President Donald Trump's lawyer Alan Dershowitz has been criticized for the past few days as he struggled to justify what many consider terrible legal arguments. In an editorial for the Washington Post Wednesday, former Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman (D-NY) blasted Dershowitz for ignoring the articles in former President Richard Nixon's impeachment.
Holtzman was one of few members of Congress still living who was in the Judiciary Committee when the House began investigating Nixon. She is well acquainted with the law, and even after taking Alan Dershowitz's Harvard Law School class, she still believes he is wrong that an abuse of power is a nothing-burger.
"His assertion flies in the face of the articles of impeachment voted against President Richard M. Nixon by the House Judiciary Committee — of which I was a member — in 1974," she explained. "These articles did not charge Nixon with a crime, a fact Dershowitz willfully ignores. Not one of the three articles adopted by the Judiciary Committee mentioned a criminal statute, charged Nixon with violating any criminal statute or described how his conduct met the standards set forth in any criminal statute."
She wasn't surprised to see Dershowitz trying to ignore the percent set by the Nixon case, because it "demolishes his argument that a president may be impeached only for a criminal act."
Dershowitz, she said, simply pretended it didn't exist.
"Even today, the Nixon precedent remains valid and powerful," Holtzman wrote. "The first article of impeachment our committee adopted against Nixon charged him with a variety of acts to “delay, impede and obstruct” the investigation into the 1972 break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate hotel. This article did not reference the obstruction-of-justice statute or claim that Nixon’s actions violated that or any other statute."
She explained that the Judiciary Committee's report doesn't demand proof for criminal acts by the president. It says, “it would be anomalous for the framers . . . to restrict the grounds for impeachment to conduct that was criminal.”
But, Dershowitz ignored it.
Holtzman explained that in the Nixon case, impeachment Articles II and III were even more important.
"The second was actually dubbed the 'abuse of power' article by committee members at the time," she explained. "It won the most votes from Republicans on the committee. It, too, did not reference any criminal statute. Instead, it framed Nixon’s acts in covering up the break-in as an abuse of power. This article essentially charged Nixon with misusing the powers of his office to hide from law enforcement and Congress the involvement of his campaign and top aides in the Watergate break-in in an effort to win reelection — a matter that was not intended for the benefit of the American people but for Nixon’s personal gain."
She said that the coverup did actually work and helped get Nixon reelected in an overwhelming landslide.
In the second article, there was a non-Watergate related piece that involved Nixon's abuse of power: it was about the president trying to get IRS audits of his political rivals. Another was about Nixon authorizing his people to dangle pardons for the Watergate burglars to keep them from talking. These weren't considered crimes, according to the committee, but they were impeachable acts.
Holtzman closed by quoting her committee's 1976 report: “Criminal standards and criminal courts were established to control individual conduct. Impeachment was evolved to cope with both the inadequacy of criminal standards and the impotence of courts to deal with the conduct of great public figures.”
She told the Senate not to fall into Dershowitz's false arguments.