I don’t know if there is a writing genre called “legal fantasy” but if there would be, Alan Dershowitz would be it’s premiere man of letters. He bends and twists the law in ways that are exercises in imagination and creative writing far more than they are legal analysis and commentary. On his latest outing in his quixotic quest to defend Donald Trump from impeachment, in a Wall Street Journal op/ed, Dershowitz goes over constitutional impeachment provisions and the phrases “high crimes and misdemeanors” and he concludes that members of Congress should be “reasonable and conscientious” in applying the words. So far so good. Then he goes south. Ramesh Ponnuru, Bloomberg:
But he goes badly wrong when he tries to interpret the phrase in a way that immunizes Trump. “As for the allegations against President Trump, obstruction of justice is plainly a high crime, but a president cannot commit it by exercising his constitutional authority to fire or pardon, regardless of his motive.” Dershowitz may be referring to the firing of James Comey or to reports that Trump has promised pardons for aides if they break laws while following his orders. Or he may merely be establishing the principle that Trump can’t have committed an impeachable act of obstruction while exercising his constitutional powers.
But that can’t be right. James Madison said during the Virginia ratifying convention that the Constitution provided “one security” against a president who urged a crime and then pardoned it: impeachment and removal. […]
He proceeds to issue another grant of immunity, which also falls apart under scrutiny. “Neither is it a crime to conduct foreign policy for partisan or personal advantage,” he writes, “a common political sin with no limiting principle capable of being applied in a neutral manner.” (While he never gives specifics, Dershowitz is clearly saying Trump should not be impeached for pushing Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.) […]
The question Dershowitz raises, then, is whether our reasonable and conscientious member of Congress should hesitate to vote against a president for conducting foreign policy for personal advantage because it requires making a judgment – because it necessitates acting on a standard that cannot be articulated in the mechanical way we would ideally want a legal rule to be.
This is where Dershowitz gets in and twists and turns his legal argument every which way, not with the ideal of figuring out exactly what the Constitution says and how it should be applied, which is what any legitimate lawyer, let alone legal scholar would do. No, Dershowitz is looking, once again, to use the Constitution as fodder to go on Fox News and spin, for the sole purpose of exculpating Trump and keeping him in power. I recommend that you read both Dershowitz’ Wall Street Journal op/ed and the Bloomberg critique, both linked to herein, in their entirety. Then you will once again ask yourself the $64,000 question: How did a once reknowned and respected legal scholar degenerate to these depths and become the lackey of one such as Donald Trump? This is an issue that I have researched in depth and believe that I have the answer to and that is the substance of the rest of this piece.
As time has passed, Dershowitz has joined a posse of Trump-serving advocates who have abandoned objective truth to become Trump apologists, consistently laboring to justify everything Trump says and does. The posse began with intellectual lightweight, Kellyanne Conway, who defended Trump’s constant lies as “alternative facts.” She famously spoke of the Bowling Green massacre, an entirely made-up occurrence. She was joined by Rudy Giuliani, a personal lawyer for Trump who has made numerous outrageous statements which cause one to question his present mental acuity. They, in turn, have been joined by Bill Barr, whose conduct since he was appointed the Attorney General of our Justice Department has been that of a Trump personal attorney. Dershowitz is now the fourth musketeer, whose predictable conduct is consistent with the other three. Defensive Trump bias is the bond among them.
Dershowitz’ relationship with Trump has become closer. In 2017, Trump designated his unqualified son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to find a resolution to the Israeli-Palestine issue. Upon the predictable finding that Kushner was making no progress, Trump brought in Dershowitz, who is well-known to be very pro-Israel. No progress was made toward resolution, but Dershowitz advised the Trump administration to formally recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Instead of seeking a resolution of the Palestine-Israeli conflict, Dershowitz sought to advance Israel’s objectives.
Dershowitz involvement did not go without objection from former White House ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration, Richard W. Painter, who viewed the choice of Dershowitz as “insane.” He explained that Trump should look to experienced diplomats and experts in the State Department–Dershowitz knows nothing about Mid-East policy.
