OPINION | Dershowitz: I'm not wrong about Mueller and Russia
© Greg Nash

Brent Budowsky criticizes me for allegedly saying that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation “endangers democracy.” He quotes a story from The Hill that puts the words “endangers democracy” in quotation marks following the unquoted words, “special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.”

But if he had gone back to the original source, he would have seen that The Hill quoted the words “endangers democracy” completely out of context. I used these words not to describe Mueller’s investigation, but rather, in reference to the criminalization of political differences.

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Here is what I said: “The idea of trying to create crimes just because we disagree with [Trump] politically, and target him, really endangers democracy. It reminds me of what Lavrentiy Beria, the head of the KGB, said to Stalin. He said, ‘show me the man and I’ll find you the crime...’” 

My point is that we should not stretch existing criminal laws to fit political opponents with whose actions we disagree. I have written a new book, “Trumped Up: How Criminalization of Political Differences Endangers Democracy,” elaborating this point.

Columnists should base their criticism on what I actually say instead of relying on hyperbolic headlines or secondary mischaracterizations. I have been consistent in criticizing the expansion of the criminal law to target political opponents for several decades, without regard to whether the target was a Republican or Democrat.

I have also favored a thorough investigation of Russian interference in our presidential election. However, I prefer that it be conducted by a nonpartisan commission appointed by Congress — similar to the 9/11 commission — that would take evidence in public rather than behind closed doors.

I have opined repeatedly that a special counsel investigation — where both sides are not represented and where one-sided evidence is produced in secrecy — is the wrong way to approach a problem like that of Russia’s attempt to influence U.S. elections.

In his piece, Mr. Budowsky writes, “It is hard to find words that I disagree with more strongly and unequivocally than those of Dershowitz quoted above.” But the words he so strongly disagrees with are not my words.

It is fair game to question my position on its merits. But Mr. Budowsky would do better next time to base his criticism on my actual words and their context. I hope The Hill will also correct its original story which placed my quoted words in an erroneous context.

Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus, at Harvard Law School and author of “Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law" and "Electile Dysfunction: A Guide for the Unaroused Voter.” His new book, “Trumped Up! How Criminalizing Politics is Dangerous to Democracy,” will be published in August. Follow him on Twitter @AlanDersh and on Facebook @AlanMDershowitz.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.