Trump Impeachment Lawyers Are Now Representing Capitol Riot Defendants

Jun 8, 2021
Originally published on June 9, 2021 7:13 pm

Attorneys Michael van der Veen and Bruce Castor defended former President Donald Trump at his Senate impeachment trial over allegedly inciting the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection.

Even as van der Veen, Castor and the Trump defense team called the impeachment "political theater" and ultimately secured Trump's acquittal, they condemned the rioters for bringing "unprecedented havoc, mayhem and death" to the Capitol. They argued in a legal brief that the rioters' actions deserve "robust and swift investigation and prosecution."

Now, van der Veen and Castor find themselves on the other side of those prosecutions, defending at least three people charged in connection with the Capitol breach.

Prosecutors allege that van der Veen's client, Marine Corps veteran Jason Dolan of Florida, is affiliated with the extremist militia group the Oath Keepers, and that he helped plan, and ultimately participated in the storming of the Capitol.

Castor is representing two defendants facing much less serious charges.

Kristina Malimon, 28, and her mother, Yevgeniya Malimon, 54, were arrested on the evening of Jan. 6 outside the Capitol building. According to court documents, the two failed to follow repeated police orders to disperse in violation of a curfew order. Authorities in Washington, D.C., have charged both women with unlawful entry of public property, a misdemeanor. Neither has been accused of committing violence or breaching the Capitol building. They have both pleaded not guilty in Washington, D.C., Superior Court.

Michael van der Veen (left) and Castor speak with reporters on Capitol Hill in February after the Senate acquitted Trump in his second impeachment trial. Both men are now representing defendants facing charges related to the Capitol riot.
Alex Brandon / AP

Van der Veen and Castor did not respond to NPR's phone and email messages seeking an interview. It's unclear how they came to represent these defendants, and whether their experience in the impeachment trial might inform their legal arguments.

Castor's early defense of Trump was widely criticized by Republicans, Democrats, legal observers and late-night comics as "rambling," "random," "meandering," and by at least one Senate Republican as "not one of the finest I've seen." As NPR reported, Trump had been unhappy with Castor's performance early on.

Initially, other attorneys had represented the Malimons.

But court documents show that in recent months the Malimons replaced those lawyers with Castor.

Todd S. Baldwin, who had initially represented Yevgeniya Malimon, confirmed that his former client had sought "outside counsel" but otherwise declined to comment. Michelle Stephens, who previously represented Kristina Malimon, did not respond to a phone message from NPR.

Kristina Malimon is connected to Republican politics, which may provide some clues as to how she retained Castor's legal help. Malimon has served as a vice chairwoman of the Young Republicans of Oregon, a delegate to the Multnomah County Republican Party and as an ambassador to Turning Point USA, an organization for young pro-Trump conservatives.

In August, Malimon helped organize a pro-Trump boat parade on Oregon's Willamette River. A boat, which was not part of the parade, sank when the parade sent waves crashing over its sides.

On her Instagram account, she posted videos from the pro-Trump rally outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, and had previously posted a selfie with longtime Trump adviser and convicted felon Roger Stone, according to The Associated Press. (Trump pardoned Stone in December.) That Instagram account now appears to have been deactivated.

Meanwhile, the militia Dolan allegedly belongs to, the Oath Keepers, provided security to Stone at multiple events. The New York Times first reported the connection between the Oath Keepers and Stone, and Stone has denied any knowledge of or involvement in the Capitol riot.

Van der Veen founded the law firm where Castor works, and the firm focuses on both personal injury and criminal defense cases.

Before representing either the Malimons or Trump, Castor was the district attorney for Montgomery County, Penn. During his time in office, Castor declined to bring criminal charges against Bill Cosby after Andrea Constand accused the actor and comedian of drugging and sexually assaulting her.

Castor's decision was heavily criticized, particularly after additional women accused Cosby of a pattern of sexual misconduct lasting decades. Another prosecutor eventually brought charges against Cosby related to the assault on Constand, and in 2018, a jury found Cosby guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault against her.

