Laurence Tribe says Trump being delusional is not a legal defense: ‘You can’t make up an alternative universe’
Gage Skidmore.

One of America's leading constitutional scholars explained why Donald Trump cannot use the legal defense that he actually believed the debunked conspiracy theories he pushed during his attempted coup.

MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell on Tuesday interviewed Laurence Tribe, professor emeritus at Harvard Law School where he taught Constitutional Law for half a century and wrote one of the most widely used textbooks on the subject.

Tribe is familiar with many of the people involved, his former students include Attorney Gen. Merrick Garland, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, White House chief of staff Ron Klain, along with Jan. 6 select committee members Jaime Raskin (D-MD) and Adam Schiff (D-CA). He also taught Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

Tribe told O'Donnell that he agreed with former Trump White House laywer Eric Herschmann, who said he told "coup memo" author John Eastman to "get a great f*cking criminal defense lawyer. You're going to need it."

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"Even that wouldn't be good enough, because all of this focus on how they really believed their own lie is just completely bogus," Tribe explained. "Detachment from reality, of the kind that Attorney General Barr seems to have detected on the part of the former president is a disqualification from the presidency, but it is not a defense to a criminal charge."

"Even in those very rare cases where delusion can be used to disprove intent, there is a doctrine known as 'willful ignorance,' and we saw Barr describing that perfectly when he said that the president -- the then-president -- did not seem to care about the facts," he said.

Tribe said he could not imagine Trump could present at trial as a defense if he is charged for defrauding his supporters with his lies about election fraud, which he described as "an obvious crime."

"You can't simply make up an alternative universe, climb into it, and say that I'm comfy there, and therefore that I'm immune to prosecution. That's not the way the law works," he explained "It's not the way a legal system could possibly work, if it's going to protect us from this kind of a blatant takeover, the attempted overthrow of government — the first time in 246 years that a sitting president of the United States tried to overthrow the United States government."

"Come on, that's not something that you can answer by saying, 'Hey, I didn't know what the hell I was doing, I'm delusional, I'm an egomaniac.' Yes, we know, Mr. Former President, you are an egomaniac. That's not a defense in any criminal law court in this country."


Laurence Tribe