Donald Trump’s impeachment defense team has about as much integrity as a fishing net made out of toilet paper. On Wednesday, lawyer Alan Dershowitz provided one of the most truly wicked and specious arguments in the history of law when he explained during Trump’s Senate impeachment trial that a public official, no matter how corrupt, could not commit a crime if they believe that their corrupt action is in the public interest. His exact quote was, “If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.”
Dershowitz, like the toadstool of a person he is, later tweeted that he didn’t say what he said and that people saying he did were misunderstanding what he said. He went on to say he stood by what he didn’t say, but he didn’t say it … so don’t say he said it. A large part of Dershowitz’s theatrical display of intellectual dishonesty was dedicated to citing fellow Harvard Law professor Nikolas Bowie as someone who agreed with the argument that abuse of power does not warrant impeachment. Bowie then spoke with Anderson Cooper and Jeffrey Toobin on CNN to clear up what he actually wrote and believes.
Abuse of power is a crime. There are people around the country who have been convicted of it recently. It's a crime that’s existed since this country was founded. And it's a criminal offense. To equate it with "maladministration," as my colleague professor Dershowitz does, is the equivalent of saying that criminal corruption is the same thing as getting a bad performance evaluation. “Maladministration” is just an 18th-century term for doing a bad thing at your job, for, you know, not filing papers correctly. And I think he’s right: A president shouldn’t be impeached for getting a bad performance evaluation. But to equate that with criminal corruption? That’s a joke.
He’s right. But, like everything in this current authoritarian climate, it’s a terrible, terrible joke.