Abrams and Dershowitz Battle Over Obstruction: Combine Your View With Trump’s and There’s ‘No Accountability’
Mediaite founder and ABC News legal analyst Dan Abrams clashed with Harvard Law professor emeritus and author Alan Dershowitz over Donald Trump‘s obstruction of justice, and Abrams called Dershowitz’s and Trump’s combined positions a recipe for “no presidential accountability.”
On Sunday morning’s edition of ABC’s This Week, host George Stephanopoulos began his discussion of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s findings on obstruction of justice by asking Abrams “Do you believe that he, though, was laying out the idea that President Trump obstructed justice?”
Abrams began by assessing why Special Counsel Robert Mueller may have handled obstruction the way he did.
“I don’t think there’s any question that Robert Mueller believed that the president obstructed justice,” Abrams said, adding “So then, why wouldn’t he have said it? He made it clear in his introduction to the section on obstruction of justice, he said, number one, a sitting president can’t be indicted. Number two, we can’t even accuse him of a crime in this report because that would be improper. But if we could exonerate him, we would, and we can’t.”
Abrams cited the example of then-White House Counsel Don McGahn, whom Trump asked to fire Mueller, and then instructed “to lie about the conversation. I think it is clear that Robert Mueller, if this were a different situation, would have been saying he obstructed justice in the case of Don McGahn.”
Dershowitz agreed that “Mueller does believe that,” but that “I think he’s just dead wrong.”
He added that “you have to have an actus reus, an act of a crime, and the actus reus of a crime, the act cannot be exercise of a constitutional authority under article two. The president had the authority to fire Comey, Comey said that himself, and the president had the authority to go virtually everything he did.”
“Mueller takes on that argument directly in his report,” Stephanopoulos pointed out.
“Yes, and he’s wrong,” Dershowitz said. he cited “the decision by George H.W. Bush to pardon Caspar Weinberger,” suggesting that it was a major lapse in judgment for Mueller not take it into account.
“[Bush] did that to stop the investigation. The special prosecutor said he did it to stop the investigation and yet nobody suggested obstruction of justice because the president has the power to pardon and the president has the power to fire,” Dershowitz said. “So you can’t both have the power to do it under the constitution and that be the act that gives rise to an obstruction of justice.”
“Just to be clear, Alan’s position is a minority position in the legal community,” Abrams pointed out.
After debating the finer points of the law, Abrams focused the discussion on impeachment, asking Dershowitz “Even if you believe that this could not be breaking the law, firing Comey or asking Mueller to be fired, do you believe it is an abuse of power or, as some have suggested, that it would be showing the president is not faithfully executing the laws, upholding his oath?”
“That’s a fair point, but that’s not an impeachable offense,” Dershowitz said. “Look, what Bill Clinton did was a crime but not a high crime, and what President Trump may have done was high but it wasn’t a crime. You need both.”
“Here’s the problem,” Abrams said. “When you combine Alan Dershowitz’s theory with President Trump’s theory, right? Alan Dershowitz theory is there shouldn’t have been a special counsel and also that you can’t obstruct justice if you’re the president…”
“No, no, no…” Dershowitz interrupted.
“Wait, let me finish,” Abrams said. “And you’re doing something that you have the power to do, no matter what the intent is, et cetera..:
“You don’t get to intent until you get to the act,” Dershowitz said.
“OK, fine. So that’s Alan Dershowitz’s theory,” Abrams said. “Now you combine that with the President’s theory, that Congress should not be engaging in oversight. Right? These subpoenas shouldn’t be valid, none of these people should be complying.”
“I don’t agree with that,” Dershowitz objected.
“Well, OK, but I’m saying take the two together, Trump and Dershowitz, and suddenly you have no presidential accountability,” Abrams said. “None. Zero.”
Dershowitz objected again, and argued that courts will decide if the subpoenas should be enforced, claiming “We are living through a perfect example of whether our system of checks and balances and separation of powers works.”
“And if you put Dershowitz and Trump together, there is no such thing,” Abrams said.
Watch the clip above, via ABC.
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