According to Trump’s lawyer, if a president thinks his election is in the public interest, then any action he takes cannot be considered a quid pro quo... This argument would put anti-constitutional power in a president’s hands, B. Jay Cooper writes.
First published in January 2020.
President Trump, who views himself as at most a tyrant and at least as a CEO-type who every employee should kowtow to, will feel all the more powerful when he is acquitted in the impeachment trial.
That is partly due to one of his lawyers, Alan Dershowitz, who argued that as long as the President, who like every candidate believes his election is in the national interest, is acting in what he sees as the public’s best interest to get himself re-elected, he has done nothing impeachable.
Alan Dershowitz sounds pretty defensive this morning. Maybe that's because his argument yesterday was that Donald Trump can do anything he wants.— Susan Glasser (@sbg1) January 30, 2020
My column on what it was like in the Senate to hear Dersh argue: L'etat, c'est Trump: https://t.co/Sr0EIiWm9I via @NewYorker
I don’t care in this moment if you are a supporter of Trump or not, Dershowitz’ argument would put anti-constitutional power in a president’s hands. Dershowtiz’ take on the Constitution is a minority one in the world of constitutional experts. As one of his former Harvard colleagues, Professor Charles Fried put it, Dershowitz’ position made the “very best argument for getting (former NSC Advisor John) Bolton’s testimony” so the Senate can determine Trump’s motives and whether they’re “different from the national interest.”
Some Republican senators already are using Dershowitz’ words to justify their “no witnesses” vote which will lead to their not guilty verdict. Dershowitz’ argument whether they agree with it or not is giving them cover to acquit Trump.
Of course today Dershowitz and some Fox talking heads are saying, basically, he didn’t say what he said. Dershowitz tweeted, “They (critics) 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. I said nothing like that, as anyone who actually heard what I said can attest.”
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. I said nothing like that, as anyone who actually heard what I said can attest.— Alan Dershowitz (@AlanDersh) January 30, 2020
Well, I was watching and listening. He said that if a president (or any candidate really) thinks his election is in the public interest, then any action he takes cannot be considered a quid pro quo. But more importantly, many Republican senators are taking what he said as cover to vote to acquit Trump.
Just go listen to the tape, or on YouTube or whatever, and try to forget your political beliefs. Just listen to what he said and I think you’ll agree.
Trump attorney Alan Dershowitz: "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." https://t.co/jKErQcS1Iy pic.twitter.com/zo4rL6Zbla— ABC News (@ABC) January 29, 2020
Now in the great scheme of life Dershowitz’, who is at heart, a criminal defense lawyer, is a minority interpretation. But those Republican senators are using it as a crutch to justify their acquittal vote. And, when he is acquitted you can bet your bottom dollar that Trump will use it to further his corruption of the government. It should be a humdinger of a State of the Union address next week.
There also are articles today saying that the ultimate vote on calling witnesses could end in a 50-50 tie and put Chief Justice Roberts in the position of breaking the tie, or letting the tie stand and then the issue of witnesses will be moot.
There will be no 50-50 vote. Majority Leader McConnell isn’t the only good vote-counter in the Senate. Those couple of senators who indicated they might-maybe-possibly could vote for more witnesses (Romney, Collins, Murkowsi, Alexander) will read the votes and see no witnesses is a foregone conclusion and they will vote to have no witnesses. It’s done all the time in Congress – see how the vote’s going; if you can’t win by voting your conscience, go with the majority and cover your rear. 53-47 here we come.
Of course I believe Bolton should testify. He was in the room. He knows. And anyone who knows Bolton knows he’s a straight-shooter. In fact, that’s one reason Trump didn’t like him on his staff.
On a side note, if they call Joe Biden, he could see it as a huge opportunity. They would be questioning him on the subject he feels most passionate about – his family. If he gave a good performance, it would only help him. But, it’s a big risk because he could screw up.
In any event, he has no relevant testimony. If there were any evidence of his wrong doing, Republicans should pull it out, show it and have the Justice Department investigate. There has only been innuendo, no evidence. They aren’t asking the FBI or Justice to investigate. That’s because there is no evidence.
Our political situation is very messed up, to say the least. If Trump is acquitted, as he will be, and if he wins re-election – the country will be in for the test of our lives to protect our Democracy.🔷
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