According to a report at Politico , two of the most high profile lawyers defending Donald Trump in his upcoming Senate impeachment trial have conflicting views on the law which may make for a muddled defense of the president.
On the one hand there is attorney Ken Starr, who pursued former President Bill Clinton in the 90’s in the far-ranging Whitewater investigation, and on the other hand there is former Havard Law professor Alan Dershowitz who was critical of Starr’s methods.
As John Jay professor Evan Mandery explains, “Dershowitz, the former Harvard law professor and civil-liberties advocate, has long been a critic of special investigations like the one Starr led, which he sees as roving commissions in search of crimes. In his writings and in speeches, he cited the distance between Starr’s starting point and where he landed as a paradigmatic example of what can go wrong.”
In a series of essays, Dershowitz, “questioned whether Starr himself needed to be investigated by an independent counsel. He pointed to the strong appearance of conflict-of-interest in his connection to conservative activist Richard Mellon Scaife, who Dershowitz described as a ‘Clinton-basher,’ and who’d recently endowed a new school of public policy at Pepperdine, of which Starr was named the first dean in 1996.”
“Which is more dangerous to our liberties,” Dershowitz wrote in 1998 “a president who may have had a sexual encounter with a willing intern and then tried to cover it up? Or a prosecutor who may have leaked secret grand jury testimony in an effort to get potential witnesses to change that testimony, and who hid his conflict of interest from the court?” before adding, “Most Americans correctly believe that the allegations against Kenneth Starr are far more serious, and his alleged misconduct—if it occurred—far more dangerous to our liberties.”
According to Mandery, Dershowitz is about to embark on a case defending Trump when saddled with Starr’s previous comments about calling witnesses that may handcuff both lawyers if pressed by the legal team representing the Democratic-led House.
“It’s going to be difficult, if not impossible, for Dershowitz to reconcile the constitutional argument that he’s about to make with his past work. In his writings about Ken Starr, Dershowitz took a clear position on what constituted valid grounds for impeachment,” Mandery wrote before quoting Dershowitz writing, “What kinds of offenses warrant the extraordinary remedy of legislative removal of a President? The answer must be an offense that poses a clear and present danger to our body politic—a high public violation of official duty.”
“It’s difficult to imagine an argument that Donald Trump’s use of American foreign aid for his own partisan benefit and the ensuing cover-up isn’t at least as serious, from a constitutional perspective, as the Watergate burglary and its ensuing cover-up. Moreover, Dershowitz won’t be cross-examining anyone, since he has said that he’s participating solely as a constitutional scholar. He’ll need to deal with the facts as alleged, which means defending the activity as it took place,” Mandery explains.
“For both men, next week’s impeachment trial threatens to taint with hypocrisy a pair of long, distinguished careers. But Trump’s power seems to have a special pull, and the allure of public attention is difficult to resist. Apparently Starr, 73, and Dershowitz, 81, would rather bask once more in its glow than go gentle into that good night,” he concluded.
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