Trump legal defense attorney Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor and self-described liberal Democrat, fired back at CNN on Monday after the left-wing network accused Dershowitz of making contradictory claims between the impeachment of President Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton.
CNN highlighted an August 1998 interview with Dershowitz on CNN during the summer leading up to Clinton’s impeachment.
“It certainly doesn’t have to be a crime if you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of president and who abuses trust and who poses great danger to our liberty, you don’t need a technical crime,” Dershowitz said at the time. “We look at their acts of state. We look at how they conduct the foreign policy. We look at whether they try to subvert the Constitution.”
But on Sunday he told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on “State of the Union” that in his defense of Trump he would cite former Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Curtis in saying the framers of the Constitution intended for impeachable conduct to mean “criminal-like conduct.”
Dershowitz also asserted on ABC’s “This Week” that both obstruction of Congress and abuse of power do not meet the constitutional criteria for impeachment.
Dershowitz quickly debunked CNN’s attempt to suggest that he made contradictory statements, telling MSNBC, “It’s the same argument. You need criminal-type behavior akin to treason and bribery. It doesn’t have to be a technical crime because at the time that the framers wrote the constitution there was no criminal code.”
Dershowitz fired back again on Twitter, writing, “There is no inconsistency between what I said during the Clinton impeachment and what I am saying now. I said then that there doesn’t have to be a ‘technical’ crime. I have said now there must be ‘criminal-like’ conduct, or conduct ‘akin to treason and bribery.'”
There is no inconsistency between what I said during the Clinton impeachment and what I am saying now. I said then that there doesn’t have to be a “technical“ crime. I have said now there must be “criminal-like” conduct, or conduct “akin to treason and bribery.”
— Alan Dershowitz (@AlanDersh) January 20, 2020
During an interview on Sunday, Dershowitz pushed back on former Clinton official George Stephanopolous’ suggestion that the articles against Trump contained crimes.
“The articles of impeachment are two non-criminal actions, namely obstruction of Congress and abuse of power, and those … would have to be voted on by the Senate,” Dershowitz said.
“Let me press that, though,” Stephanopolous said. “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 responded. “When you have somebody who, for example, is indicted for a crime – let’s assume you have a lot of evidence – but the grand jury simply indicts for something that’s not a crime, and that’s what happened here, you have a lot of evidence, disputed evidence, that could go both ways, but the vote was to impeach on abuse of power, which is not within the constitutional criteria for impeachment, and obstruction of Congress.”
“Those are both the kinds of things that led Hamilton and Madison – talk about nightmare – to regard that as the greatest nightmare, number one, giving Congress too much power to allow the president to serve at the will of Congress,” Dershowitz continued. “And number two, as Hamilton put it, the greatest danger is turning impeachment into a question of who has the most votes in which House, and rather than having a consensus and a broad view of impeachable conduct.”