Jan 19, 2020

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.

Go deeper: Trump's concede-nothing defense

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Schiff dismisses "absurdist position" that abuse of power is not impeachable

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said on ABC's "This Week" that Alan Dershowitz's argument that abuse of power is not an impeachable offense — even if proven — is an "absurdist position" that President Trump is only making because the facts are so "dead set" against him.

Go deeperArrowJan 19, 2020

Dershowitz says he's more correct on impeachment now than in 1998

Alan Dershowitz speaks at an event in New York City last April. Photo: Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Alan Dershowitz, a member of President Trump's impeachment trial legal defense team, told CNN Monday he has a "more sophisticated basis" for his argument on what constitutes an impeachable offense than during the Clinton impeachment.

Why it matters: In 1998, he told CNN crime wasn't a factor in impeachment "if you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of president and who abuses trust and who poses great danger to our liberty."

Go deeperArrowJan 21, 2020

White House: Impeachment articles are "an affront to the Constitution"

Donald Trump on Jan. 19. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

The White House on Monday has asked the Senate to “swiftly reject” the articles of impeachment against President Trump, calling them "an affront to the Constitution and to our democratic institutions."

Why it matters: The 110-page legal brief is the first glimpse into the president's defense strategy. In it his lawyers argue that neither of the two articles is valid because they do not constitute a violation of the law and only punish the president for expressing his constitutional powers.

Go deeperArrowJan 20, 2020