There is another issue with Dershowitz trying to strike a bargain with representatives of Palestine. Dershowitz is known to be a close friend and ally of Benjamin Netanyahu and is deeply involved in Israeli politics. How could he be more biased?
Why was Dershowitz writing the Introduction to the DOJ’s version of the Mueller Report that was available to the public? He is not a DOJ lawyer. He is not Rob Rosenstein. He has no reason to be involved. His introduction precedes Barr’s spin on the contents of the Report, all designed to get readers to take their word for it. After all, Dershowitz is a Democrat and a liberal, alongside the Republican AG, so it must be true that the Report exonerates Trump.
It appears that Trump, Barr and Hannity are all using Dershowitz. Their new ally can flash his two badges, the Harvard and liberal Democrat badges, helping the Trump team’s credibility. And Dershowitz loves the limelight.
How would this have happened?
One explanation is that Dershowitz auditioned for it. In one of his many appearances on Hannity, Dershowitz said that the Mueller Report is devastating only if not rebutted. It is absolutely essential for the President’s team to demand that the Justice Department not allow the release of the Mueller Report until they’ve had a chance to review it and rebut it. Note the presumption in his remarks that the Mueller Report needs to be rebutted.
Everyone knows that Trump watches Fox religiously, especially Hannity. It would be logical to conclude that Dershowitz was playing to an audience of one–and it worked.
What Happened to You, Alan?
This is a question frequently posed to Dershowitz by perplexed interviewers on a number of his many talk show appearances. What would cause him to forsake his civil liberties focus to support a president who rides roughshod over them?
What does Dershowitz have in common with President Trump?
- a)Shared Narcissism
Many people have some narcissistic qualities to their personalities, but the more extreme the characteristic is, the more it guides and impairs their judgment and conduct.
Very few people are as dramatically narcissistic as Donald Trump and Dershowitz is not so extreme. The impairing qualities, however, are there.
The Mayo Clinic defines Narcissists as follows:
Inflated sense of own importance
Deep need for excessive attention and admiration
Lack of empathy for others
Trump checks all these boxes, including a disgusting lack of empathy for anyone, including victims of natural disasters.
Dershowitz has some of these characteristics in the extreme.
His sense of self importance is displayed in many of his TV appearances.
He likens himself frequently to a doctor or priest, implying that he should be treated with more reverence and respect than is generally accorded to lawyers.
He views himself as the smartest guy in the room on any legal topic affecting Trump and his administration and presents himself as the ultimate oracle of wisdom. He is not remotely the leading legal authority on all areas of law. Not even our greatest legal scholars would act as though they are.
He boldly states that he, in his ultimate wisdom, hasn’t changed. Liberal people around him have changed for the worse. He, however, remains the rock of objective truth.
On yet another appearance on Hannity, he stated that Rachel (Maddow) is wrong 90% of the time, CNN is wrong 80% of the time and he is right 100% of the time.
Dershowitz has a deep need for excessive attention and admiration.
He has complained that CNN has not given him enough airtime, even though he has been a guest on CNN multiple times.
He needs more than respect. He needs adoration, which he gets as a frequent guest on The View and Fox.
He revels in the publicity he gets as a celebrity guest everywhere on TV and cable shows.
Dershowitz and Trump share some of these characteristics.
- b) Shared long-term relationships with Jeffrey Epstein.
Trump had a relationship with Epstein for almost two decades, from the late 80’s to the early 2000’s. Dershowitz also had a long-term relationship with the disgraced pedophile from the mid to late 90’s to 2008.
Before being elected president, Trump was well-known in New York as a serial philanderer and frequent womanizer with Epstein.
In videos of Trump and Epstein at parties with beautiful young women, the two are seen whispering together and pointing to some of the women assembled, like two boys at a fraternity party picking out the women they wanted to sleep with that night.
In a 2002 interview with New York magazine, Trump praised Epstein as a “terrific guy.” “He’s a lot of fun to be with,” Trump said. “It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it–Jeffrey enjoys has social life.”
