February 3, 2020 – When Donald Trump picked the notorious lawyer Alan Dershowitz to represent him in the impeachment trial, I felt the President wouldn’t get the best possible legal representation. I didn’t realize it was the U.S. Constitution that would get an even worse defense during Trump’s impeachment trial.
I figured the job of the Trump defense team would be to challenge the facts of the case, which they didn’t really do so much. I thought they might look for errors in the House Management case. Instead, they made the Constitutional claim that the Founding Fathers really wanted an authoritarian president, and so long as the president is doing it to be reelected, there is no crime.
“Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest,” Dershowitz said on the Senate floor, responding to a question about how presidents conduct foreign policy. “And if a president did something that he believes will help him get elected — in the public interest — that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.” (https://www.politico.com/news/2020/01/29/impeachment-q-and-a-moments-that-mattered-109272).
So in other words, a president could send Ukraine funds to Russia instead for their these Soviet-style rebels, in exchange for Putin’s campaign cash. Or maybe congressionally authorized funds might be sent to a Frankfurt-based bank account to be used for a presidential reelection bid. The possibilities for “public interest” are endless, in a Dershowitz world. And Dershowitz’s colleagues claimed that abuse of power and corruption weren’t impeachable offenses.
Seeming to recognize the incredible damage his arguments caused, Dershowitz tried to walk back those comments. Rather than admit he was wrong, or mistaken, and unable to say he was misquoted, the attorney for Jeffrey Epstein tried to say he was “misunderstood” by the media.
“Alan Dershowitz, one of President Donald Trump’s impeachment lawyers, claimed on Thursday that the media “willfully distorted” his shocking argument that presidents can do whatever they want to get reelected because said reelection is ‘in the public interest”–even though that’s precisely the argument he made,” according to TPM (https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/after-blowback-dershowitz-walks-back-alarming-public-interest-defense-of-trump).
“I did not say or imply that a candidate could do anything to reassure his reelection, only that seeking help in an election is not necessarily corrupt,” Dershowitz tweeted, as noted by TPM.
Yet Dershowitz has a history of supporting an autocratic chief executive. In an interview on Fox News with Laura Ingraham, he stated “Of course the president’s not the king. The president is far more powerful than the king. The president has the power that kings have never had, it’s a very, very powerful office. And the framers wanted it that way, that’s why they required for impeachment very strict criteria to be met.” (https://www.newsweek.com/alan-dershowitz-trump-king-don-mcgahn-fox-news-1474130)
Anyone who tells you that the Founding Fathers wanted near total power for the presidency under the label “separation of powers” and willfully ignores the document itself, as well as the checks and balances within the Constitution, is more than ignorant; he or she wants to take your freedom, and thinks you’re not strong or smart enough to restrict the power of the government.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. He can be reached at email@example.com. His Twitter account is JohnTures2.