When Congress impeached President Donald Trump about a year ago, Harvard law professor and famed attorney Alan Dershowitz was part of the legal team the president assembled that helped win an acquittal on both impeachment charges following the Senate trial.
With Trump now facing an unprecedented second impeachment as he prepares to leave office, it appears that Dershowitz won’t be resuming his role on Trump’s defense team, The Daily Caller reported.
That decision has nothing to do with whether he believes Trump is guilty of the new charge but rather stems from his sharp criticism of the dubious use of impeachment by Democrats as a partisan tool for retribution against a political enemy.
Not doing it
“This is political theater, and I’m neither a politician or an actor,” Dershowitz said of the new impeachment effort in a recent phone interview with The Boston Globe. “So I don’t see a role for a real lawyer to play in this show trial.”
The attorney revealed that he hasn’t even been asked yet by Trump if he would defend him in a Senate trial again, nor would he speculate if he thought that would happen, and dismissed the entire affair as constitutionally questionable regardless, as he believes that a president can no longer be impeached once they’ve left office.
“Once the president leaves office, he becomes a private citizen,” Dershowitz said. “I don’t believe the Senate has jurisdiction to proceed at 12:01 p.m. Jan. 20. I think it loses all jurisdiction, because it can no longer remove the president, and that’s the only legitimate function of impeachment. … Even if the process began before he was the former president, the trial cannot continue.”
He acknowledged that there are some legal scholars who disagree with him on that notion, but simply said “they’re wrong” in their interpretations.
Dershowitz’s refusal to take part in yet another farcical impeachment “show trial” shouldn’t come a s a surprise to anyone, as he made his thoughts on the matter abundantly clear Thursday in an op-ed published by The Hill. The attorney excoriated Congress for violating the Constitution in myriad ways in their haste to vindictively give Trump the boot on his way out the door.
“While I believe (Trump’s) remarks to his supporters last week were disturbing and a serious mistake, it did not meet the basis for removal under the Constitution,” Dershowitz wrote. What was in violation of the Constitution, he noted — six separate times — was the rush to pass an article of impeachment by House Democrats.
Dershowitz argued that the impeachment, ostensibly for inciting an insurrection during a rally speech, was a violation of Trump’s First Amendment right to free speech. Given that free speech is protected by the Constitution, it can’t be considered a “high crime or misdemeanor” worthy of impeachment and removal.
The attorney also argued that Trump’s right to due process was violated since his team was never granted an opportunity to mount a defense, and repeated his belief that impeachment was reserved solely for sitting presidents and federal officials and that private citizens can’t be impeached or barred from running from office by Congress.
“We often hear that no one is above the law, including the president. That is true, and it also applies to Congress,” he wrote. Later, he concluded, “Just as a president should be held to account for a violation of the Constitution, then so should the House when it exceeds its authority granted by the Constitution.”