Alan Dershowitz, a constitutional scholar and member of Donald Trump’s legal team, argued on Sunday that the Articles of Impeachment passed by the House of Representatives last month should not lead to the president’s removal, because they were for “two non-criminal actions.”
The retired Harvard law professor made similar arguments in appearances on CNN’s State of the Union and ABC News’ This Week on Sunday. Dershowitz clarified that he is not a full member of Trump’s legal team, but plans to make an “important argument” defending the president during his Senate trial. He argued that even if the president did all the things laid out in the Articles of Impeachment, this should not lead to his removal.
“I’m making what could be the most important argument on the floor of the Senate, namely that even if everything that is alleged by the House managers is proven, assuming it’s true, they would not rise to the level of an impeachable offense,” Dershowitz said during his CNN interview.
.@AlanDersh says he’s legal counsel for Trump but not a full member of the team. “I’m making what could be the most important argument on the floor… even if everything that’s alleged by the House managers is proven… they would not rise to the level of an impeachable offense.” pic.twitter.com/T9AzzuqA1U
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) January 19, 2020
The lawyer explained that he was not involved in the “day to day” defense strategy of the president. However, he was part of the team to present “the constitutional issue” as he sees it.
Speaking to ABC News, he said: “Congress was wrong in impeaching for these two articles.”
“They are not articles of impeachment. The articles of impeachment are two non-criminal actions,” he asserted.
“You can’t charge a president with impeachable conduct if it doesn’t fit within the criteria for the Constitution,” the lawyer said. He explained, that in his view, the Constitution only allowed for impeachment for explicitly criminal behavior.
Dershowitz, who has long defended Trump publicly, was revealed to be joining Trump’s legal team for the Senate trial on Friday. Additionally, Ken Starr–who worked as independent counsel to investigate then-President Bill Clinton ahead of his impeachment and eventual acquittal in the Senate in 1999–has joined Trump’s legal team.
Trump was formally impeached by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives in December, becoming only the third president in history to be formally indicted for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The vote passed almost entirely along party lines, with no Republicans voting to impeach the president. While a few Democrats voted against the articles of impeachment or voted present, conservative Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, who was elected as a Republican but then declared his independence last July, voted in favor of the measures.
The case has now moved to the Senate, which is currently controlled by Republicans. As the president’s removal requires a two-thirds majority vote, most analysts believe it is highly improbable that Trump will be convicted by the Senate. A successful removal vote would require every Democrat, the Senate’s two independents and at least 20 Republicans to take a stand against the president.
Trump was impeached with two articles, the first for “Abuse of Power” and the second for “Obstruction of Congress.” The president is accused of carrying out a pressure campaign against Ukraine to announce investigations that he hoped would damage his political rivals. He and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani repeatedly urged Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce probes into unfounded claims that former Vice President Joe Biden acted corruptly in Ukraine to benefit his son Hunter’s business there–as well as into a debunked conspiracy theory that Democrats coordinated with Ukrianians to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Multiple Trump administration officials also testified that there was a “quid pro quo” involved with the pressure campaign. The president was known to be withholding military aid to Ukraine, as well as a White House meeting with Zelensky, as he pushed for the investigations to be announced publicly. But Trump has insisted that he did nothing wrong, and that the entire impeachment is a “partisan” attack.