Facing backlash, Dershowitz tries to reframe his radical argument

I can appreciate why Dershowitz is bothered by the condemnations, but he said what he said.
Image:
In this image from video, Alan Dershowitz, an attorney for President Donald Trump answers a question during the impeachment trial against Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)Senate Television via AP
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By Steve Benen

Alan Dershowitz, a controversial member of Donald Trump's legal defense team, generated quite a bit of attention yesterday. The attorney, making a provocative case on the Senate floor during his client's impeachment trial, seemed to argue that presidents can abuse the powers of their office in order to help their campaigns, so long as they believe their election is in the "public interest."

Experts, scholars, and Democrats howled, suggesting Dershowitz was positioning presidents above the law. The controversial lawyer apparently believes he's been misconstrued.

Dershowitz later claimed that scholars who disagreed with his assessment of impeachment were "influenced by their own bias." He also said: "The president is the executive branch. He is irreplaceable."

Dershowitz posted a slew of tweets Thursday in defense of his argument in the face of intense backlash from legal experts and Democrats.

"I did not say or imply that a candidate could do anything to reassure his reelection, only that seeking help in an election is not necessarily corrupt," Dershowitz wrote, adding that critics "have an obligation to respond to what I said, not to create straw men to attack."

He added that news organizations, including my employer, "willfully distorted" his comments.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), among others, replied soon after, "You said as long as the President doesn't commit a crime, he can abuse his power in any way he likes in service of his re-election. He can trade taxpayer aid for foreign interference. He can sick law enforcement on his political rivals. I was there. That's what you said."

So, who's right?

Here's the exact quote from Dershowitz, during yesterday's Senate proceedings: "Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest. And mostly, you're right. Your election is in the public interest. And if a president does something, which that he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment."

I can appreciate why Dershowitz is bothered by the condemnations, but he said what he said.

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