While under oath in litigation concerning Epstein’s abuse of under-age girls, Epstein was asked whether he and Trump socialized with women? He answered yes. The follow-up question was, did Epstein socialize with Trump in the presence of females under 18 years old? Epstein took the 5th.
In 2009, an employee of Epstein leaked his address book, which contained 14 phone numbers for Trump, Melania and members of Trump’s staff.
As New York socialites, Trump and Epstein were known to have dined together at Epstein residences and had flown together between New York and Palm Beach where they both have residences.
George Houraney was, at one time, a business partner of Trump for Calendar Girl, where beautiful young women were to be selected for the calendar. Houraney arranged to have more than a dozen contestants brought to Mar-a-Lago where Trump would bring men to act as judges. To Houraney’s surprise, only two men were present as judges–Trump and Epstein.
At age 13, Kate Johnson went to New York in the summer of 1994, enticed by Epstein with promises of money and a modeling career. She claimed to have met Trump at parties at Epstein’s New York mansion. In 2019, she filed a law suit against Trump, alleging she had been assaulted, raped and falsely imprisoned by both Trump and Epstein. She did not have corroborating witnesses and voluntarily dropped the charges, saying that she had received a series of threats. Since no trial occurred, there is no way to assess the veracity of her claims.
Dershowitz’ relationship with Epstein is addressed in my Politizoom article, Legacy in Ashes, Alan Dershowitz, Part I.
The relationships of Dershowitz and Trump with Epstein overlap for a decade. It would seem that the two would have met during the Epstein years at one or more of the notorious parties, but there appears to be no evidence of that and both men have distanced themselves from the pedophile and denied any knowledge of Epstein’s sex parties or involvement with under-age girls. Small wonder.
- c) Netanyahu and Israel
Dershowitz and Trump may have gotten along personally due to shared narcissistic personalities, but that, alone, would not explain Dershowitz allegiance to Trump.
Their long-term relationships with Epstein could explain much darker shared interests and raise more questions without answers, based upon circumstantial evidence. It is hard to believe that neither of them was aware of Epstein’s sex trafficking and parties with under-age girls. Nevertheless, there is no concrete and compelling evidence beyond known facts.
For Dershowitz, there is a more logical and compelling reason for his switching sides– Netanyahu and Israel.
Dershowitz is widely known as a strong advocate of Israel for many years and a long-term friend of its right-wing Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
An Israeli group named Dershowitz an “Honorary Israeli Citizen.”
The Israeli Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit, began an investigation into possible criminal conduct by Netanyahu.
According to the Jerusalem Post, before the investigation was even concluded, in September, 2019, Dershowitz wrote an open letter to the Israeli AG, defending Netanyahu, claiming that an indictment of the then Prime Minister would threaten democracy in Israel. (As of this writing, the formation of a government has yet to be determined and may require a third election in less than a year.)
Although Dershowitz has been criticized for his intervention in the Netanyahu matter, he protested that he was not defending the Prime Minister, but defending the principles of law in Israel.
This is the very argument Dershowitz makes when criticized for representing Trump’s interests. Both statements that he “operates out of principle” are a transparent and feeble attempt to proclaim his neutrality in the U.S. as well as Israel.
Both in the U.S. and in Israel, Dershowitz blames the “extreme far left” for their opposition to his views. After all, he is always 100% right.
Trump also defended Netanyahu before the Israeli AG had completed his investigation, stating that “He’s done a great job as PM.”
Trump put Jared Kushner in charge of brokering a resolution to the Israeli-Palestine issue. Jared’s father, Charles Kushner (a convicted felon) has long been a donor to Israeli causes in the U.S. and Israel, totaling millions of dollars, according to the New York Times. Charles Kushner has given Netanyahu six-figure honorariums for speaking engagements.
Trump administration ties to Netanyahu are clear.
