Former GOP Policy Director Says Trump Lawyer Dershowitz 'Deliberately Misrepresented the Meaning' of the Constitution During Impeachment Trial

Evan McMullin, former chief policy director of the House Republican Conference, wrote that President Donald Trump's lawyer Alan Dershowitz "deliberately misrepresented the meaning of the Constitution's reference to 'high crimes and misdemeanors'" on Monday.

During his defense on Monday, Dershowitz said that the Constitution's terms of "high crimes and misdemeanors do not encompass the two articles, charging abuse of power and obstruction of Congress."

In his tweet, McMullin referenced the English root of the term "high crimes and misdemeanors." "The Framers borrowed the phrase from the English parliament where it described many types of uncodified corruption and abuse of power," the former policy director wrote.

"Imagine if the abuse of power weren't impeachable," McMullin wrote in another tweet. "A president could use his command of the military to halt elections, or leverage US tax dollars to attract illegal foreign backing and then, you know, obstruct law enforcement and Congressional investigations without consequence."

McMullin told Newsweek that abuse of power was a chief offense that the framers meant when including high crimes and misdemeanors. "If America accepts Alan Dershowitz's distorted view of the Constitution, it would create the kind of supreme executive which our founders most feared," McMullin told Newsweek in an email. "High crimes and misdemeanors was a term the framers and their contemporaries understood to mean wrongdoing committed while in high office. Chief among those offenses was, and is, the abuse of power."

McMullin also said that Trump's actions were impeachable. "Abusing presidential power by inviting favorable foreign interference in our elections must be impeachable, or else the people's power to hold presidents accountable is forfeit," he said. "Likewise, forbidding all executive branch personnel from complying with congressional oversight would destroy the ability of Congress to check presidents as the framers intended."

During his defense on Monday, Dershowitz said that the framers rejected parts of the British criteria for impeachment including maladministration. "[T]hat is clear from the language of the Constitution," he said. "You cannot turn conduct that is not impeachable into impeachable conduct simply by using words like quid pro quo and personal benefit," he said. "It is inconceivable that the framers would have intended so politically loaded and promiscuously deployed a term as abuse of power to be weaponized as a tool of impeachment."

Dershowitz also argued that the framers would reject abuse of power and obstruction of Congress as criteria for high crimes and misdemeanors: "I will ask whether the framers would have accepted such vague and open-ended terms as abuse of power and obstruction of Congress as governing criteria," he said. I will show by a close review of the history that they did not and would not accept such criteria for fear that these criteria would turn our new republic into a British style parliamentary democracy in which the chief's executives tenure would be in the words of James Madison, the father of our Constitution, 'At the pleasure of the legislature.'"

Dershowitz told Newsweek that McMullin's tweet did not accurately reflect his statements. "Either he didn't hear my speech or he deliberately misrepresented what I said," Dershowitz told Newsweek. I directly took on the argument that the United States adopted the British concept of high 'crimes and misdemeanors.' That's just false. They rejected maladministration, which is a key part of the British approach, because the British approach was too vague and open-ended, and what the framers wanted was to reject approach to having a president serve at the 'pleasure of the legislature.'"

"For him to say that I misled anybody, I laid it all out completely for everybody to hear, do the research and comeback. I challenge this guy to debate me on the merits, not name call," Dershowitz said.

Dershowitz stood by his defense. "I think I made a pretty powerful argument," he said. "If you don't like it, write an op-ed disagreeing with it, but stop the name-calling, the immature, childish schoolyard name-calling. That's been most of the response."

Alan Dershowitz
In this screenshot taken from a Senate television webcast, Alan Dershowitz speaks during impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump in the Senate on January 27. Dershowitz also argued that the framers would reject abuse of power and obstruction of Congress as criteria for high crimes and misdemeanors; McMullin disagrees. Senate Television/Getty