Constitutional scholar and criminal defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz rose to the defense of President Donald Trump at his Senate impeachment trial on Monday evening, arguing that the conduct with which Trump had been charged was outside what the Framers of the Constitution had considered to be impeachable offenses.
Dershowitz drew upon the successful 1868 arguments by former Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Curtis, who had dissented from the infamous Dred Scott decision and resigned from the Court in protest, and who later defended President Andrew Johnson in his impeachment trial, the first ever of any U.S. president.
Impeachment, Dershowitz argued, required “criminal-like conduct akin to treason and bribery.” He stressed: “This is the key point in this impeachment case … purely non-criminal conduct including ‘abuse of power’ and ‘obstruction of Congress’ [the charges against Trump] are outside the range of impeachable offenses.”
He said claims by Democrats like Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), who said the House could do what it wanted, were wrong: “It would place Congress above the law. It would place Congress above the Constitution. … would be for Congress to do what it is accusing the president of doing. And no one is above the law.”
Dershowitz said that the House impeachment managers had erred in arguing that the general fears of the Framers that a president would abuse his power could be substituted for the criteria written in the text of the Constitution itself, which sought a specific basis for impeachment and removal of judges and presidents. read more