Stephanopoulos Fishes for an Anti-Trump Headline but Dershowitz Didn’t Bite

George Stephanopoulos continues to be a reliable Democrat operative at ABC News. It’s absurd that he’s the host of their Sunday morning news program, as he displays not even a scintilla of impartiality throughout the typically torturous hour: anti-Trump introduction, soft questions to Democrat guests, allowing Democrats to filibuster, continually interrupting Republican guests, stacking his roundtable with other Democrat operatives, and pressing Trump-supporting guests for anti-Trump headlines.


That last item was on display in spades Sunday, as Stephanopoulos repeatedly badgered Alan Dershowitz for anti-Trump comments that could be turned into a headline and then repeated throughout the anti-Trump legacy media echo chamber (their standard modus operandi). We’ll get to those examples, but first of all, there was this Q&A that didn’t turn out the way Stephanopoulos thought it would:

Stephanopoulos: … Professor Dershowitz, thank you for joining us this morning. You just heard Congressman Schiff right there call your position that even if these facts are proved it’s not impeachable absurdist.

Dershowitz: Well it’s the same position that was successfully argued by former Justice Benjamin Curtis in the trial of Andrew Johnson. Andrew Johnson was impeached in part for non-criminal conduct. And Curtis, who was the dissenting judge in the Dred Scott case and one of the most eminent jurists in American history, made the argument that has been called absurdist, namely that when you read the text of the Constitution — bribery, treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors — other really means that crimes and misdemeanors must be of kin — akin to treason and bribery. And he argued, very successfully, winning the case, that you needed proof of an actual crime. It needn’t be a statutory crime, but it has to be criminal behavior, criminal in nature. And the allegations in the Johnson case were much akin to the allegations here — abusive conduct, obstructive conduct — and that lost.

So I am making an argument much like the argument made by the great Justice Curtis. And to call them absurdist is to, you know, insult one of the greatest jurists in American history. The argument is a strong one. The Senate should hear it. I’m privileged to be able to make it. I have a limited role in the case. I’m only in the case as of counsel on the constitutional criteria for impeachment. I’m not involved in the strategic decisions about witnesses or facts. But I will make a strong argument that Justice Curtis was correct and that Congress was wrong in impeaching for these two articles.


Constitutional scholar and Harvard lecturer Dershowitz destroyed Adam Schiff’s claim with an historical example. That opened the door for Stephanopoulos to go fishing for an anti-Trump soundbite. Here is the string of questions that he asked in rapid fire fashion in order to obtain the desired headline:

  • The brief filed by the president’s attorneys last night asserts several times that the president did nothing wrong with Ukraine. Do you agree with that?
  • I understand that’s your position, but that’s not what I’m asking, because you’re also a citizen. As a citizen, do you think it’s OK for a president to solicit foreign interference in our election?
  • So, you don’t think it’s OK?
  • But what do you think? I’m asking what you think.
  • In your recent book on impeachment, you did take a stand. You said, quote, and I want to show everybody right here, “An American should not collude with a foreign power in an effort to enhance his candidacy.” Isn’t that what happened here?
  • The president’s brief filed last night says very clearly the president did nothing wrong, and you’re saying you’re not willing to endorse that statement?
  • Will you vote to re-elect President Trump?

This interview wasn’t Alan Dershowitz’s “first rodeo,” and he clearly understood Stephanopoulos’s politically-motivated intentions and wasn’t having it. Dershowitz made it clear that he was brought onto the President’s legal team in order to convey the constitutional argument against impeachment based on the flimsy charges brought by the House Democrats and through historical comparison of past presidential impeachment trials. And he wasn’t about to make an anti-Trump statement based on his personal opinion that the legacy media would have trumpeted endlessly (“Even a Trump legal team member thinks Trump is ‘guilty’”). You just know that would have been the result.


Here are a few of Dershowitz’s responses to the badgering by Stephanopoulos:

  • That’s not part of my mandate. My mandate is to determine what is a constitutionally authorized criterion for impeachment.
  • I’m here as a constitutional lawyer, a lawyer who’s taught for 50 years constitutional criminal procedure at Harvard, taught a course on impeachment, taught a course on constitutional litigation. I’m here to lend my expertise on that issue and that issue alone, because that’s the primary issue.
  • If the allegations are not impeachable, then this trial should result in acquittal, regardless of whether the conduct is regarded as OK by you or by me or by voters.
  • I’m not going to present my personal views on what I think. I think that conduct does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense.
  • I’m not here for a political discussion. I’m a liberal Democrat who voted against President Trump and who voted for Hillary Clinton. I’m here to present a constitutional argument the way I did in the Clinton impeachment and the way I argued when I was on the national board of the ACLU in the Nixon administration.
  • My mandate is to present the constitutional argument. And if the constitutional argument succeeds, we don’t reach that issue, because you can’t charge a president with impeachable conduct if it doesn’t fit within the criteria for the Constitution.
  • The Constitution really says the Senate is the judge and whatever the Senate decides, by a fair vote — the one thing that’s very clear is that if witnesses are permitted on one side, they have to be permitted on both sides.

Bravo Alan Dershowitz! He has been remarkably consistent in his public statements on this impeachment farce – that the Democrats’ articles of impeachment do not pass constitutional muster as impeachable conduct. And he is not giving his erstwhile Democrat political allies anything that they can use against the President. I predict his presentation at the Senate trial will be just as effective as was Jonathan Turley’s during the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment hearings. We will soon find out!

The end.

P.S. Watch the whole interview here:


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