Scholars push back on Dershowitz's 'outrageous' and 'preposterous' argument
Constitutional scholars and legal experts pushed back on what they called an "outrageous" and "preposterous" argument Trump defense team attorney Alan Dershowitz made Wednesday.
Dershowitz, a retired Harvard law professor, argued that a quid pro quo arrangement benefiting a president politically is fine because all politicians believe their elections are in the public's interest.
"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," he said during the first day of the question-and-answer period of the Senate impeachment trial.
Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Berkeley law school, told NBC News he thought Dershowitz's argument was "absurd and outrageous."
"It means that a president could break any law or abuse any power and say that it was for the public interest because the public interest would be served by his or her election," he said.
Sanford Levinson, a University of Texas law professor, said Dershowitz's argument was "on its face, preposterous."
Levinson said that while candidates for office "make a variety of deals that they would prefer not to in behalf of the good cause" of their election, "we rely on a certain moral compass that will stop at, say, outright bribery" and "suggesting assassinations."
And NBC News/MSNBC legal analyst Neal Katyal, a former acting U.S. solicitor general, called Dershowitz's argument "inane."
"That would allow a president to do literally anything and destroy re-elections as a check on presidential behavior," Katyal said.
Later in Wednesday's session, Dershowitz called the president "irreplaceable" and said constitutional scholars who disagreed with his assessments were "influenced by their own bias" and "simply do not give objective assessments of the constitutional history."
On Thursday, Dershowitz said his comments were being "willfully distorted" by the media.
"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," Dershowitz tweeted. "I said nothing like that, as anyone who actually heard what I said can attest."