In a preview of the Senate impeachment trial, House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff tangled Sunday with constitutional law expert Alan Dershowitz, a member of President Trump’s legal team, calling his anti-impeachment argument “absurdist.”
Mr. Dershowitz said he would argue on the Senate floor that even if everything House Democrats allege about President Trump is true, abuse of power does not constitute an impeachable offense, prompting pushback from Mr. Schiff.
“In fact, in the House made exactly the opposite argument, that abuse of power is at the center of what the framers intended an impeachable offense to be,” said Mr. Schiff on ABC’s “This Week.” “The logic of that absurdist position that’s being now adopted by the president is he could give away the state of Alaska, he could withhold execution of sanctions on Russia for interfering in the last election, to induce or coerce Russia to interfere in the next one.”
Mr. Dershowitz, professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, countered in a separate interview by citing the argument made by then-Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Curtis during the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson in 1868.
“[Curtis] argued, very successfully, winning the case, that you needed proof of an actual crime,” said Mr. Dershowitz. “It needn’t be a statutory crime, but it has to be criminal behavior, criminal in nature. And the allegations in the Johnson case were much akin to the allegations here — abusive conduct, obstructive conduct — and that lost.”
He added, “So I am making an argument much like the argument made by the great Justice Curtis. And to call them absurdist is to, you know, insult one of the greatest jurists in American history.”
The Senate impeachment trial begins Tuesday on two articles of impeachment passed by the House stemming from Mr. Trump’s July 25 phone call urging Ukraine to investigate possible corruption involving former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
Mr. Dershowitz said that he has a “limited role in the case,” acting as of counsel on the constitutional basis for impeachment and that he has no role in the “strategic decisions about witnesses or fact.”
“The argument is a strong one. The Senate should hear it. I’m privileged to be able to make it,” he said.
.@GStephanopoulos: “Is it your position that President Trump should not be impeached even if all the evidence and arguments laid out by the House are accepted as fact?”— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) January 19, 2020
Alan Dershowitz: “That’s right.” https://t.co/cqiFPziHtOpic.twitter.com/r4HZwCF149
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