In 1770, John Adams defended the rule of law when he made the unpopular choice to represent Captain Thomas Preston and his British soldiers for their role in the Boston Massacre. His skillful advocacy proved successful and drew praise from both sides. By contrast, Alan Dershowitz’s defense of Trump was as messy as it was shameful, amounting to nothing more than a series of recklessly bizarre utterances.
As the trial began, Dershowitz attempted to explain why he believes a crime is necessary for impeachment after insisting the opposite during President Clinton’s impeachment trial. Dershowitz baffled CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Jeffrey Toobin by insisting he wasn’t wrong then but that “I’m much more correct right now, having done all the research.” Does this mean that Dershowitz could adopt yet another position in a few years after doing even more research and still be right all three times?
Things got even worse for Dershowitz this week when Harvard Law School Assistant Professor Nikolas Bowie publicly scolded him for misconstruing his work, in a development that evoked a famous scene in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. Early in that movie, Allen’s character, Alvy Singer, grows frustrated as he is forced to listen to a professor pontificating to his date about the philosopher Marshall McLuhan. Suddenly, McLuhan appears and shuts down the man, telling him, “You know nothing of my work… How you ever got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing.” Singer then remarks to the camera, “Boy, if life were only like this.”
Life was actually like this when Bowie wrote a New York Times op-ed on Tuesday calling out Dershowitz for misinterpreting his law review article and inaccurately claiming on CNN that he is “completely” on Dershowitz’s side. Bowie pointed out that while his article reflects his view that a crime is required for impeachment, common-law crimes, such as the ones that Trump has been accused of committing, also count.
All of the above was eclipsed at trial on Wednesday when Dershowitz outdid himself by offering the chilling suggestion that “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.” Dershowitz then rushed out his own op-ed, published Thursday by The Hill, claiming he “said nothing like that” while accusing the media of “deliberately distorting” his argument.
Dershowitz ended his disgraceful week on a runaway train off the rails, declaring to Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Friday night that if Trump wins, “nobody should regard him as having been impeached.” He accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of having “pulled a real sharp one” by saying that Trump will remain impeached. According to Dershowitz, Trump should not be considered impeached because “he didn’t have a fair trial.” Indeed, a trial devoid of witnesses and with “total coordination,” as Mitch McConnell put it, between defendant and jury is anything but fair. Finally, Dershowitz managed to get something right.