Dershowitz distances himself from White House response to Democrats’ impeachment charges

Dershowitz distances himself from White House response to Democrats’ impeachment charges

Dershowitz is one of four lawyers who were selected personally by Trump and announced Friday as new members of the president’s legal team. The others are former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi and former independent counsels Robert Ray and Kenneth W. Starr.

Dershowitz’s comments come as both sides preview their arguments for Trump’s impeachment trial, which begins in earnest this week and is only the third such trial in U.S. history.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the lead impeachment manager, said Sunday that Democrats will be “fighting for a fair trial” and pushed back against critics who have argued that the House should have done more to enforce its subpoenas before voting to impeach Trump.

“The reality is, because what the president is threatening to do is cheat in the next election, you cannot wait months and years to be able to remove that threat from office,” Schiff said on “This Week.”

Trump has urged the Senate to dismiss the charges against him. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a key Trump ally, said Sunday that such a motion is “dead for practical purposes,” but he noted that the president is eager for the trial to be over as soon as possible — ideally before his State of the Union address to Congress on Feb. 4.

“His mood is to go to the State of the Union with this behind him and talk about what he wants to do for the rest of 2020 and what he wants to do for the next four years,” Graham said on “Fox News Sunday. “He is very much comfortable with the idea this is going to turn out well for him. He believes politically this has helped him.”

Democrats on Saturday released a 111-page legal brief laying out their case against Trump, arguing that the president withheld a White House meeting and congressionally appropriated aid to pressure Ukraine into announcing investigations into former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

White House lawyers Jay Sekulow and Pat Cipollone penned a seven-page response in which they said there was no basis for either of the two articles of impeachment facing the president: obstruction of Congress and abuse of power.

On Monday, the White House is expected to file a legal brief outlining why Trump should be acquitted.

Since joining the White House team, Dershowitz has made headlines for some of his remarks about Trump’s impeachment — prompting some to speculate as to whether he may soon find himself in hot water with the president for statements that could be perceived as insufficiently supportive.

In a BBC interview Saturday, for instance, Dershowitz said he does not plan to vote for Trump in November and declared that if the Senate votes to impeach the president, it would create “ambivalence in me as it does whenever I represent somebody whose acquittal would produce results that make me unhappy as an individual.”

He added: “But I would never, ever allow my own partisan views to impact my views on the Constitution.”

On Sunday, Dershowitz argued that even if all of the facts presented by Democrats are true, Trump’s actions still do not constitute impeachable offenses — regardless of whether one believes Trump’s dealings with Ukraine were “wrong.”

“If the allegations are not impeachable, then this trial should result in an acquittal, regardless of whether the conduct is regarded as okay by you or by me or by voters,” he said on “This Week.” “That’s an issue for the voters.”

Democrats countered by calling Dershowitz’s defense “nonsense.”

“There is ample evidence, overwhelming evidence,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who is also an impeachment manager, said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation.” “Any jury would convict in three minutes flat that the president betrayed his country by breaking the law.”

Dershowitz has also drawn scrutiny for the choice of clients he has previously represented.

In the mid-2000s, Dershowitz and Starr were part of Jeffrey Epstein’s legal team when the wealthy investor was under investigation on suspicion of child prostitution. Epstein, a convicted sex offender, was found dead in his jail cell last year in an apparent suicide.

Dershowitz also advised the defense team in football star O.J. Simpson’s murder trial.

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” host Brianna Keilar pressed Dershowitz on his previous defense of clients some might find “unpalatable.” Dershowitz responded that he believed his past actions would not backfire on the president and that he was proud of his record of defending “some of the most controversial people in American history.”

Senators and their constituents “understand that it’s pure McCarthyism to hold a lawyer responsible for having represented controversial clients,” Dershowitz said.

Lena Sun and Colby Itkowitz contributed to this report.

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