Bruce Castor is best known for a rambling performance defending former President Donald Trump at his second impeachment trial. Now, Castor is representing people charged in the U.S. Capitol riot.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.