Opening arguments in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump are not set to begin until Tuesday, but the newly assembled respective sides of the trial are already going at it. This weekend in an appearance on ABC’s This Week, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) — who is also one of the House’s impeachment case managers for that trial — blasted a new argument from newly revealed Trump defense team member Alan Dershowitz as “absurdist.” Dershowitz, whose past clients have included O.J. Simpson and Jeffrey Epstein, has been arguing that even if all the facts of the impeachment case are true, Trump can’t actually be impeached for “abuse of power.” In other words, we’re at the “collusion isn’t actually a crime” stage of the president’s team’s meltdowns.
Dershowitz’s untenable argument is that presidents can only be impeached for specific violations of the criminal code, although that’s patently false — the systems are entirely separate, even if they run parallel, and the Constitution delivers the power to Congress to decide what is or isn’t an impeachable offense.
Discussing Dershowitz’s argument otherwise, Schiff noted:
‘That’s the argument I suppose you have to make if the facts are so dead set against you, if the president has admitted to the wrongdoing, his chief of staff has admitted to the wrongdoing, his European Union ambassador has confessed to the same quid pro quo — you have to rely on this argument that even if he abused his office in this horrendous way that it’s not impeachable. You had to go so far out of the mainstream to find someone to make that argument. You had to leave the realm of constitutional law scholars and go to criminal defense lawyers.’
Dershowitz has claimed that he is a nonpartisan and just trying to defend the Constitution or something, but his years of avid defenses for Trump against even the slightest duly proceeding investigative scrutiny tell an entirely different story. He’s a partisan who’s here out of political expediency and is now arguing that actually, the president’s behavior wasn’t so bad after all.
Schiff noted some examples of how ridiculous that Dershowitz’s argument is:
‘The logic of that absurdist position that’s being now adopted by the president is he could give away the state of Alaska, he could withhold execution of sanctions on Russia for interfering in the last election, to induce or coerce Russia to interfere in the next one.’
Rep. Adam Schiff: "The only thing really new about the president's defense is that they're not arguing – I think because they can't contest the facts — that the president cannot be impeached for abusing the power of his office." https://t.co/su65A8bcwG pic.twitter.com/JkjHofUeQa
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) January 19, 2020
Ironically, although it’s not outlined in the articles of impeachment considering those came well before the ruling, the Government Accountability Office, which is a watchdog agency within the U.S. government, did recently rule that the Trump administration did break the law. They insisted that the lawbreaking came when they delayed transmitting Congressionally approved military aid for Ukraine; that delay was meant as leverage while Trump was trying to get them to investigate his domestic political opponents.
Other new evidence has emerged too, including a trove of documentation from Rudy Giuliani’s associate Lev Parnas that outlines the president’s personal role in the plot. For example, there’s a letter from Giuliani in which he wrote that he was lobbying Ukraine with the “knowledge and consent” of the president himself. The insurmountably convincing nature of this case has pressured the president’s team into arguments like Dershowitz’s.