I’m standing in the Senate looking out at United States senators looking at me waiting for me to talk, but I’ll probably take off my glasses so they’re all a blur anyway."
Bruce Castor says the Trump team initially reached out to him in mid-January.
"I was beginning to prepare for the case and get the retention paperwork all squared away and, like everyone else, I saw in the media President Trump had hired a team out of South Carolina," he said.
Castor says he didn’t give it another thought until he got a call on Saturday, saying Trump had parted ways with that legal team and asking if he were interested.
"Maybe one of the biggest trials, if not the biggest, in the history of the United States. I mean that’s pretty heavy stuff and I’m excited to be part of it."
Castor avoided specifics of how he got on Trump’s radar, mentioning "someone at the White House" and a cousin who's a staffer on the judiciary committee.
Reports indicate that the previous legal team split under pressure to argue the validity of the election, but Castor says he made it clear from the start, he was only interested in technical defenses.
"No one has pressured me. It hasn’t even been discussed," Castor said.
"There are plenty of questions about how the election was conducted throughout the country, but that’s for a different forum, and I don’t believe that’s important to litigate in the Senate trial, because you don’t need it."
Avoiding specifics about his forthcoming arguments, Castor said Trump has plenty of facts and precedents on his side to win with.
"There are statutes that deal with incitement to riot, and it’s not even close that the president engaged in what would be considered criminal conduct," he said. "Then there’s a test called the Brandenburg test set down by the Supreme Court. I analyzed that at length, and that isn’t even close to met. I don’t believe there’s a chance in the world they’re going to be able to demonstrate he committed those crimes, or even anything approaching them."
He says the Jan. 6 rioters who overtook the U.S. Capitol need to take responsibility for their actions, and that the former president is blameless.
"The president deplores the violence at the Capitol, and those people should be punished, aggressively, as I would have done as if I was the DA and they did it at the Montgomery County courthouse. But just because somebody gave a speech and people got excited, it doesn’t mean it’s the speechmaker’s fault. It’s the people who got excited and did what they know is wrong."
But regardless of the events of Jan. 6, 2020, Castor’s primary argument is that the U.S. Senate has no jurisdiction over a private citizen.
"The Constitution says the only remedy for impeaching a person is removal from office, and if that’s the only remedy, and President Trump no longer holds office, the entire proceeding is a legal nullity because it can’t happen," Castor said.
"It would be almost the equivalent of the president having died – they can’t remove him from office, because he simply is unable to be removed, because he’s not there."
Castor is shaking off criticism, against himself and anyone else who has come to the defense of the former president, decrying the "blood sport" of ignoring due process and the First Amendment to take down the powerful.
"It is hard to believe the division in this country has led to the vitriol online that has met those of us that were asked to defend the president. I’m a lawyer, and President Trump needs help, and he’s come to me and asked for it. I have an obligation to help him," he said. "That obligation belongs to a lawyer his whole career."