Trump impeachment lawyer talks about 'water bottle sensation'

David Schoen, who represented Donald Trump at his second impeachment trial, says that he didn't mean to go viral, but is glad he did.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

David Schoen
David Schoen

Instead of the historic deliberation underway during Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, social networks were flooded by hashtags like "hand on head" and "water bottle". The viral video that sparked the trends shows Trump's attorney David Schoen interrupting his speech in Congress for a moment, covering his head with his palm, mumbling to himself a few words and then taking a sip from a water bottle. It was a perplexing ritual - unless the viewers chanced to be Orthodox Jews.

"I was thirsty, so I drank," Schoen explains in an interview to the Makor Rishon newspaper. "I never eat or drink without my skullcap. It was a natural thing for me, I never thought it would go viral.”

"I don't usually wear a skullcap in court, certainly not before juries," Schoen admits. “One juror once related negatively towards me because of my Jewish appearance, and since then I have avoided it for my clients’ sake. Of course, neither my religion nor that of my client should ever have a bearing on the jury’s decision.”

Schoen says that his repeated outwards displays of religious Judaism, including making a blessing on water and asking that the impeachment not be tried on Shabbat, have drawn worldwide admiration from Gentiles and Jews alike. “People said it was more significant to them than Sandy Koufax (a Jewish-American baseball player who refused to participate in a crucial World Series game held on Yom Kippur 1965). People have told me that it was the inspiration to them to start wearing skullcaps in the workplace, to get in touch with their own Jewish identity. I didn’t intend for any of this, but I am glad it happened.”

"I first heard about the trend from my children", he told Makor Rishon, "then from the New York Post’s tweet that ‘Attorney David Schoen gives a lesson on Orthodox Judaism'. Interestingly, people stopped making fun when they heard it was a religious act. It’s a beautiful message."

Being a viral sensation wasn’t the only surprise that Schoen got during the trial - his presence there was requested with barely any introduction by Trump’s chief of staff. "About four weeks ago, on Sunday night, the chief of staff called me and asked if I was ready to represent the president. I replied, 'It depends on who on the defense team.' He said he would call me again the next day with the president, but only two hours later I got a call from Trump himself. We talked at length, and he asked if I wanted to represent him. I honestly wasn’t sure at first - mine is a small firm, and I am the only lawyer. I was afraid that I couldn’t handle it alongside my other cases.”

The appeal to Schoen was made after Trump's original defense team disbanded. Some attorneys left it due to disputes over fees, others due to disputes over the legal line to be taken. Senior U.S. attorneys declined to represent the outgoing president, pressuring others not to do so. When it was reported at one point that Trump had hired a South Carolina law firm, Schoen sent a polite email to the chief of staff thanking him for the call. "They came back to me and said, 'We still want you as a lawyer to lead the line of defense, along with the other firm.' I said I was afraid they would not be happy for this collaboration, since I work alone, and they had five attorneys on the case, but Trump was able to personally intervene to let me help make his case to Congress and the Senate.”

For all that, Schoen says, he’s still not sure why Trump wanted such a small-time lawyer on his defense team. "I was certainly surprised to hear it. It seems I was recommended by certain highly placed people, among them Trump’s political advisor Roger Stone. I know I was afraid to bungle the case, but Trump told me ‘I have every confidence in you. Now you need to believe in yourself.”