Alan Dershowitz may have kept his underwear on in the Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump—though, thankfully, we do not know that one way or the other. What he didn’t keep was any pretense that his “constitutional scholarship” went beyond the ability to say “James Madison” while providing a defense of nothing less than overt fascism.
In a series of appearances, Dershowitz declared that there’s nothing wrong with a president using the federal government to launch investigations of opponents, nothing wrong with a president extorting political assistance from a foreign government, and in fact nothing at all forbidden to a president clinging to power. Nothing.
It was such an amazing statement that it generated immediate concern—from everyone except Republican senators who who will vote to endorse that theory on Friday. But now Dershowitz’s embrace of unbounded authoritarianism is under assault from a new source: Alan Dershowitz.
On Thursday morning, Dershowitz—clothing status unknown—tweeted that when he said a president could never be impeached for abuse of power, that a president was perfectly justified in using his office to persecute opponents, and that there were no limits on what a president could do to cling to power … people were taking it the wrong way.
“They characterized my argument as if I had said that if a president believes that his re-election was in the national interest, he can do anything,” complained the attorney of Jeffrey Epstein and Harvey Weinstein. “I said nothing like that, as anyone who actually heard what I said can attest.”
Well, it’s certainly a good thing that Mitch McConnell’s personally controlled camera was fixed on Dershowitz during his appearance so that these slanderous accounts can be cleared up.
What did Dershowitz really say? Well, there was the part where he discussed what a president could demand, from anyone, including foreign governments, in exchange for political help against opponents.
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.
If that wasn’t clear enough, Dershowitz walked through scenarios to make it clear that, no matter how severe the action, there was nothing, nothing, nothing off the table. All it takes is anything that creates the slightest possibility of mixed motives … even if the “good” part of that mixture is unlimited hubris.
’I want to be elected. I think I’m a great president. I think I’m the greatest president there ever was. And if I’m not elected, the national interest will suffer greatly.’ That cannot be an impeachable offense.
And rather than suggesting that it was an issue for the president to use his power to solicit—or order—investigations into political opponents, Dershowitz made the case that, because Joe Biden is a candidate, Trump can put him under additional scrutiny.
The fact that he’s announced his candidacy is a very good reason for upping the interest in his son.
If the media is reporting that Dershowitz said a president can do anything to maintain their own power, and a president can use that power to persecute opponents, it’s because he did. No matter what Alan Dershowitz says.
And when the Senate votes on Friday, it’s exactly these theories that it’ll be voting on.