Alan Dershowitz Said A 'Technical Crime' Wasn't Needed for Impeachment in Resurfaced 1998 Interview

A legal scholar on President Donald Trump's legal team said an impeachable offense doesn't have to be a crime in an interview with CNN about Bill Clinton's impeachment in 1998.

Harvard Law School emeritus professor Alan Dershowitz told Larry King Live in August 1998 that an impeachable offense "doesn't have to be a crime" if the president is "somebody who completely corrupts the office."

He also said the act of impeachment was "like a non-violent revolution" and argued that the process amounted to the "most dramatic act of undoing democracy."

Footage of his interview with CNN 22 years ago has resurfaced after President Trump's legal counsel revealed he would be arguing that the articles of impeachment filed by the House are "two non-criminal actions."

He told CNN's State of the Union on Sunday that he would be making "what could be the most important argument on the floor," paraphrasing an argument made by Justice Benjamin Curtis in the 1868 impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson that the framers of the Constitution intended impeachable conduct "only to be criminal-like conduct."

Speaking to CNN in 1998, then-Harvard Law Professor Dershowitz said: "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, you don't need a technical crime."

"To impeach a president is like a non-violent revolution," the emeritus Harvard professor added. "It is the most dramatic act of undoing democracy that is possible, and that's why the framers used the term treason, bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors to suggest the English analogy to great offenses of state."

He later told Larry King Live that the Iran-Contra affair under former President Ronald Reagan didn't and shouldn't have led to impeachment, but said it was "not even a close question historically" over whether Clinton should have been impeached.

"At the time I made the original statement, I was not aware of the powerful argument made by Justice Benjamin Curtis in the Johnson impeachment trial that a crime is required," Dershowitz told Newsweek. "I hadn't done original research on the criteria for impeachment during the Clinton trial because he was charged with a technical crime.

Alan Dershowitz on Triumph's Election Special 2016
Alan Dershowitz attends Hulu Presents "Triumph's Election Special" produced by Funny Or Die on February 3, 2016 in New York City. John Lamparski/Getty Images

"I have now thoroughly researched the issue and the Curtis argument strengthens my view that criminal - type behavior is required."

He added that the issue in the Clinton impeachment case "was not whether he had to be charged with a crime," but rather whether he had committed a "high crime."

"I said in the part of the quotes not included by Tribe that it doesn't have to be a 'technical crime,'" Dershowitz added. "That's the same position I recently took in my Wall Street Journal article and other writings and statements. I said it has to be criminal-like and akin to treason and bribery."

Speaking to State of the Union on CNN 22 years after his interview with Larry King, Dershowitz said: "I'm making what could be the most important argument on the floor of the Senate, namely that even if everything that is alleged by the House managers is proven, or taken as true, they would not rise to the level of an impeachable offense."

The Harvard law professor emeritus said he was not a full member of President Trump's legal time would not be involved in "day to day" issues, but would counsel "on the specific issue of the constitutional criteria for impeachment."

House lawmakers voted to impeach President Trump in December under two articles of impeachment charging the commander-in-chief with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. After a delay, the chamber voted to send the articles to the Senate for an impeachment trial on Wednesday, January 15.

Senators were sworn in as jurors for the official start of the trial on Thursday last week. The third impeachment trial in American history is due to begin in earnest on Tuesday, when trial rules will be set out.

Alan Dershowitz Said A 'Technical Crime' Wasn't Needed for Impeachment in Resurfaced 1998 Interview | U.S.