Toobin Mocks Dershowitz in Fiery Clash Over Impeachment: ‘Best You Can Do Is Quote a Scholar Who Thinks You’re Wrong?’
CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and Trump defense team attorney Alan Dershowitz clashed over president’s Senate trial, as Toobin mocked the Harvard professor’s decision to favorably cite a New York Times op-ed that explicitly rejected his claim that abuse of power is not an impeachable offense.
In a long segment on AC360, the pair faced off once again on the argument of what constitutes a high crime and misdemeanor worthy of impeachment by the House. Dershowitz insisted that the charge of abuse of power is too broad and that the Framers warned against partisans using that as a justification to remove a president.
To prove his point, Dershowitz cited a Monday essay in the Times by fellow Harvard law professor, Nikolas Bowie, which has the notable title of “Don’t Be Confused by Trump’s Defense. What He Is Accused of Are Crimes.” The essay’s sub headline was even more explicit — and seemingly counterproductive to Dershowitz’s argument: “Abuse of power and obstruction of Congress have long been considered criminal and merit impeachment.”
Toobin pointed out this obvious problem with Dershowitz’s argument: “Nicholas Bowie in that article says you are wrong.”
“That’s right. And that’s why it makes his argument so much stronger,” Dershowitz claimed. “He thinks I’m wrong and yet he agrees with me that maladministration, abuse of power and abuse of office are essentially the same. I’m not quoting him for his conclusion. You can quote him from his conclusion. I’m quoting him for the point that you just made saying no scholars think abuse of power is the same as maladministration.”
“The best you can do is quote a scholar who thinks you’re wrong. That’s the best you can do?” Toobin asked, incredulous.
“Virtually every American president has been charged with abuse of power. Virtually every American president,” Dershowitz countered, moments later after a contentious back-and-forth.
“Jeff, why is abuse of power an impeachable offense?” host Anderson Cooper cut in.
“Because impeachment is about what the president can do wrong. It is about abuse of the office of president,” Toobin explained. “This is the difference between the [President Bill] Clinton impeachment and this impeachment. Anybody can lie about sex in the grand jury. Only a president can withhold aid from a congressionally authorized taxpayer money in return for dirt for his political enemies. That abuse of presidential power is exactly what Alexander Hamilton was talking about in Federalist number 65. It is why there is an enormous consensus that abuse of power is an impeachable offense that only you and the president’s lawyers think is not an impeachable offense.”
When Dershowitz reiterated that the Bowie argument in the Times actually supports his argument, Cooper spelled out the essay’s actual title for his viewers.
“That’s what makes my point so strong. Bowie is completely against my view,” Dershowitz insisted. “But in the article, in passing, he says that the abuse of power criteria is very similar to abuse of office, abuse of power and maladministration.”
“So when a person who is against me makes a point in my favor, that strengthens the credibility of my argument,” Dershowitz added.
“No, it doesn’t!” Toobin shot back.
“Of course it does,” Dershowitz claimed once more.
“He says you’re wrong. I don’t understand how you can possibly cite him,” Toobin pointed out.
“You don’t understand simple logic,” Dershowitz said, not masking his condescension. “When there’s somebody on one side who is making an argument against you and he concedes something, which is critical, that concession gets more strength and more power because it came not from an advocate on my side but from somebody against me. That is a simple point of logic, Jeffrey, that you would completely agree with if the shoe were on the other foot.”
“Alan, the whole point of the article is to say you’re wrong,” Toobin noted, fully exasperated. “What difference does it make about what else he says? He says you are wrong. And he’s the only scholar you have ever cited who agrees with you.”
Watch the video above, via CNN.
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