Dershowitz: Trump impeachment acquittal would ‘make me unhappy as an individual’

Although he will defend US president during Senate trial for the ‘survival of the constitution,’ former Harvard professor says he won’t vote Trump in November

President Donald Trump speaks to attorney Alan Dershowitz, right, as he arrives for Christmas Eve dinner at Mar-a-lago in Palm Beach, Fla., Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Donald Trump speaks to attorney Alan Dershowitz, right, as he arrives for Christmas Eve dinner at Mar-a-lago in Palm Beach, Fla., Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Famed legal scholar Alan Dershowitz on Saturday said the acquittal of Donald Trump by the Senate would make him personally unhappy, but that he opposed the impeachment of the US president on constitutional grounds.

A day after being announced as a new member of Trump’s legal team, Dershowitz also said he would not vote for the US president in the November election, despite defending him at the impeachment trial.

“I am a Democrat, I’m a liberal Democrat, I voted against Donald Trump, but I think that the Constitution intended impeachment only in extreme cases and not to be weaponized for political purposes,” Dershowitz said in an interview with the BBC.

“I am very worried about the precedent that would be caused if this president were removed,” he explained. “I think the constitutional arguments against impeachment have to be made in the Senate and I want to see them made on a non-partisan basis.”

Dershowitz said he would not argue that Trump did not commit the offenses he is accused of, but that those alleged offenses are not unconstitutional and therefore not grounds for impeachment. He also pushed back when asked if the Democratic-led impeachment process was a “farce.”

“I think people seriously and genuinely believe that this president did impeachable things… I just think it’s a mistake for the Democrats. I think it has helped Trump, not hurt his electoral chances,” he said.

Professor Alan Dershowitz participates in a panel discussion at the Institute for National Security Studies in Ramat Aviv on December 11, 2013. (Gideon Markowicz/Flash90/via JTA)

While stressing his liberal bona fides, Dershowitz differentiated between his personal feelings about Trump and his views on the Constitution.

“It creates ambivalence in me as whenever it does when I represent somebody whose acquittal would produce results that would make me unhappy as an individual. But I would never, ever allow my own partisan views to impact my views on the Constitution,” he said.

“I’m not going to allow my partisan, personal views to impact my constitutional views and what I think is best for the long-term survival of the Constitution, rather than the short term partisan advantage of getting my person to be elected president,” Dershowitz added.

Besides Dershowitz, a former Harvard law professor who was part of OJ Simpson’s legal “dream team,” fellow household name Ken Starr, the prosecutor whose investigation two decades ago resulted in the impeachment of Bill Clinton, was also named to Trump’s impeachment team Friday.

The two new Trump attorneys are already nationally known both for their involvement in some of the more consequential legal dramas of recent American history and for their regular appearances on Fox News, the president’s preferred television network.

Dershowitz is a constitutional expert whose expansive views of presidential powers echo those of Trump. He voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 but has nonetheless been a vocal public defender of Trump, writing a book titled “The Case Against Impeaching Trump.”

He is also a prominent defender of Israel and has consulted with Trump on his Israel policy.

Hours after announcing his involvement with the team in a series of tweets, Dershowitz played down his role by saying he would be present for only an hour or so to make constitutional arguments.

“I’m not a full-fledged member of the defense team,” he told “The Dan Abrams Show” on SiriusXM. He has long been a critic of “the overuse of impeachment,” he said, and would have made the same case for a president Hillary Clinton.

A legal brief laying out the contours of the Trump defense, due at noon Monday, was still being drafted, with White House attorneys and the outside legal team grappling over how political the document should be. Those inside the administration have echoed warnings from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that the pleadings must be sensitive to the Senate’s more staid traditions and leave the sharper rhetoric to Twitter and cable news.

Alan Dershowitz, right, and Jeffrey Epstein. (JTA illustration by Laura E. Adkins)

White House lawyers were successful in keeping Trump from adding House Republicans to the team, but they also advised him against tapping Dershowitz, according to two people who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal discussions. They’re concerned because of the professor’s association with Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced millionaire who killed himself in jail last summer while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

Other members of Trump’s legal defense include Pam Bondi, the former Florida attorney general; Jane Raskin, who was part of the president’s legal team during the Mueller’s investigation; Robert Ray, who was part of the Whitewater investigation of the Clintons; and Eric D. Herschmann of the Kasowitz Benson Torres legal firm, which has represented Trump in numerous cases over the last 15 years.

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