President Donald Trump's impeachment lawyer, Alan Dershowitz, offered the truly bizarre argument Wednesday that a president can do pretty much anything he likes if he believes his actions to be in the best interests of the country. And if the president believes his reelection is in the best interests of the country? Well, then it's OK for him to solicit foreign help to go after his opponent.
Under that rationale, Richard Nixon did nothing wrong in the Watergate break-in and coverup, since it was committed in furtherance of his own reelection — which Nixon, like Trump and every other president who has sought reelection, surely believed to be in America's best interests.
With his dangerous argument that virtually nothing a president does is impeachable — including, specifically, what Trump is accused of doing — Dershowitz all but admits the allegations. Yet most Republican senators seem determined to keep their heads planted firmly in the sand by declining to hear from witnesses.
Trump is accused of withholding $391 million in military aid to Ukraine — a vulnerable U.S. ally under threat from Russia, America's chief geopolitical foe — to force Ukraine's government to announce an investigation of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Notwithstanding all the distractions raised by Trump's lawyers and congressional defenders, the evidence is overwhelming that this attempt at a quid pro quo happened exactly as alleged.
Dershowitz himself seems to understand that, judging by the theory he unpacked Wednesday: "If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment."
Think about that: Trump has the right to use the power of the presidency (and public funds) to pressure an ally to interfere in America's election to his own political advantage — as long as he believes his reelection serves the public interest.
So if Trump would be within his rights to extort an ally for personal political gain, as Dershowitz says, why are Trump's defenders so determined to prevent testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton? By all indications, Bolton would confirm that Trump did exactly what he's accused of. But so what, if what he's accused of is not impeachable?
Americans should assume that if Republican senators buy the Dershowitz argument, they would also be OK with Trump ordering that, say, the votes of Democratic states just don't get counted on Election Day. After all, it would be in service to Trump's reelection, and thus the good of the country.
Really, the sky's the limit.
They should also assume that continued refusal to hear from Bolton, the witness who was in the room, means they just don't want to know the truth of the matter — and they don't want America to know, either.
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