Supreme Court Lawyer 'Can't Think of Something More Dangerous to Our Democracy' Than Dershowitz's Trump Defense Becoming Precedent

A Supreme Court lawyer said in an interview with MSNBC on Thursday that he could not think of anything "more dangerous to our democracy" than the arguments of President Donald Trump's defense lawyer, Alan Dershowitz, in Trump's ongoing impeachment trial.

Neal Katyal, who served as the Acting Solicitor General from May 2010 to June 2011, made the remarks in an interview with Chuck Todd, host of Meet the Press and the political director of NBC News.

In the interview, Todd referred to Dershowitz's argument in the Senate trial that Trump's "quid pro quo" deal with the Ukrainian government did not constitute an impeachable offense.

"You can't acquit him on the basis of the facts, because the factual record is against the president, and the president hasn't even bothered introducing any facts into his defense," Katyal said. "So, I think the only way you could read an acquittal tomorrow is on the basis of the Dershowitz argument, which would be, I think, one of the most destructive precedents to have existed in our nation's history. It would empower a president to use the full suite of his powers as commander-in-chief to assure his reelection. I can't think of something more dangerous to our democracy."

Newsweek subscription offers >

Twitter

The House of Representatives impeached Trump in December for obstructing Congress and abusing his presidential power by threatening to withhold aid from Ukraine unless that country's government opened an investigation into his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

Newsweek subscription offers >

The Constitution dictates that after a public official is impeached, they are given a trial before the Senate, which will determine whether or not to remove that official from office.

As Katyal mentioned in his conversation with Todd, the argument of one member of the president's defense team, Yale-educated lawyer Alan Dershowitz, hinges on the idea that Trump was within his powers as the chief executive to request that Ukraine conduct an investigation against Biden, for the president's own personal gain.

Dershowitz has compared Trump's "quid pro quo" deal with Ukraine to the conduct of Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. Lincoln's request that U.S. Army soldiers from Indiana be allowed to return home from the frontlines to vote for Republicans in the election of 1864, Dershowitz argued, was no different from Trump's threat to withhold aid from Ukraine unless its government conducted an investigation into Biden.

The Constitution states that the President of the United States is the ultimate commander-in-chief of all U.S. military forces. It does not address a president having political authority over foreign countries.

Neal Katyal
Georgetown University Law Center professor Neal Katyal testifies during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee April 26, 2007 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty
Supreme Court Lawyer 'Can't Think of Something More Dangerous to Our Democracy' Than Dershowitz's Trump Defense Becoming Precedent | U.S.