Impeachment talk has ramped up in Washington in the immediate aftermath of the violent and deadly storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, raising the possibility that Donald Trump may become the only president to have ever been impeached twice. Democrats have already circulated draft articles of impeachment saying that Trump “willfully incited violence” and an insurrection against the U.S. Government by repeating false stolen election claims at a rally, whipping his supporters into a frenzy and encouraging them to derail the joint session of Congress as Electoral College votes were being counted.
It’s not a guarantee that a second impeachment will follow, but as the possibility appears to pick up steam some have wondered which attorneys would defend the president. Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz told Law&Crime that he would do so if he is asked.
“It would be my honor if asked to defend the constitution once again against unconstitutional attempts to weaponize impeachment for partisan purposes,” Dershowitz said.
Dershowitz said that what Trump said during the rally that preceded the storming of the Capitol was protected by the First Amendment and is, therefore, not an impeachable offense.
“Everything he said was fully protected by the First Amendment and cannot be deemed an impeachable offense,” he said. “To impeach him for a protected speech would violate both the First Amendment and the impeachment clause.”
Dershowitz was one of a number of lawyers who came to the president’s defense during the Ukraine impeachment. White House counsel Pat Cipollone also represented Trump during the impeachment trial. A CNN report from earlier on Friday said Cipollone was considering resigning.
“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 he believes will help him get elected—in the public interest—that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment,” Dershowitz asserted in Jan. 2020.
Media criticism of that argument was widespread. In fact, Dershowitz is currently suing CNN for its coverage of his impeachment argument, claiming he was defamed by being portrayed as an “intellectual who had lost his mind.”
“The very notion of that was preposterous and foolish on its face, and that was the point: to falsely paint Professor Dershowitz as a constitutional scholar and intellectual who had lost his mind,” the lawsuit said.
CNN has moved to dismiss the case. In a filing opposing that motion to dismiss, Dershowitz’s lawyers claimed a “coordinated effort to smear plaintiff” occurred, arguing that proof of that would come out in discovery.
“And how about John Berman? He is a Harvard University graduate and the anchor of CNN New Day. He is also the former writer for Peter Jennings and was a White House correspondent. In fact, he is so smart that he was a champion on Jeopardy with Alex Trebek,” the filing said. “Is it plausible that a jury will conclude that he knew Dershowitz had said ‘the only thing that would make a quid pro quo unlawful is if the quo were somehow illegal,’ but nonetheless told his audience that Professor Dershowitz said that a president ‘can do anything, anything?’”
The case is still pending.
The House is reportedly planning to introduce articles of impeachment as soon as next Monday, perhaps setting up a vote by the “middle of next week.”
[Image via Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images]
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