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Another Columbia attorney joining Trump's impeachment defense team

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Joey Meek Sentencing (copy) (copy)

Deborah Barbier speaks Tuesday outside Charleston federal court in 2017 after Joey Meek was sentenced to 27 months for telling others not to report Dylann Roof in the Emanuel AME Church shooting. Brad Nettles/Staff

COLUMBIA — A second Columbia attorney is joining former President Donald Trump's impeachment defense team. 

Like Trump's lead lawyer, Butch Bowers, who was announced last week, Deborah Barbier runs her own small firm. Trump has encountered trouble hiring legal help because larger law firms do not want to get involved in the impeachment, national reports have said.

Barbier's appointment was announced Monday in an email sent to dozens of lawyers from Greenville attorney Wallace Lightsey, South Carolina committee chair for the American College of Trial Lawyers. The email was obtained by The Post and Courier.

"Regardless of one’s personal view of Mr. Trump, it says a great deal about Debbie’s skill and reputation as a trial lawyer that she was chosen for this task, and I am very proud to be her colleague," Lightsey wrote. "We know you will acquit yourself well (even though some of us may be hoping that your client is not)."

Lightsey said in an email to The Post and Courier he was unaware of any other South Carolina attorneys joining the Trump team besides Barbier and Bowers. Barbier did not return calls and texts Monday. 

Former S.C. Attorney General Charlie Condon, who operates his own law firm in Mount Pleasant, told CNN he was approached about helping Trump but is not representing the former president.

Bowers and Barbier have two weeks to prepare a defense for Trump in the U.S. Senate against a charge that he contributed to starting the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol where four people and a Capitol officer died. The House sent the impeachment article Monday night to the Senate. 

The impeachment trial, Trump's second, starts Feb. 9. He could be barred from public office if convicted.

Barbier has defended Joey Meek, a friend of Emanuel AME shooter Dylann Roof, who pleaded guilty to telling others not to share with authorities that Roof was behind the massacre. He was sentenced to 27 months in prison in 2017.

She also defended Richard Quinn, the state's most influential political operative, when he was charged with conspiracy and illegal lobbying in the S.C. Statehouse corruption probe. The charges against Quinn were dropped in 2017 when his son, state Rep. Rick Quinn, agreed to plead guilty to a misconduct in office charge and resign from office as part of the probe.

Santee Cooper, the state-owned power provider, hired her when a federal grand jury started investigating the failed $9 billion nuclear plant expansion in Fairfield County. And she was brought in as an attorney for the S.C. House legislative ethics committee.

Barbier worked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office from 1996 to 2011 in the criminal division where she was deputy chief of the general crimes section and chief of the asset forfeiture unit. She also was chief of the civil division that oversaw health care fraud, defense contracting fraud, procurement fraud and whistleblower cases. 

The University of South Carolina law graduate went into private practice in 2012, specializing in white-collar criminal cases.

Barbier will join Bowers, long considered the go-to attorney for South Carolina Republicans running into ethical and political problems. Bowers has represented the past three South Carolina governors, a North Carolina governor and the S.C. GOP Party.

Bowers shared office space with Henry McMaster, a Trump ally, before he became South Carolina governor. Bowers joined the Trump legal team at the recommendation of U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, another Trump ally from South Carolina.

Bowers and Barbier have reputations as serious lawyers, arriving at a time when Trump's recent legal representation, including Rudy Giuliani, have hurled unfounded claims about voting irregularities in the 2020 president election won by Democrat Joe Biden.

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