With a historic Senate impeachment trial kicking off today in Washington, the team representing President Donald Trump has not one, but two, Arizona connections.
Trump named U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Lesko to his impeachment team on Monday. The Arizona Republican and longtime Trump supporter said in a tweet she will "continue to fight against this corrupt & unfair process" in her role advising the impeachment defense team.
On that legal defense team, assembled last week, there's also another, lesser-known Arizona tie: a lawyer who once sued an Arizona Corporation Commissioner — and won the hefty sum of $60 million.
His name is Eric Herschmann, and he's a partner at Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, a New York law firm that has represented Trump several times over the last decade and beyond.
But in a previous life, he represented the Southern Union Company, a natural gas utility, which sued former Arizona Corporation Commissioner Jim Irvin and his top aide, Jack Rose, for their attempts to interfere with a merger between Southern Union and Southwest Gas in 1999.
The civil case revealed Irvin and Rose tried to coerce regulators in California and Nevada to reject the Southern Union deal and instead choose an alternative offer from Oklahoma company Oneok.
It turned out Rose had set himself up to make millions in consultant fees if the Oneok purchase went through.
Herschmann led Southern Union's legal team. In 2002, an Arizona Federal District Court ruled in his favor, awarding Southern Union $60 million in punitive damages for Irvin's behavior as corporation commissioner.
Herschmann joins a cadre of other high-profile lawyers defending Trump, including White House counsel Pat Cipollone, former Jeffrey Epstein lawyer Alan Dershowitz, and Clinton impeachment independent investigator Ken Starr, among others.
Two other Arizonans are worth watching in the Senate impeachment trial: Arizona senators Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat, and Martha McSally, a Republican.
Some view Sinema as a potential swing vote to acquit Trump, given her centrist voting record in a state that voted to elect Trump in 2016. She hasn't indicated which way she'll vote, but she affirmed her loyalty to the Constitution in a statement to the Arizona Republic, saying, "Senators have a Constitutional duty to treat this process with the gravity and impartiality that our oaths demand."
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
All eyes are on McSally, too, who has declined to answer reporters' questions about the impeachment, in one case by calling a CNN reporter a "liberal hack" when he tried to ask if the Senate should consider new evidence in the trial.
It would be a surprise if McSally voted against Trump, though her Senate seat is vulnerable in this year's election, and recent filings show she's fallen far behind her Democratic opponent Mark Kelly in campaign contributions.
The impeachment trial started today as senators sat down to debate and vote on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's proposed trial rules.
If the Senate votes in favor of Trump's guilt, he will be removed from office.