Dershowitz: ‘Would You Want Your Actions to be Probed’ for Your ‘Real’ Motivation?

By Susan Jones | January 28, 2020 | 10:48am EST
Retired Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz tells senators why Democrats have failed to meet the Framers' threshhold for impeachment. (Photo: Screen capture)
Retired Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz tells senators why Democrats have failed to meet the Framers' threshhold for impeachment. (Photo: Screen capture)

( – "Like all human beings, presidents and other politicians persuade themselves that their actions…are primarily in the national interest,” retired Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz told U.S. senators at Donald Trump’s impeachment trial on Monday.

To conclude that an action is an abuse of power, the president’s opponents “must psychoanalyze the President and attribute to him a singular, self-serving motive.”

Dershowitz said a “subjective probing of motives,” something House impeachment managers have relied upon, “cannot be the legal basis for a serious accusation of abuse of power that could result in the removal of an elected president."

Dershowitz quoted House managers as questioning whether the “president’s real reason” – their words – for delaying aid to Ukraine was legitimate.

"What a standard! What was in the president’s mind? Actually in his mind? What was the 'real reason'? Would you want your actions to be probed for what was the 'real reason' why you acted?"

Dershowitz argued that the Framers “could not have intended this psychoanalytic approach to presidential motives to determine the distinction between what is impeachable and what is not.”

Dershowitz then argued that even if a president, any president, were to demand a quid pro quo as a condition to sending aid to a foreign country, “that would not, by itself, constitute an abuse of power.”

He used the hypothetical example of an Israeli prime minister who is told by a Democrat president that foreign aid approved by Congress will not flow, and an Oval Office meeting will not happen, unless the Israelis stop building satellites.

“I might disapprove of such a quid pro quo demand on policy grounds,” Dershowitz said, “but it would not constitute an abuse of power. Quid pro quo alone is not a basis for abuse of power. It’s part of the way foreign policy has been operated by presidents since the beginning of time.”

Dershowitz described impeachment article I, “abuse of power,” as a “vague, subjective and politically malleable phrase” that is not a “constitutionally permissible criteria for the removal of presidents.”

Enter the New York Times report that former National Security Advisor John Bolton will say in his upcoming book that President Trump told him that aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens. Trump insists he never said such a thing to Bolton, but Democrats are falling over themselves to insist that Bolton be called as a witness to bolster the case they didn’t wait to make.

Dershowitz went there:

He said even if a president said or did what Bolton alleges in his manuscript, “that would not constitute an impeachable offense. Let me repeat that,” he said:

Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power or an impeachable offense.

That is clear from the history and that is clear from the language of the Constitution. You cannot turn conduct that is not impeachable into impeachable conduct simply by using words like quid pro quo and personal benefit.

It is inconceivable that the Framers would have intended so politically loaded and promiscuously deployed a term as “abuse of power” to be weaponized as a tool of impeachment.

It is precisely the kind of vague open-ended and subjective term that the Framers feared and rejected…

Also See:

President's Lawyers: 'We Don't Impeach Presidents for Motives'
Dershowitz: Half of American Presidents Have Faced 'Abuse of Power' Allegations



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