Constitutional law expert explains why Trump’s attorneys should not ‘be allowed to use bogus legal arguments’ during impeachment trial

Constitutional law expert explains why Trump’s attorneys should not ‘be allowed to use bogus legal arguments’ during impeachment trial
Laurence Tribe, image via Screengrab.

As President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial moves along, much of the right-wing media will no doubt be echoing the arguments of the attorneys who are representing Trump during the trial — including Alan Dershowitz, Kenneth Starr and former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. But attorney Laurence H. Tribe, an expert on constitutional law and co-author of the book, “To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment,” emphasizes in a Washington Post op-ed that Trump’s attorneys are using “bogus” and wildly misleading arguments in his defense.


The 78-year-old Tribe is especially critical of Dershowitz in his op-ed. Dershowitz, Tribe notes, has argued that the two articles of impeachment Trump has been indicted on — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — should be dismissed because neither “can count as impeachable offenses.” But in fact, Tribe asserts, both abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are quite impeachable.

“The president’s lawyers have made the sweeping assertion that the articles of impeachment against President Trump must be dismissed because they fail to allege that he committed a crime — and are, therefore, as they said in a filing with the Senate, ‘constitutionally invalid on their face,’” Tribe explains. And he goes on to say that impeachable offenses don’t necessarily have to be criminal offenses.

“The argument that only criminal offenses are impeachable has died 1000 deaths in the writings of all the experts on the subject, but it staggers on like a vengeful zombie,” Tribe writes. “In fact, there is no evidence that the phrase ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ was understood in the 1780s to mean indictable crimes. On the contrary: with virtually no federal criminal law in place when the Constitution was written in 1787, any such understanding would have been inconceivable.”

A president, according to Tribe, can most certainly be removed from office for a non-criminal offense.

“On July 20, 1787, Edmund Randolph, Virginia’s governor, urged the inclusion of an impeachment power specifically because the ‘executive will have great opportunities of abusing his power,’” Tribe notes. “Even more famously, Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist 65, defined ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ as ‘those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.’”

The attorney goes on to explain that one of the things the U.S. House of Representatives impeached Trump for — trying to get the Ukrainian government to dig up dirt on a political rival — is impeachable.

“Any number of such violations of the public trust — such as working with foreign governments in ways that make the president beholden to their leaders, or cooperating with those governments to bolster the president’s reelection — clearly must be impeachable even though they might violate no criminal law and indeed, no federal statute at all,” Tribe writes.

Tribe concludes his op-ed by stressing that Trump’s attorneys are trying to deceive the U.S. senators who will be serving as jurors in his impeachment trial.

“The president is entitled to robust legal representation,” Tribe asserts. “But his lawyers should not be allowed to use bogus legal arguments to mislead the American public or the senators weighing his fate.”

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