Attorney Alan Dershowitz locked horns with CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin over the articles of impeachment approved by the House Judiciary Committee against President Donald Trump.
The two men sparred as Dershowitz maintained that Democrats are “trying to make it up as they go along,” arguing that the charges against the president do not meet the standards in the U.S. Constitution.
Dershowitz began by speaking about his advice to Trump on sticking with a constitutional argument against the articles of impeachment brought this week by House Democrats.
CNN host John Berman had asked the professor emeritus at Harvard Law School about recent reports that he will be joining the president’s legal team, but Dershowitz said that he couldn’t speak about the details yet. He went on to note what he has already told the president: that he should focus “on the inadequacies of the two charges” leveled against him.
On a party-line vote of 23-17 Friday, the House Judiciary Committee adopted two articles of impeachment against the president, alleging abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Dershowitz contended that Trump’s argument in his defense is solidly backed by the Constitution, which lays forth “fairly specific criteria” for impeachable offenses.
Democrats “can’t interpret ‘misdemeanor’ to mean pretty much exactly what the Framers rejected at the Constitutional Convention,” Dershowitz said, prompting Toobin to push back, saying that the offenses in question are ones that “only a president can commit.”
“You or I can lie under oath, we can rob a bank, but we cannot withhold money from Ukraine in return for political help in our campaign,” CNN’s chief legal analyst said. “The only person who can do that, who can violate his oath and abuse power is the president.”
He debated with Dershowitz, claiming that Trump’s actions are “precisely an abuse of power.”
“I can name you 20 presidents that have abused power under those criteria. President Kennedy going after people through the IRS… Roosevelt confining 110,000 Japanese Americans,” Dershowitz fired back.
“Come on, Alan!” Toobin exclaimed after more back-and-forth and following his argument that the White House’s “blanket refusal” qualifies as obstruction of Congress and thus, an article of impeachment.
“I do that every day when I represent people,” Dershowitz shot back. “What I say to prosecutors is I’m not giving you one bit of evidence, I’m not cooperating, I’m not allowing my person to come in., the burden is on you. You have to prove your case. And I don’t obstruct justice by doing that.”
“Your clients take the fifth. There’s separation of powers between executive branches of government. It’s an entirely different scenario,” Toobin argued.
“It’s much more powerful because the separation of powers is in the body of the Constitution itself, not in the amending process. The separation of powers crucially allowed the head of the executive branch to challenge every legislative action and leave it to the courts to decide,” Dershowitz replied.
“I’m looking forward to Alan defending the president on the floor of the Senate,” Toobin concluded after the heated exchange. “Not exactly what I expected in your criminal law class that that’s how you would culminate your career, but hey.”
Dershowitz also made the case for the Constitutional standards in impeachment in an opinion piece published by The Hill this week.
“Neither of these proposed articles satisfy the express constitutional criteria for an impeachment, which are limited to ‘treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.’ Neither are high or low crimes or misdemeanors. Neither are mentioned within the Constitution,” he wrote.
“Both are so vague and open-ended that they could be applied in partisan fashion by a majority of the House against almost any president from the opposing party. Both are precisely what the Framers had rejected at their Constitutional Convention,” Dershowitz added.
He accused House Democrats of “placing themselves not only above the law but above the Constitution” by pursuing Trump’s impeachment without bipartisan support in Congress.
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