Dershowitz was added to Trump’s legal team last week and claimed he would present a constitutional case against impeachment. Specifically, he said he planned to argue that “abuse of power” was not an impeachable offense.
“The vote was to impeach on abuse of power, which is not within the constitutional criteria for impeachment,” Dershowitz said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.
He made a similar claim on Friday on MSNBC.
“Abuse of power, even if proved, is not an impeachable offense. That’s exactly what the framers rejected,” he said, adding:
“They didn’t want to give Congress the authority to remove a president because he abused his power. They have to prove treason, they have to prove bribery or they have to prove other crimes and misdemeanors. ‘Other’ refers to crimes of the kind such as treason and bribery.”
But CNN uncovered comments Dershowitz made in 1998 ― when President Bill Clinton was facing impeachment ― that would seem to fly in the face of his current argument.
“It certainly doesn’t have to be a crime if you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of president and who abuses trust and who poses great danger to our liberty,” Dershowitz said on CNN at the time. “You don’t need a technical crime.”
Dershowitz also said impeachment was “like a nonviolent revolution” and had to be limited to great offenses of state.
“We look at their acts of state, we look at how they conduct the foreign policy, we look at how they try to subvert the Constitution the way Iran-Contra did by going behind the back of Congress, by lying repeatedly and by misstating to the American public matters of great state issues,” he said.
Dershowitz added that Iran-Contra, a scandal under President Ronald Reagan, was not an impeachable offense. However, his concession that abusing the trust was an impeachable offense seemed to be at odds with his current belief that abuse of power was not.
See more of that 1998 interview below: