An Intriguing Argument for the Defense, Which Works in Almost Any Case

Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz made an intriguing argument in defense of President Donald Trump during Wednesday’s session of the impeachment trial show. Dershowitz argued that even if Trump did what he’s accused of doing — as all the testimony and evidence Trump doesn’t want anyone to hear indicates — he did it only to get reelected, which Trump honestly believes is in the public interest.
We don’t have Dershowitz’s lofty academic credentials, but pretty much everybody who does agrees with us that the argument is laughably absurd. One hardly knows where to begin the ridicule.
Trump surely does believe that his reelection is of the utmost importance to the national interest, and probably even worries that “apres moi, le deluge,” although he wouldn’t know the historical allusion and wouldn’t put it that way, but even such an altruistic motive can’t justify anything he might want to do. Pressuring Attorney General William Barr to pressure the Justice Department to launch an investigation of a political rival might bolster Trumps reelection, and having a rival locked up or knocked off the way Vladimir Putin does in Russia might have the same happy effect, but only Trump’s most loyal supporters would agree that’s in the public interest.
Those some Trump fans wouldn’t like it if a Democratic president did the same, even if he sincerely believed that his reelection was vital to the public interest, but Dershowitz argues that any old president should have the same expansive powers.
Dershowitz could easily change his mind in the event of a different president, however, as he argued during the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton that an abuse of power and obstruction of Congress was sufficient reason to remove a president but now thinks otherwise. He’s explained on cable news that he wasn’t wrong then, but that he’s more right now, but it takes the talents of a Harvard law professor to appreciate that explanation.
Our guess is that a lot and Republicans and Democrats alike will be changing their minds about these sorts of things in the coming years.

— Bud Norman

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