Much of America (at least those who are paying attention to the Senate impeachment trial) was awestruck this week, and not in a good way, as one of Trump’s attorneys in the trial suggested that a president can lawfully engage in abuses of power, so long as they believed doing so benefited their re-election campaign.
Doing so, in their mind, would be in the nation’s best interests. Therefore, the action itself couldn’t be deemed impeachable, Dershowitz argued, per prior reporting from HillReporter.com.
“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.
A number of political, legal, and history scholars took issue with that claim, arguing that it could bestow some pretty king-like powers to the president, allowing him to abuse his power in any number of ways. One Harvard professor, Nikolas Bowie, said on Wednesday evening that the argument, if held true, could result in some pretty harmful outcomes to “justify” a president’s re-election.
“Think of what that would mean. That would mean that if a president were to order the military to start rounding up black people because he’s afraid they’re going to vote for a Democrat in the next election, and so long is the president is motivated by the national interest — so long as the president is motivated to get re-elected — then that’s fine,” Bowie said. “Then the president isn’t corrupt. That can’t be right.”
Bowie added that Dershowitz’s ideas were a “joke” and “irresponsible,” according reporting from Law & Crime.
Harvard Law assistant professor Nikolas Bowie, who Trump lawyer Alan Dershowitz has repeatedly cited, says that Dershowitz is misconstruing his views. “That is such an irresponsible and ludicrous argument,” Bowie says. https://t.co/vUmzLvc8yX pic.twitter.com/vMVWl1Pp0R
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) January 30, 2020
Dershowitz has been griping ever since his words were uttered that people are misconstruing what he actually said. “They characterized my argument as if I had said that if a president believes that his re-election was in the national interest, he can do anything,” he said in a tweet. “I said nothing like that, as anyone who actually heard what I said can attest.”
But others contest that Dershowitz is gaslighting people.
“Not literally ‘anything,’ @AlanDersh — just anything that’s not in the criminal code,” another Harvard professor, Laurence Tribe, tweeted back. “The media understood you perfectly. Stop whining & get a grip.”
Not literally “anything,” @AlanDersh — just anything that’s not in the criminal code. Like promising Putin that, if Russia helps the president win re-election, he’ll veto any future sanctions against its oligarchs. The media understood you perfectly. Stop whining & get a grip. https://t.co/dNwhnofyU9
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) January 30, 2020