Hours after filing a defamation lawsuit against CNN seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz challenged “anyone” who might read his tweet to re-watch his impeachment defense of President Donald Trump.
“I challenge anyone to watch my complete answer in the Senate and conclude that CNN was correct in saying that I believe that even if a president commits a criminal act that would not be impeachable,” Dershowitz said. “I said the opposite.”
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on Wednesday, took aim at CNN’s coverage of a particular argument that Dershowitz made in defense of the president. Dershowitz said that the coverage of his words was doctored and distorted because it made it seem like he was saying a sitting president can engage in any quid pro quo they desire and not be subject to impeachment for committing high crimes and misdemeanors.
Dershowitz said he actually argued that the “only thing that would make a quid pro quo unlawful is if the ‘quo’ were in some way illegal.”
“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 argued in January.
The lawsuit claimed that CNN intentionally omitted the clause about an illegal quo in order to “falsely paint Professor Dershowitz as a constitutional scholar and intellectual who had lost his mind.”
CNN promulgated “a one-sided and false narrative that Professor Dershowitz believes and argued that as long as the President believes his reelection is in the public interest, that he could do anything at all – including illegal acts – and be immune from impeachment,” the suit said. “In fact, no panel guest would have even considered embarrassing himself or herself on national television with their false conclusions had the video clip properly included the part where Professor Dershowitz unequivocally and unambiguously stated that an illegal act would prevent a quid pro quo from being lawful.”
As Law&Crime noted before, however, the lawsuit did not mention one line from Dershowitz in which he said that a president’s decision to engage in a quid pro quo can only be considered an impeachable offense if the decision was made “solely” for corrupt purposes.
“But for it to be impeachable, you would have to discern that he or she made a decision solely on the basis of, as the House managers put it, corrupt motives. And it cannot be a corrupt motive if you have a mixed motive that partially involves the national interest, partially involves electoral, and does not involve personal, pecuniary interests,” Dershowitz said.
This suggests that if a sitting president is motivated only in part by corrupt urges and aims regarding their re-election that isn’t impeachable corruption but a mixed motive.
Jerry Lambe contributed to this report.
[Image via Senate Television via Getty Images]
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