President Donald Trump’s adversaries are pushing for a second impeachment effort in the final days of his term after a deadly riot took place on Capitol Hill last week.
Constitutional scholar Alan Dershowitz, however, decried the move this week as one that would be unlikely to result in a Senate trial but could present a “loaded weapon” aimed at future presidents in both parties. The Harvard law professor made his stark prediction during an interview with Fox News Channel’s Maria Bartiromo on Sunday.
“There are no lawyers involved”
Renewed calls for Trump to be ousted from the White House prematurely came after a speech he gave in D.C. on Wednesday preceded a siege of the U.S. Capitol building by his supporters who were protesting the results of the Electoral College vote tally. Claims that the president incited a riot, even if true, would not be enough to warrant a crime, according to Dershowitz.
Bartiromo asked her guest if he would be willing to represent Trump in an impeachment trial, to which he responded: “It will not go to trial.”
Dershowitz laid out the expected path of this last-minute impeachment effort, noting that it could sail through the House but still hit a brick wall in the Senate.
“All the Democrats can do is impeach the president in the House of Representatives,” he said. “For that, all you need is a majority vote. You don’t have to take evidence, there are no lawyers involved. But the case cannot come to trial in the Senate because the Senate has rules and the rules would not allow the case to come to trial until — according to the majority leader — until 1 p.m. on Jan. 20, one hour after President Trump leaves office.”
While the Constitution states that “the president shall be removed from office upon impeachment,” Dershowitz noted that it makes no such mention of a “former president.”
Clarifying that Trump will be a “private citizen” by the time senators have a say in the matter, he said that its “jurisdiction is limited to a sitting president, so there won’t be a trial.”
Nevertheless, Dershowitz shared his concern that an overly broad interpretation of impeachment now could have a chilling impact on the future of the First Amendment.
“It would lie around like a loaded weapon ready to be used by either party against the other party,” he added.
While he personally disapproved of Trump’s rhetoric ahead of the riot, Dershowitz affirmed that it was clearly protected “within core political speech, and to impeach a president for exercising his First Amendment rights would be so dangerous to the Constitution.”
Despite bipartisan denunciation of his speech last week, Trump on Tuesday asserted that he also received widespread support for what he dubbed “totally appropriate” remarks.