President Donald Trump's impeachment attorneys were ridiculed after a bewildering and contradictory debut performance before the US Senate Tuesday.
Recruited just 10 days ago to defend him against charges of inciting his followers to attack the US Capitol, David Schoen and Bruce Castor were compared to the Three Stooges and, in a very low dig in the legal community, to the incompetent attorney played by Joe Pesci in the comedy "My Cousin Vinny."
Alan Dershowitz, who defended Trump in his first impeachment trial one year ago, said he could not understand what Castor wanted to achieve in his meandering opening argument.
"There is no argument. I have no idea what he's doing. I have no idea why he's saying what he's saying," the celebrity attorney said on Newsmax.
"Castor and Schoen must be the most incompetent legal representation of any modern president, incumbent or otherwise," tweeted Michael Beschloss, a historian of the presidency.
"By the time Castor and Schoen are finished, the House will probably demand to impeach (Trump) a third time."
With Trump facing the deeply serious charge of supporting insurrection, Castor hardly touched the subject.
Instead he spoke of loving one's elected representatives, said impeachment was unnecessary because voters elected Joe Biden, and suggested Trump's behavior was more comparable to manslaughter than murder.
And, coming after a Democratic prosecutor effectively obliterated the Trump team's claim that the trial was unconstitutional, Castor stunningly threw in the towel.
"We changed what we were going to do on account that we thought the House impeachment managers' presentation was well done," he said.
Schoen was better, but not by much.
'Rambled on and on'
That augurs difficult days ahead when the two sides argue the merits of the charge that Trump knowingly encouraged hundreds of followers to storm through the halls of Congress, shutting down the legislature on January 6 and leaving five people dead.
In a US city chock-a-block with talented lawyers, the episode was panned as comparable to a bad high school debate club performance.
Republican Senator John Cornyn said Castor "just rambled on and on and didn't really address the constitutional argument."
"I've seen a lot of lawyers and a lot of arguments and that was not one of the finest I've seen.”
It was not completely their fault. They signed with Trump after he abruptly split with his original, more experienced team -- and reportedly had trouble finding replacements.
But neither Castor, a Pennsylvania prosecutor and politician, nor Schoen, a criminal defense lawyer, has experience at this level of constitutional law.
And their client is notoriously challenging.
There was damage from the flop performance. In the Senate's vote on whether the trial is constitutional, one Republican, Bill Cassidy, reversed his view from last week to side with Democrats.
"The House managers had much stronger constitutional arguments. The president's team did not," he tweeted.
Even so, underscoring the political nature of the impeachment process, 44 of 50 Republican senators, including Cornyn, stood by the ex-president.
Convicting him at trial will require 67 of the 100 senators.
Tuesday's 56-44 votes -- 44 all from the president's party -- suggests that wall of loyalists could remain standing whatever his attorneys do.