Washington is buzzing with talk of impeachment over President Donald Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, but not everyone is on board with Democrats’ push to remove Trump from office.
Nancy Pelosi called for an impeachment inquiry this week after a whistleblower complaint claimed that the president discussed the possibility of Ukraine investigating Joe Biden’s son Hunter, allegedly in the context of holding U.S. military aid to Ukraine over his head.
Harvard Law Professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz frequently criticized the hysteria surrounding Trump and alleged Russian collusion, and he is once again defending Trump over concerns about foreign collusion.
The Caller spoke to Dershowitz by phone Thursday to get his thoughts on impeachment, Trump, and the current Democratic Party. Here’s what he had to say.
TheDC: As a lawyer, do you think that there’s anything illegal about what Trump said during his phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky? If he was your client, how do you think you would feel?
Dershowitz: Well I would have wished he didn’t say it. On the other hand I don’t think there’s anything criminal. I think, to find a crime, you have to first find the statute that was violated and it was a conversation about general corruption in the Ukraine which is plentiful. I know I had cases in the Ukraine. I represented the former president of the Ukraine. And then he asked for a personal favor. Is it the right thing to do? That’s a very different question from his criminal.
And so I don’t see any possible criminal conduct. [There are] those who say that being given dirt by a political opponent is a violation of the election laws. That can’t be the case. The First Amendment trumps the election laws. And under the First Amendment anybody is entitled to use and obtain information from whatever source the election laws relate obviously to financial contributions not contributions of knowledge or information. So I don’t think there’s anything there.
And unless there was some kind of an extortion and I don’t think that the president of Ukraine would ever say he was extorted, he was not critical of what happened. I just don’t see a criminal violation here.
TheDC: Do you think that the impeachment case against Trump is stronger or weaker than the impeachment case against Bill Clinton?
Dershowitz: Very very different. Clinton arguably committed a crime. I don’t think he committed a high crime, but it was a crime. If he committed perjury, if he willfully didn’t tell the truth, that would be a crime. So that satisfies one core element of the constitutional criteria for impeachment. But I don’t think it was a high crime. I think it was a low crime.
If he lied, he lied about his private life, not about his public life or his office. In [Trump’s] case I don’t see a crime, but it’s high. It’s a high non-crime, high in the sense that it involved the presidency, the foreign policy, power of the president. So in one case we have a crime but not high, in the other case we have something as high but not a crime. (RELATED: Dershowitz Says The Media Must Apologize To The American Public Following Mueller Report Revelation)
TheDC: Do you think that Ukrainian President Zelensky is trying to protect Trump so he can get military aid out of the United States?
Dershowitz: Every president of every Western country obviously wants the president of the United States to be friendly to them and to be on their side. There’s nothing new about that. So it doesn’t surprise me that the president of the Ukraine would be in a friendly attitude toward the president of the United States. I don’t think he needs any motive to do that beyond wanting to have good relations with the most powerful country in the world. (RELATED: Ukrainian President Zelensky Jokes With Trump: ‘Better To Be On TV Than By Phone’)
And remember too that the Ukraine is vulnerable to Russia and really needs the protection of the United States. But it’s also in the interest of the United States to prevent the Russians from further encroaching into the Ukraine as they did in the Crimea.
TheDC: Do you think that Americans should worry about President Trump’s patriotism over the Ukraine call?
Dershowitz: Oh no, not his patriotism, not at all. He’s a very patriotic American. Nobody would ever doubt his patriotism. The question is: should the president be asking the president of another country to look into investigations that happened to be the son of the person who might run against him? That creates the appearance of impropriety but not the reality. (RELATED: Alan Dershowitz Visits White House, Has Dinner With President Trump)
And so it would be better if the president stayed away from the subject. If he had just talked about corruption in the Ukraine, it would be no problem. I’m sure, from the president’s point of view he believes that Biden Junior was not investigated and that was for improper purposes. So he was raising that question.
TheDC: The story about Hunter Biden — do you think that there is any hay to be made there about any kind of corrupt conduct that he may have been a part of?
Dershowitz: Look I think this is going to end up a tie where both President Trump and Vice President Biden and his son are going to end up having a little dirt thrown on them. But I’d have to know much more about the facts involving Biden.
I warned the Democrats over and over again: don’t weaponize the criminal justice system, today you’re using it against Trump tomorrow, tomorrow it will be used against you. The only people who are happy at these developments are the radical left wing of the Democratic Party, the, you know, the squad and their followers. Because they don’t want Trump and they don’t want Biden. And this probably in some way hurts both Trump and Biden and helps the extreme left which is not something that’s good for the Democratic Party or good for the country. (RELATED: Biden Says He Never Discussed Hunter Biden’s Ukraine Deal. Hunter Says He Did)
TheDC: Do you think that the impeachment drive is driven by any actual material concerns or is it all just a way to sort of you know take down the president?
Dershowitz: Oh, it’s a way of taking down the president. It’s no basis in the current record for impeaching the president and I think everybody knows that unless the Republicans join in an effort, it won’t happen. The Constitution was set up to make sure that impeachment could only remove a president from office with bipartisan support.
That’s how Nixon was removed when the Republicans began to say you can’t be the president anymore. And if the Republicans hold the line we might conceivably see an impeachment but it will fail in the Senate. I don’t think at the moment it would even pass in the House. But there are certainly enough Democrats in the House.
All you need is a simple majority to impeach and the Democrats probably should learn the lesson that the Republicans learned when they impeached Clinton and then lost in the Senate. It didn’t help their standing in the country.
TheDC: How do you think this will affect the 2020 election?
Dershowitz: It’s unclear. I mean if he were to be impeached before the 2020 election, it could galvanize his base. It could, remember the polls show that many independents are opposed to impeachment and many Republicans, some Democrats, but the majority of Americans are opposed to impeachment. So it could help the president’s prospects.
I think the best thing is for the Democrats to focus on finding its candidate. And the best way to get rid of a president you don’t like is to vote against him. That’s why the Constitution provides for impeachment, it was designed to make sure we never became a British-type country, a parliamentary country where the president can be removed if Congress wanted him removed, if the parliament didn’t give them a vote of confidence. We rejected that system in favor of a system with the president’s first four years and can only be removed for treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. And I don’t think that criteria is met here.
TheDC: Just to wrap up, what do you make of the 2020 Democratic field?
Dershowitz: Well, the Democrats are in disarray at this point. I think the hard left has disproportionate influence in Congress. They don’t have much influence in the country as a whole. (RELATED: AOC Talks About What It’s REALLY Like To Be So Popular)
And if the Democrats were to move far left, that would be repeating a mistake they made with McGovern and Mondale and Dukakis. And Democrats have tried the center, they elect centrist liberal-leaning candidates but they so far have never elected a left wing candidate even when Roosevelt ran. He ran to save capitalism not to promote socialism. So I think the word socialism or eliminating private insurance for all people including union insurance is the road to disaster. So I hope the Democrats learn that lesson and nominate somebody closer to the center.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and grammar.