Later, Castor got involved in the second impeachment trial through his cousin, Stephen Castor, a Republican attorney who previously helped defend Trump in his first impeachment. Bruce Castor then enlisted van der Veen as part of the legal effort.

Both men told the Philadelphia talk radio station WPHT that they had no regrets about their defense of Trump and recounted how staff at the Trump International Hotel pampered them during the trial.

"They ironed my underwear," van der Veen said. "Every morning, I woke up with ironed underwear!"

Castor said Trump "didn't like the way I looked on TV," so the former president had Brioni suits made up for the lawyer "overnight" to make him more telegenic.

"They treated us like kings," van der Veen added.

Given their experience on the case, van der Veen told the Philadelphia Business Journal that his firm would seek out more high-profile cases. "I think you will see us hopefully tackle more hot button issues," he said.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Two defendants in a case that's related to the January 6 Capitol riot have turned to prominent attorneys for legal help - Bruce Castor and Michael van der Veen. Now, those names might ring a bell. As NPR investigative correspondent Tom Dreisbach reports, they defended former President Trump at his second impeachment trial.

TOM DREISBACH, BYLINE: When Trump was impeached for allegedly inciting the January 6 insurrection, he called on attorneys Bruce Castor and Michael van der Veen to defend him. Standing on the Senate floor, van der Veen argued that Trump did nothing wrong. Instead, blame the rioters, he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: The entire team condemned the violence and lawbreaking that occurred on January 6 in the strongest possible terms. We've advocated that everybody be found, punished to the maximum extent of the law.

DREISBACH: Now, months later, close to 500 people have been found, arrested and charged. And van der Veen and Castor find themselves on the other sides of those prosecutions. Van der Veen, who you just heard, is representing Jason Dolan. He's an alleged member of the anti-government militia the Oath Keepers from Florida, where his arrest was big news.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Dolan, a Wellington resident and 20-year Marine Corps veteran, faces four charges in connection to the storming of the Capitol on January 6, including a charge of destruction of government property.

DREISBACH: Dolan has also been indicted for conspiracy for allegedly planning and executing the attack on the Capitol. Bruce Castor's clients, meanwhile, are facing much less serious misdemeanor charges.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KRISTINA MALIMON: We won the election, and we will have big victory soon. We all know that. President Trump won by a landslide.

DREISBACH: This is one of those clients, Kristina Malimon. She's a Republican activist from Oregon. And as you could hear from this interview last December, she supported Trump's election conspiracy theories.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MALIMON: And I know that 100% that President Trump will be our president.

DREISBACH: Court documents say she and her mother, Yevgeniya, were arrested outside the Capitol on the evening of January 6. They allegedly violated the city's curfew and failed to listen to repeated police orders to disperse. They've pleaded not guilty. It's unclear what led van der Veen and Castor to take on these cases. They did not respond to our phone and email messages. Their law firm is based in Philadelphia and focuses on personal injury and criminal defense. And Castor got some harsh reviews for his defense of Trump, which included some detours like this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BRUCE CASTOR: I worked in this building 40 years ago. I got lost then, and I still do.

DREISBACH: Even Trump-supporting Republicans called that performance rambling. But Castor, van der Veen and their legal team ultimately secured Trump's acquittal. They told a podcast from Philadelphia talk radio station WPHT that they had no regrets. In fact, they said that during the trial, they were put up at the Trump International Hotel, where the staff treated them, quote, "like kings." Here's van der Veen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VAN DER VEEN: They ironed my underwear. Every morning, I woke up with ironed underwear. You ever had that (unintelligible)?

DREISBACH: Castor said he actually got a note from Trump on his wardrobe choices.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CASTOR: The president didn't like the way I looked on TV, so they had suits made for me.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Wow.

DREISBACH: In fact, Castor said they were tailored Brioni suits so he'd be more telegenic. Given that experience, they said they wanted to take on even more high-profile cases. As it turns out, that meant defending people charged in the Capitol riot, one of the biggest criminal investigations in American history.

Tom Dreisbach, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.