Impeachment trial: Dershowitz addresses Bolton claims as Trump team presents defense

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The Capitol is seen under early morning gray skies in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. The Senate approved legislation to temporarily fund the government late last night, a key step toward averting a federal shutdown after President Donald Trump backed off his demand for money for a border wall with Mexico. The House is expected to vote before Friday’s deadline, when funding for a portion of the government expires. Without resolution, more than 800,000 federal workers would face furloughs or be forced to work without pay, disrupting government operations days before Christmas. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

President Trump’s legal team presented the case for his defense in his Senate impeachment trial for a second day as new revelations about the president’s attempts to get Ukraine to investigate his rivals increased pressure on the Senate to allow new witnesses.

On Sunday, The New York Times reported former national security adviser John Bolton wrote in a manuscript of his upcoming book that Mr. Trump explicitly refused to release nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine in 2019 unless the country pursued investigations into his political rivals, including the Bidens. The Times reported Bolton had submitted the manuscript to the White House for a standard prepublication review for classified information.

Mr. Trump’s attorneys spent much of the day sidestepping Bolton’s claims, until a presentation by Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz. He confronted Bolton’s allegations head on, arguing that even if they are true, the president’s actions still don’t rise to the level of an impeachable offense.

“Quid pro quo alone is not a basis for abuse of power,” Dershowitz said. “It’s part of the way foreign policy has been operated by presidents since the beginning of time.”

Earlier in the day, Democrats seized on The New York Times report to accuse the White House of a cover-up and to urge Republican senators to join them in supporting a subpoena for Bolton, who has said he’s willing to testify. Several Republican senators who have been open to hearing new testimony reiterated their view that witnesses should be called, including Mitt Romney and Susan Collins.

Bolton’s reported accusations directly contradict the argument put forward by Mr. Trump’s attorneys, namely that there was no connection between the delay in aid and the president’s requests for investigations. Bolton would be the first official to testify that the president personally connected the two issues.

Dershowitz: Even if Bolton claims are true, they aren’t impeachable

After hours had passed without the president’s legal team addressing the explosive allegations from Bolton as reported by The New York Times, Alan Dershowitz addressed them head on.

“It follows from this that if a president, any president, were to have done what the Times reported about the content of the Bolton manuscript, that would not constitute an impeachable offense,” Dershowitz said. “Let me repeat. 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, 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.'”

Dershowitz made the comment in making his case that even abuse of power is not an impeachable offense, nor is engaging in a quid pro quo.

Dershowitz explains shifting position on impeachable offenses
Alan Dershowitz attempted to explain why he appeared to change his mind on when a president’s conduct rises to the level of an impeachable offense.

During the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton, which Dershowitz also opposed, Dershowitz claimed a president does not necessarily need to commit a crime in order for some action to be impeachable.

“It certainly doesn’t have to be a crime if you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of president and who abuses trust and who poses great danger to our liberty, you don’t need a technical crime,” Dershowitz said in 1998.

But since then, Dershowitz said, he’s read up on all the relevant material and come to the conclusion that it’s likely necessary for some action to be criminal in order to be impeachable. That, Dershowitz claimed, is what academics do when confronted with new information — they change their minds. Dershowitz told CNN last week he’s simply “far more correct” now than he was in 1998.

Dershowitz pointed out he’s not the only person in the Senate chamber to change his mind. Some members in the chamber who now oppose impeachment supported it in Mr. Clinton’s case, and vice versa.

Dershowitz presents his defense of Trump

Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz began his argument against Mr. Trump’s impeachment shortly before 8:00 p.m. Dershowitz is a controversial figure, as he has previously represented O.J. Simpson and Jeffrey Epstein.

Dershowitz, who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, argued that he would make the same argument if a Republican House was impeaching President Hillary Clinton on these impeachment articles. Dershowitz was an opponent of former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, although he did say in an interview with Larry King at the time that he didn’t think a president needs to commit a crime in order to be impeached.

“I am here today because I love my country and our constitution,” Dershowitz said.


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