He’s trying to spin his participation in Trump’s defense as some sort of quasi-academic exercise more so than advocacy on behalf of a particular client. It’s not that he’s for Trump, you see, it’s that he’s against the idea that a president can be impeached for exercising power which he’s constitutionally authorized to exercise. (He’s dead wrong about that, but whatever.) Trump’s own lawyers, led by the able Pat Cipollone, could and would make that point on the president’s behalf at trial, though. And Dershowitz could continue to make it himself in TV appearances and op-eds, as he’s done for months.
Instead he’s agreed to join the defense. Except that he’s not joining-joining it, he wants us to understand.
Some on Twitter think his reluctance to fully embrace Trump here is related to the Epstein allegations against him, as if it’s some sort of damage control he’s doing for the president knowing the sort of media heat his participation will bring on Trump. If he’s not really participating in the defense then it’s not quite fair to say that Trump hired a guy who represented Epstein and has been accused of abuse by one of Epstein’s victims, or so the argument goes. I don’t think that’s what this is about, though.
Dershowitz said on The Dan Abrams Show on SiriusXM’s POTUS Channel, that he will just provide an hourlong constitutional defense of the president before the Senate as Trump goes on trial next week.
“I think it overstates it to say I’m a member of the Trump team. I was asked to present the constitutional argument that I would have presented had Hillary Clinton been elected and had she been impeached,” Dershowitz said.
“I was asked to present my constitutional argument against impeachment,” he continued. “I will be there for one hour, basically, presenting my argument. But I’m not a full-fledged member of the defense team in any realistic sense of that term.”
Dershowitz isn’t disassociating himself from Trump in order to avoid tainting Trump with a link to Epstein (way too late for that), he’s doing it because he’s 81 and knows that his legacy will suffer for his Trump legal apologetics over the past three years. It’s liberal academics, historians, and lawyers who’ll have the strongest influence in defining that legacy once Dershowitz is gone. He knows his biographies are going to have a “Trump chapter” now and that they won’t be kind to him. At the same time, the man loves the spotlight and probably couldn’t say no to a chance to address the entire country on television as a defense lawyer for the president of the United States at a once-in-a-lifetime (well, twice-in-a-lifetime) impeachment trial. So he took the job and then immediately set about insisting to outraged lefties that he’s defending *the Constitution* here, not Trump.
Probably not going to work. If they were shunning him before, imagine how they’ll feel watching him take Trump’s side with the president’s removal from office on the line. Remember this op-ed from 2018, after Dershowitz had already emerged as a frequent defender of Trump’s legal position(s)?
I am a liberal Democrat in politics, but a neutral civil libertarian when it comes to the Constitution.
But that is not good enough for some of my old friends on Martha’s Vineyard. For them, it is enough that what I have said about the Constitution might help Trump. So they are shunning me and trying to ban me from their social life on Martha’s Vineyard. One of them, an academic at a distinguished university, has told people that he would not attend any dinner or party to which I was invited. He and others have demanded “trigger warnings” so that they can be assured of having “safe spaces” in which they will not encounter me or my ideas. Others have said they will discontinue contributions to organizations that sponsor my talks.
That’s what he’s thinking about today. Not pro-Trump, pro-Constitution. Not part of Trump’s defense, just … sort of an expert witness, if you will. Liberals can forgive him for representing a degenerate like O.J. They can’t forgive him for going against The Cause. He’s doing his best today to convince him that that’s not really what he’s doing, but it’s not gonna work.
Yep. You show up and argue on someone’s behalf, you’re on their team. The kind of thing he might have thought of before the announcement. https://t.co/vCHoBzkLvp
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) January 17, 2020
Ed asked a good question in his post about Trump’s “dream team” earlier: Why Dershowitz? Why not, say, Jonathan Turley to make the case during the trial that a president can’t be impeached absent evidence of a crime? For Trump, I suspect, it came down to four familiar factors. Dershowitz is:
(1) famous, much more so than Turley;
(2) on Fox News regularly;
(3) “loyal” inasmuch as his views on the legal controversy du jour usually come down on Trump’s side, however much he qualifies that by reminding people that he’s a liberal Democrat; and
(4) a Harvard prof by way of Yale Law School, the sort of elite credentials that our otherwise populist president reportedly so admired in Brett Kavanaugh.
Put that together and Dersh is hitting on all cylinders as the sort of lawyer who might catch the president’s eye. It’s amusing, in fact, that Trump seems determined to carve out an hour for him to expound on constitutional theory at the trial when there’s news today that the GOP is hellbent on finishing it as quickly as possible. The president doesn’t need Dershowitz’s argument to sway any votes in the Senate: His acquittal is assured either way, it’s unlikely to persuade any undecideds to the extent that there are any undecideds, and he and his team could save an hour of the trial by skipping it. But he’s going to make time for it anyway, probably just because it tickles him to imagine the famous Alan Dershowitz arguing on his behalf. Dersh is a celebrity! He’s been a character in movies! What could be sweeter than a TV trial in which he’s your lawyer? Sort of your lawyer, I mean.