Alan Dershowitz has stirred plenty of controversy in defending President Donald Trump from a range of criticisms in the past year, but he reached a new low Tuesday night in his effort to cast the president's decisions in a reasonable light.
The constitutional law professor appeared on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" along with Norm Eisen, who chairs Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, to discuss a new report from the New York Times that found that Trump demanded that Attorney General Jeff Sessions unrecuse himself from the Russia investigation back in March 2017. Sessions recused himself from the investigation into election meddling and the Trump campaign because of his involvement as a surrogate for the president.
The Times reported that Trump's attempt to coax Sessions into withdrawing his recusal, and thus regaining control over the investigation, could factor in to a charge of obstruction of justice against the president that could be brought by special counsel Robert Mueller. But instead of discussing that topic, Dershowitz instead insisted on discussing whether Sessions should have told the president he intended to recuse himself from the investigation before being appointed attorney general.
Dershowitz even interrupted Eisen to insist that he answer this question.
"The president has no right to tell Jeff Sessions that he should unrecuse. The law is clear that if Sessions was involved in a political campaign, he can't work on a review of that campaign," Eisen said. "And yes, I think Jeff Sessions was correct not to tell the president —"
"What?!" Dershowitz interjected.
"And I'll tell you why, Alan, I'm answering your question, don't interrupt me. I'll tell you why he was correct: Because the president would have had the hissy fit we read about in the New York Times tonight, so yes, if the president was going to behave with that disdain for the rule of law, Sessions was absolutely right to make his call," Eisen said.
"That's an absurd answer," Dershowitz said. He went on to argue that Trump had the right to select anyone he wanted to oversee the Russia investigation, even, it seems, if that person was selected for the express purpose of shielding the president from any harm that might arise from the course of the investigation.
Dershowitz tried to argue that other attorneys general have been selected based on the president's perceived need and that Sessions should have given Trump that choice. However, few scholars argue that the Justice Department should be run for the protection of the president's interests — Dershowitz is way out on a limb here.
He also neglects to mention that Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who oversees the investigation because of Sessions' recusal, was himself appointed by Trump. It's also far from certain that Sessions knew at the time that he would recuse himself from the investigation since reporting suggests that Sessions only made the decision after consulting with Justice Department lawyers. Further, it's not even clear if Trump asked Sessions about any potential recusals, which casts even more doubt on the idea that the attorney general was under an obligation to reveal this fact.
"What you are saying is shocking!" Eisen said to Dershowitz.
Watch the clip below:
“If the president was going to behave with that disdain for the rule of law, Sessions was absolutely right to make… https://t.co/pwe0Yj85fq— AlterNet (@AlterNet) 1527648612.0