The breakdown in Dershowitz’ relationship with the Democratic party began with President Obama and the possible two state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Obama stated that Netanyahu’s talk of annexing more land would make a two state solution impossible, even though the Israeli Prime Minister had said the solution should be considered. It is highly questionable whether Netanyahu meant it, given his conduct.
Much of U.S. foreign policy concerning Iran comes from secret discussions between the U.S. and Israel. Hawks in the U.S. and Israel have spent more than a decade agitating for war against the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, according to Ronen Bergman, a staff writer for the New York Times Magazine.
Netanyahu, certainly one of the “hawks” referred to, views Iran as Israel’s greatest enemy.
In an interview with The Times of Israel in 2012, Dershowitz strongly advocated that the U.S. must retain a military option against Iran. He called two former Mossad Directors, Efram HaLevy and Meir Dagan to enlist their support his position, which he received. Based on his own statements, Dershowitz is one of the hawks to whom Ronen Bergman was referring.
Also in 2012, Netanyahu was threatening to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. The Obama administration began secret talks with western allies to negotiate what became the Iran deal, seeking to avoid a war that Israel could start. This became known to Netanyahu who was doubtless angered by it. He has consistently felt that the deal was inadequate to protect Israel, even though the signatories to the deal felt the agreements would avoid war and the inspections agreed upon were adequate.
In 2015, Netanyahu spoke to Congress without having visited Obama.
Dershowitz has stated in emphatic terms that Obama stabbed Israel in the back and Obama hates Netanyahu.
On September 4, 2019, Dershowitz gave an interview with OAN (One America News Network) in which he stated that Obama lied to me about Israel.” He went on to say that this was now forcing him to reconsider his Democratic party affiliation.
In 2016, just before the first Presidential debate between Trump and Clinton, Netanyahu met with both candidates, while in New York for a UN meeting. He spoke with Hillary Clinton, who told him she supported the Iran deal, while working with Netanyahu. Further, she stated that she supported a two state solution to the Palestine question.
Trump, however, talked to Netanyahu about withdrawing from the Iran deal, which he did, once in office.
Several months ago, Netanyahu said that he is one of the key reasons Trump blew up the Iran deal, later stating to New York Times reporter, Ronen Bergman, that he has great influence on Trump.
There are Trump voters who stick with Trump, no matter what else he does, based upon one issue. With a number of evangelicals, that issue is abortion.
Dershowitz’ strong, negative comments about Obama suggests he is such a person. His issue is Israel, including a nuclear threat from Iran. It appears that other issues with Trump are suppressed by him, exposing his strained reasoning and hypocrisy on other important matters.
Netanyahu has also developed a working relationship with Russia and the two countries have agreed to strengthening regional military cooperation, according to the Jerusalem Post. As Vicky Ward stated in her recent book, Kushner, Inc., Netanyahu is the “grand chess master” who lobbied Trump to court Putin and Russia.
This would explain why Dershowitz is all but dead silent on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
Dershowitz’ long-standing close ties to Israel and allegiance to Netanyahu and his hawkish, anti-Iran agenda, create a better understanding of his conduct. Most of us Americans support a free Israel and view Israel as an American ally. There are, however, differences between our national interests and those of Israel. For Americans, our interests must come first. Netanyahu’s right-wing hawkish agenda cannot dictate America’s needs.
President Obama sought to cultivate a solution to decades of violent conflict between Israel and the people of Palestine. It appears Dershowitz hated him for it and hated the Iran deal as much as Netanyahu has. His ultimate loyalty to Israel has caused him to embrace a man who may well be the worst President in American history, a man who is a serious threat to our democracy.
His obvious hatred of President Obama, which he doesn’t openly share on the talk show circuit, makes him a deceptive man with a hidden agenda.
He is no longer the great American champion of civil liberties or he would vigorously oppose Trump. He is no longer the liberal Democrat he once was. In fact it is now highly questionable that he voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, as he claims. We will never know.
It is also now subject to question whether he views the murderous dictator, Putin, as a threat to America, since Netanyahu has been aligning Israel with Putin.
The question now is, should Dershowitz be required to register as a foreign agent?