Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz on Tuesday said he was “thinking of suing CNN for doctoring a video” of his January argument to President Donald Trump’s benefit during impeachment trial in the Senate.
“CNN repeatedly claimed and continues to claim through its reporters and talking heads — that during the impeachment trial I had told senators, in the words of Paul Begala, that presidents are ‘immune from every criminal act, so long as they could plausibly claim they did it to boost their re-election effort,’” Dershowitz wrote in a Newsmax op-ed published Tuesday. “CNN turned my statement on its head, wrenched a few words out of context while omitting other crucial words, and lied to its viewers. It was as if I had said, ‘Now let me tell you what I don’t believe: I don’t believe that a president can commit any crime as long as he thinks it will help his re-election. I don’t believe that for a moment.'”
During Trump’s impeachment trial for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – which CNN aired live – Dershowitz controversially argued for a fundamentally expansive view of executive power that would have cleared the president of any wrongdoing. Trump was accused of withholding military aid to Ukraine in exchange for the Ukrainian president opening politically advantageous investigations into his political opponents – which many said constituted an abusive quid pro quo (this for that exchange).
“The only thing that would make a quid pro quo unlawful is if the ‘quo’ were in someway illegal,” Dershowitz argued before the Senate, saying there were “three possible motives” a political figure could have for their conduct: a motive in the public interest, a motive in his own political interest, and a motive in his own financial interest.
Focusing on the “public interest” motive, Dershowitz said: “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.”
In his op-ed, Dershowitz claimed he was “reliably advised that the brass at CNN made a deliberate, calculated decision to edit the video by omitting what I said before and after the words they quoted, for the explicit purpose of misleading their viewers,” calling it “the functional equivalent of doctoring the recording.”
“They knew exactly what they were doing and they did it with a corrupt motive and malice afterthought. I challenge them to deny it. They won’t, because they know I can prove it,” the criminal defense attorney wrote.
Dershowitz also said “several people at the network” told him he was banned from the network for his criticism of its coverage.
In an email to Law&Crime, Dershowitz said he still had not made a decision as to whether he would file the lawsuit.
“My decision will turn on what I believe is best for the First Amendment and encouraging truthful reporting,” he wrote. “CNN has deliberately abused both. They are aware that they doctored the truth and have still not corrected the record.”
[image via Senate Television via Getty Images]