Legal experts explain why the ‘authoritarian argument' for Trump’s acquittal is so dangerous

Legal experts explain why the ‘authoritarian argument' for Trump’s acquittal is so dangerous

Attorney Alan Dershowitz, who is part of the legal team representing President Donald Trump during his impeachment trial, has made a variety of arguments against impeaching the president — including a claim that Trump’s actions with Ukraine were not impeachable because Trump acted in what he believed to be the “pubic interest.” And legal experts Quinta Jurecic and Alan Z. Rozenshtein, in an article for Lawfare, explained why Dershowitz’ reasoning is badly flawed.


Trump was impeached for, among other things, trying to pressure the Ukrainian government into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. According to Dershowitz, Trump’s actions are not impeachable because he thought he was acting in the “public interest.” But Jurecic and Rozenshtein assert that Dershowitz “trivializes what counts as acting in the national interest.”

“There is no credible case that the president acted on mixed motives when he sought to strongarm the Ukrainian government into announcing an investigation into the Bidens and alleged 2016 election interference by Ukraine — a conspiracy theory for which there is no evidence,” Jurecic and Rozenshtein stress. “Rather, the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the president held up military aid to Ukraine for the sole purposes of securing his own reelection by harming a potential political opponent and bolstering his political legitimacy by undermining the intelligence community’s conclusions that Russia interfered in 2016.”

Dershowitz, according to Jurecic and Rozenshtein, is making an “authoritarian argument” for Trump’s acquittal. Moreover, they write, Trump has often conducted himself in a self-serving fashion — not as someone concerned with the “public interest.”

“From the very beginning,” Jurecic and Rozenshtein explain, Trump “has shown an inability to even consider that the national interest might require him to put anything above his own personal interest. He has used his position to enrich himself and his family. He has tried to turn the Department of Justice into both his own personal legal defense team and a bludgeon against his enemies.”

Dershowitz’ reasoning in support of Trump, according to Jurecic and Rozenshtein, is along the lines of “l’état c’est moi” — which in French, means “I am the state,” and which the legal experts find to be dangerously “authoritarian.”

“Without a majority of senators throwing their votes behind calling witnesses, the Senate appears ready to speed toward acquittal of the president,” Jurecic and Rozenshtein write. “Unless it can somehow manage to acquit Trump while condemning his team’s legal arguments, it will be providing a dangerous grant of approval — not just to Trump, but to his successors — that, when it comes to the presidency, the personal isn’t just political. It’s the only thing that matters.”

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