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Dershowitz on impeachment reversal: 'I am much more correct right now'

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CNN's Anderson Cooper and Jeffrey Toobin ask Alan Dershowitz, a member of President Trump's impeachment defense team, about his changing view on the subject.

Posted: Jan 21, 2020 8:30 AM
Updated: Jan 21, 2020 8:30 AM

Constitutional lawyer and Trump impeachment legal team member Alan Dershowitz said Monday that he is "much more correct right now" in his current views on what qualifies a president for impeachment than his near-opposite views during the Clinton impeachment.

Dershowitz, a recent addition to President Donald Trump's team, said Sunday that the framers of the Constitution intended for impeachable conduct to mean "criminal-like conduct" and that both of Trump's charges of obstruction of Congress and abuse of power do not meet the constitutional criteria for impeachment.

But in 1998, Dershowitz said that a president could be impeached even without being accused of a crime.

"It certainly doesn't have to be a crime if you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of president and who abuses trust and who poses great danger to our liberty, you don't need a technical crime," he said on "Larry King Live" at the time.

When asked by CNN's Anderson Cooper on "Anderson Cooper 360" on Monday whether he was wrong back then, Dershowitz replied, "I was saying that I am much more correct right now having done all the research, because that's the issue."

"I didn't do research back then, I relied on what professors said ... because that issue was not presented in the Clinton impeachment," Dershowitz said. "Everybody knew that he was charged with a crime, the issue is whether it was a hard crime. Now the issue is whether a crime or criminal-like behavior is required."

He continued, "I've done the research now -- I wasn't wrong (at the time), I am just far more correct now than I was then. I said you didn't need a technical crime back then. I still don't think you need a technical crime."

On Sunday, Dershowitz told CNN's Brianna Keilar on "State of the Union" that in his defense of Trump during the Senate trial that begins on Tuesday, he would cite former Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Curtis -- the chief counsel during former President Andrew Johnson's impeachment -- in his argument that the framers meant for impeachable conduct to signify "criminal-like conduct."

The Constitution says presidents can be impeached for "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors," but it does not define "high crimes and misdemeanors." Dershowitz's argument hinges on the Senate agreeing that neither of the charges facing Trump qualify as "criminal-like conduct."

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