Harvard Law School professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz briskly defended President Donald Trump late Monday against impeachment allegations, telling Democrat House managers they picked “dangerous” and “wrong” charges.
The liberal constitutional law scholar said that although he voted for Hillary Clinton in2016, he could not find constitutional justification for the impeachment of a president for non-criminal conduct, or conduct that was not at least “akin” to defined criminal conduct.
“I’m sorry, House managers, you just picked the wrong criteria. You picked the most dangerous possible criteria to serve as a precedent for how we supervise and oversee future presidents,” he said, according to Fox News.
Dershowitz noted that “all future presidents who serve with opposing legislative majorities” now face the “realistic threat” of enduring “vague charges of abuse or obstruction.”
He added that a “long list” of presidents have previously been accused of “abuse of power” in differing contexts without being ever being formally impeached.
- George Washington, who refused to turn over documents related to the Jay Treaty;
- John Adams, who signed and enforced the so-called “Alien and Sedition Acts”;
- Thomas Jefferson, who flat-out purchased Louisiana without any kind of congressional authorization whatosever;
- John Tyler, who notoriously used and abused the veto power;
- James Polk, who allegedly disregarded the Constitution and usurped the role of Congress;
- Abraham Lincoln, who suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War;
- Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and others would also probably face impeachment using the Democrats’ rules.
“Abuse of power,” he argued, has been a “promiscuously deployed” and “vague” term throughout history. It should remain a merely “political weapon” fit for “campaign rhetoric,” Dershowitz said.
He also noted the charge has no constitutional basis.
“Purely non-criminal conduct such as abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are outside the range of impeachable offenses,” Dershowitz said.
He went on to quote U.S. Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Robbins Curtis — one of the two dissenters in the notorious 1857 “Dred Scott v. Sandford” decision and counsel for President Andrew Johnson during his impeachment trial in 1868 — who said there is no impeachable offense “without a law, written or unwritten, express or implied.”
In response to reports that Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, charges in a new book that the president demanded Ukraine investigate Joe and Hunter Biden in exchange for delivering military aid, such a “quid pro quo” is not illegal even if it did happen.
“Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power, or an impeachable offense,” Dershowitz said. “That is clear from the history. That is clear from the language of the Constitution. You cannot turn conduct that is not impeachable into impeachable conduct simply by using terms like ‘quid pro quo’ and ‘personal benefit.'”