Alan Dershowitz, the high-profile attorney and law professor who just joined President Donald Trump’s defense team, made the case against impeachment on Sunday by focusing only on constitutional criteria.
On ABC’s “This Week,” Dershowitz said the two articles of impeachment — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress stemming from the pressure campaign on Ukraine to investigate a Trump political rival — were “noncriminal actions.”
“When you read the text of the Constitution, treason, bribery, other high crimes and misdemeanors — ‘other’ really means that crimes and misdemeanors must be ... akin to treason and bribery,” he said.
The program’s host, George Stephanopoulos, pressed him on the point: “Is it your position that President Trump should not be impeached even if all the evidence and arguments laid out by the House are accepted as fact?”
“That’s right,” Dershowitz replied. Invoking the founders Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, he maintained that impeaching based on the current articles could result in “nightmare” scenarios, giving Congress too much power over the president or turning impeachment into a question of “who has the most votes in the House.”
In an earlier interview with ABC, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), dismissed that argument as “absurdist.”
“You had to go so far out of the mainstream to find someone to make that argument,” Schiff said Sunday. “You had to leave the realm of constitutional law scholars and go to criminal defense lawyers.”
Dershowitz said he was comfortable with his position, saying: “The argument is a strong one, the Senate should hear it. I am privileged to be able to make it.” Besides, he said, it’s an argument that was successful in the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson in 1868.
Dershowitz calls himself a “liberal Democrat,” and says he voted for the 2016 Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, over Trump. He has also tried to downplay his role on Trump’s defense team, insisting he isn’t a “full-fledged” member.
“I'm not here for a political discussion,” he said on Sunday.
On Saturday night, House managers outlined their formal case against the president, writing that “the facts are indisputable, and the evidence is overwhelming.” The president’s lawyers responded in a brief maintaining that Trump did nothing wrong with Ukraine.
In his recent book on impeachment, Dershowitz wrote that “an American should not collude with a foreign power in an effort to enhance his candidacy.” But on Sunday, Dershowitz would not comment on whether he agreed with the Trump legal team’s brief.
“I didn't sign that brief. I didn’t even see the brief until after it was filed,” he said. “That's not part of my mandate. My mandate is to determine what is a constitutionally authorized criteria for impeachment.”
“If the allegations are not impeachable, then this trial should result in an acquittal,” Dershowitz said, “regardless of whether the conduct is regarded as OK by you or by me or by voters.”