Jan 19, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Dershowitz claims abuse of power is not an impeachable offense even if proven

Alan Dershowitz, a member of President Trump's legal defense team for the impeachment trial, said on CNN's "State of the Union" that he will be arguing in the Senate that abuse of power and obstruction of Congress do not amount to impeachable offenses, even if proven.

Why it matters: Dershowitz said he will, in his oral arguments at the trial, contend that the House can only impeach a president who has committed "criminal-like" conduct — not political charges such as abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

  • House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said on ABC's "This Week" that Dershowitz's argument is an "absurdist position" that someone would only make if the facts of the case were not on their side.
  • Rep. Jason Crow, who along with Schiff is one of the Democrats' seven impeachment managers, argued on CNN that if a president can't be indicted and abuse of power isn't impeachable, then "no president can be held accountable."

What they're saying: Jeffrey Toobin, a former federal prosecutor and CNN's lead legal analyst, said Dershowitz is making an argument against witness testimony in the impeachment trial.

  • "Alan is saying, and you correct me if I am wrong, is that even if everything that the Democrats allege is true, there's still no impeachable offense here, and so that means there is no need for witnesses, is that right?" Toobin said.
  • "Well, that is partly right," Dershowitz responded. "I mean, if a person is indicted on something that not a crime, you don't call the witnesses."
  • Dershowitz added that "the House has the ability to go back to call witnesses, and reframe the articles of impeachment in order to set out impeachable offenses."

Between the lines: Determining the role of witness testimony has been a point of major contention in the lead-up to the trial.

  • Some Republicans argue that Democrats should not be able to call witnesses in the Senate because they had the chance to call them in the House.
  • They also believe Trump has the power to invoke executive privilege over testimony from aides like acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

Yes, but: It would take just four Republicans to vote with Democrats to call witnesses like former national security adviser John Bolton, who has said he would testify if subpoenaed.

  • 66% of Americans said they wanted to hear from Bolton in the trial, according to a Quinnipiac national poll of 1,562 voters.

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