Trump impeachment defender Alan Dershowitz’s quid pro quo argument is absurd

A sitting president of the United States has a quiet conversation with the president of Russia. She tells the Russian president that shell lift sanctions against Russia if her counterpart opens an investigation into her political rival. Hey, its a win-win, the American leader says.
Is this hypothetical situation impeachable?
On Wednesday, President Donald Trumps impeachment trial defense team member Alan Dershowitz told senators that, basically, the answer is no.
The following Dershowitz statement has been widely reported because it was so stunning: 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.” That is an argument that would likely draw gasps of consternation from the Founding Fathers.
Dershowitz is arguing that a president potentially has the kingly power of deciding whether re-election is whats best for the country. To make this claim, he suggests a president must have committed a crime to be impeached or something akin to a crime, whatever that means. Even the House Republicans constitutional expert, John Turley, conceded that abuse of power is impeachable when he testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Dec. 4. Turley said, There is much that is worthy of investigation in the Ukraine scandal, and it is true that impeachment doesnt require a crime.
History doesnt support Dershowitz either. President Richard Nixon faced impeachment in part for trying to use the Internal Revenue Service to go after political enemies. Dershowitz tweeted on Thursday that Nixon was impeachable but only for his established crimes, like tampering with evidence. And Alexander Hamilton, who contextualized the British High Crimes and Misdemeanors language in his Federalist Papers, expressed the need to protect the people from those who are of a nature which may be called political, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.
Dems’ reaction to Dershowitz’s case just now would’ve been great TV:
– When Dersh suggested reelection concerns fit in national interest, Bernie turned to Schatz, who mouthed either “WHA” or “WOW”
– Gillibrand and Merkley made frustrated hand motions
– Slow grin from Schumer
Sam Brodey (@sambrodey) January 29, 2020
But lets say for the moment that the Constitution requires a crime or criminal legal standards to convict and remove a sitting president. Dershowitz also suggested that its dangerous to try to psychoanalyze a president, to try to get into the intricacies of the human mind,” because any legitimate public interest concern, along with a corrupt one, is OK with righteous motivations. At least Dershowitz thinks an exchange for money is bad.
But Dershowitz also made an additional argument, which is that if nothing was ever exchanged for Ukraine aid in other words, if a deal was offered but never completed that also cant be an impeachable offense.
If senators accept these arguments, they are saying that a president shouldnt be impeached if there is any legitimate claim, no matter how unsupported by the facts or evidence of self-interest, that he was acting in furtherance of American interests (assuming of course no money actually changed hands). Since our fictitious president in my opening hypothetical isnt taking money from Russia and believes what she is doing will be good for American interests, her actions are probably OK. This is what Dershowitz called a mixed motive in a series of tweets sent Thursday attempting to clarify his Wednesday testimony.
What I said was that there are 3 broad categories of relevant motive: 1) pure national interest ( help the military)2) pure corrupt motive ( get a kickback) And 3) mixed motive (help the national interest in a way that helps your reelection efforts ) (MTC)
Alan Dershowitz (@AlanDersh) January 30, 2020
This isnt the first time Dershowitz has made this argument. In a 2018 book he authored titled, The Case Against Impeaching Trump, he argued that if a president decided to let Putin invade Alaska because he or she thought Russia had a legitimate claim to that land, that president couldnt be impeached. Do we really believe that a president can make that decision alone?
But even Dershowitzs arguments as a matter of criminal law are sketchy. Prosecutors dont have to prove a persons motive or state of mind.
Certainly, if Dershowitz or anyone else on Trumps defense team could show evidence that Trump was indeed concerned with corruption broadly in Ukraine, then Trumps defense would be more meaningful. The problem is we have been offered no such evidence. The facts only show Trump was concerned with the Bidens, and with undermining the Mueller probe into his 2016 campaign. He then acted guilty by not informing Congress he was freezing the aid to Ukraine aid lawmakers had appropriated. And remember that the Pentagon certified to Congress that Ukraine met its anti-corruption benchmarks.
Trumps lawyers have given no clear defense against accusations that the president acted with corrupt intent. Instead, Trump has stonewalled congressional investigations.
This extreme position should scare us. It would certainly scare the founders. It also means that every person in this country standing trial for attempting to commit a crime but who did not succeed, or confess should just be sorry they arent the president of the United States.