Dershowitz: Half of American Presidents Have Faced 'Abuse of Power' Allegations

By Susan Jones | January 20, 2020 | 8:33am EST
Attorney Alan Dershowitz (File photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)
Attorney Alan Dershowitz (File photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

( - Attorney Alan Dershowitz made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows to discuss his upcoming role in the Senate impeachment trial.

"I'm not involved in the strategic decisions about witnesses or fact," Dershowitz told ABC's "This Week." He said he has a "limited role" in the case, and that is to explain the "constitutional criteria for impeachment."

Dershowitz says he will argue that the two articles of impeachment -- abuse of power and obstruction of Congress -- are not impeachable offenses.

"My mandate is to determine what is a constitutionally authorized criteria for impeachment?" Dershowitz said. "And I strongly believe that abuse of power is so open-ended -- half of American presidents in history, from Adams to Jefferson to Lincoln to Roosevelt, have been accused by their political enemies of abusing their power.

"The Framers didn't want to have that kind of criteria in the Constitution because it weaponizes impeachment for partisan purposes."

Host George Stephanopoulos asked Dershowitz if he thinks it's "okay for a president to solicit foreign interference in our election?"

Dershowitz said that question should be answered by voters:

"If the allegations are not impeachable, then this trial should result in an acquittal, regardless of whether the conduct is regarded as OK by you or by me or by voters. That's an issue for the voters," Dershowitz said.

I'm not going to present my personal views on what I think. I think that conduct does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense.

I think many presidents in the past have made foreign policy decisions to enhance their electoral prospects. And if people think that this president did that, that's a factor that should enter into their decision who to vote for, among many, many other factors.

I'm not here for a political discussion. I'm a liberal Democrat who voted against President Trump and who voted for Hillary Clinton.

I'm here to present a constitutional argument the way I did in the Clinton impeachment and the way I argued when I was on the national board of the ACLU in the Nixon impeachment.

Dershowitz said he will base his argument on the "successful" one made by former Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Curtis at the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson:

Andrew Johnson was impeached in part for non-criminal conduct. And Curtis, who was the dissenting judge in the Dred Scott case and one of the most eminent jurists in American history, made the argument that has been called absurdist, namely, that when you read the text of the Constitution, bribery -- treason, bribery, other high crimes and misdemeanors -- 'other' really means that crimes and misdemeanors must be...akin to treason and bribery.

And he argued, very successfully, winning the case, that you needed proof of an actual crime. 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.

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.

Dershowitz said his argument is going to focus "purely on the constitutional issues. "


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