During the questioning period of the Senate impeachment trial for President Donald Trump, a member of his legal team made an unusual argument.
Alan Dershowitz argued on Wednesday that every elected official believes that their re-election is important, and in the nation’s best interest. The president was no different, in this respect, and so even if Trump had sought to use a quid pro quo to compel Ukraine to investigate one of his political rivals (withholding military aid that was desperately needed in order to facilitate the deal), it wasn’t something he should be reprimanded over.
“If a president did something that he believes will help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment,” Dershowitz said, per reporting from CNN.
“We may argue that it’s not in the national interest for a particular president to get elected, and maybe we’re right,” he went on, but he added that impeachment can only occur if there are “corrupt motives” involved. Trump’s actions, though perhaps benefiting his re-election, were not corrupt, Dershowitz said, because he felt being president again was in the nation’s best interests.
Trump attorney Alan Dershowitz: "If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment." https://t.co/jKErQcS1Iy pic.twitter.com/zo4rL6Zbla
— ABC News (@ABC) January 29, 2020
“A complex middle case is ‘I want to be elected. I think I’m a great president. I think I’m the greatest president there ever was and if I’m not elected, the national interest will suffer greatly.’ That cannot be an impeachable offense,” Dershowitz maintained.
Many on social media were quick to pick up on Dershowitz’s words as remarkable, and not in a good way. Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe offered a stark warning if Dershowitz’s argument was deemed acceptable.
“Accepting this argument would put us on a short path toward dictatorship, benevolent or otherwise,” Tribe wrote in a tweet. “It’s incompatible with government of, by, and for the people. It’s government by egomania.”