Using attorney Alan Dershowitz's passionate -- as well as derided -- assertion that an American president has the leeway to do most anything if it will help get them elected if they believe it is "in the public interest" as a starting point, Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman claimed an even more unconstrained Donald Trump would be a dangerous thing.
"On Tuesday, Dershowitz made the preposterous claim that you can’t impeach a president for abusing his power, a position supported by no historical or legal record and viewed by every historian and legal scholar as not just obviously wrong but utterly bizarre. But Republican senators seized gleefully on the argument that even if Trump did everything he’s accused of, he still must be acquitted," Waldman explained.
Noting that impeachment expert Frank O. Bowman called the attorney's claim, "complete nonsense that’s totally unsupported by any scholarship, anywhere,” Waldman said, nonetheless GOP senators will likely latch on to the specious argument and use it to vindicate the president and leave him in office to do as he pleases.
"Now imagine Trump sitting in the White House residence watching this on TV. He already believes his powers are virtually unlimited ('I have an Article II, where I have to the right to do whatever I want as president,' he has said). Now here’s a famous law professor telling him that, because his reelection is in the national interest, anything he does to make it happen is acceptable," Waldman wrote. "Keep in mind that some time ago Trump made clear that he is not just willing but eager to get assistance from foreign countries in his reelection campaign. While some of his defenders have tentatively allowed that it might not be a great thing to solicit (or coerce) foreign assistance for his campaign, Trump himself has never said that. To the contrary, he has publicly invited that assistance."
Pointing out that the president will likely feel unleashed to go all-in by asking for foreign help in the 202o election, the columnist said that would likely only be the start.
"If after he’s acquitted Trump truly believes he has permission to do anything he wants because his reelection is in the national interest, the ways he could abuse his powers in the service of his campaign are limited only by his imagination," he suggested before presenting a few extreme possibilities that he admits are over the top, but illustrative of what an unfettered president might feel he can get away with.
"How about ordering the attorney general to announce a criminal investigation into the Democratic nominee? How about having the Internal Revenue Service seize the homes of all Democratic elected officials? How about announcing that should anyone assassinate his opponent, he’d pardon the killer? How about ordering the Air Force to bomb Milwaukee so its residents couldn’t vote for his opponent?" he wrote before cautioning, "Well, he wouldn’t go that far, you might say. And maybe bombing Milwaukee might be going a little far. But do we really know how far Trump will go once he’s convinced himself there are no legal constraints on his actions?"
"We now face the possibility that Trump will feel not just vindicated but utterly unleashed," he added before darkly concluding, "And the only constraint on him will be if the people around him can muster the courage to say, 'Um, sir? Maybe that’s not such a good idea. How reassured does that make you feel?"
You can read the whole piece here.