Alan Dershowitz: Why Anti-Trump Zealots Won't Stop Me Defending Our President's Constitutional Rights | Opinion

From the moment it was announced that I would making an argument against the constitutionality of the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, the attacks began on my integrity, my motivations—even my professional credentials. None of this would have happened if it had been announced that I was offering an argument in favor of Trump's impeachment.

I was attacked for my age—called an 81-year-old "has been," who agreed to take the case to "remain relevant." I was called a liar by Congressman Jerry Nadler because I changed my views, based on research, about the criteria for impeachment. (Nadler, too, changed his views.) My former colleague Laurence Tribe said on TV that I've "lost it" because I've changed my mind after doing more research.

My constitutional analysis is based on a thorough study of the historical record and the compelling arguments made by Benjamin Curtis, who resigned in protest from the Supreme Court after dissenting from its notorious Dred Scott case, and then represented President Andrew Johnson at his impeachment trial. It has been labeled "bonkers," "absurdist," "nonsense," "legal claptrap" and worse. And I haven't even delivered it, though I have stated my conclusion in interviews. Instead of responding to my arguments on their merits or demerits, anti-Trump zealots have caricatured it and demeaned me with ad hominems. The goal, in addition to punishing me for treason to the Democratic Party, was to poison the jury before they hear my argument.

Some have even claimed that I'm not really an expert on the Constitution, despite my having taught constitutional criminal procedure, constitutional litigation, the law of impeachment and other related courses and seminars at Harvard for half a century. I've written half a dozen books and dozens of articles on constitutional law, and I've litigated more than 100 cases involving the Constitution. Still, the partisan zealots prefer to question my credentials rather than respond to my research.

I have received threats—one of which showed pictures of my relatives. Insulting emails, cursing me, are an hourly occurrence. Hate emails from anti-Semites (I must be doing it for the money) are followed by emails from Jews who are "disappointed" in me for arguing on behalf of someone they regard as anti-Semitic. All because they don't like the president or anyone who is seen as helping him. My family and I have lost long-standing friends, whose kids I bailed out of jail or wrote college recommendations for, because they don't want to be associated with a lawyer for Trump.

This is the world we now live in. Everyone must choose sides and remain loyal to their chosen side. You're either for Trump or against him. There is no room for a civil libertarian who places principle over partisanship and who defends the constitutional rights of a controversial president he voted against.

I have developed a thick skin over half a century of defending despised defendants, but even when I was on the O.J. Simpson defense team, it wasn't this nasty. But it's been difficult for my family members, despite the fact that some of them disapprove of what I'm doing.

Donald Trump and Alan Dershowitz
Alan Dershowitz listens to President Donald Trump speak at the White House on December 11, 2019, in Washington, D.C. Mark Wilson/Getty

I'm the only lawyer arguing against impeachment who is a liberal Democrat and who opposed the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. That's part of the reason I'm being attacked more ferociously than the others. I'm a traitor. Less is expected of them. Most of the other lawyers live in worlds in which their representation of Trump is seen as positive, or at worst neutral. The same is true for the lawyers who are working for Trump's impeachment. They, too, are celebrated in their world. There used to be a world in which lawyers were praised as courageous—or at least not condemned as traitors—for defending, on principle, the constitutional rights of people with whom they disagree. That world is gone. Or more precisely is largely uninhabited.

I'm not looking for praise or celebration. I will continue to do what I've been doing for 55 years: defending the Constitution and the rights of controversial and often despised people. I will continue to do half my cases on a pro bono basis. These partisan attacks will not deter me. But I am concerned that other lawyers, particularly young ones, will be afraid to represent politically incorrect people or causes. Anyone observing the partisan war of words being deployed against me will hesitate before willingly exposing themselves to the wrath of the political correctness army.

Alan Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter professor of law, emeritus, at Harvard Law School and a member of President Donald Trump's legal team. A scholar of U.S. constitutional and criminal law, Dershowitz is the author of numerous best-selling books about politics and law.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.