Schiff: Argument president cannot be impeached for abusing power 'absurdist'

Schiff: Argument president cannot be impeached for abusing power 'absurdist'
© Greg Nash

Lead impeachment manager Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOfficers offer harrowing accounts at first Jan. 6 committee hearing Live coverage: House panel holds first hearing on Jan. 6 probe Five things to watch as Jan. 6 panel begins its work MORE (D-Calif.) on Sunday called the argument that a president cannot be impeached for abuse of power “absurdist.”

Schiff was responding to claims from Alan DershowitzAlan Morton DershowitzIf you care about the First Amendment, this class action is for you Sunday shows preview: Biden defends troop withdrawal in Afghanistan; COVID-19 impacting unvaccinated pockets Trump's Big Tech lawsuit: Freedom of speech vs. the First Amendment MORE, a newly announced member of President TrumpDonald TrumpMyPillow CEO to pull ads from Fox News Haaland, Native American leaders press for Indigenous land protections Simone Biles, Vince Lombardi and the courage to walk away MORE’s impeachment defense team, on ABC's "This Week" that abuse of power is not an impeachable offense, regardless of whether the facts presented in the impeachment inquiry are true. 

"You had to go so far out of the mainstream to find someone to make that argument," Schiff said. "You had to leave the realm of constitutional law scholars and go to criminal defense lawyers."

"The logic of that absurdist position that's being now adopted by the president is he could give away the state of Alaska, he could withhold execution of sanctions on Russia for interfering in the last election, to induce or coerce Russia to interfere in the next one," Schiff added.

The House Intelligence Committee chairman also said the response from Trump’s legal team to the articles of impeachment was “surprising” because of its lack of expansion on the “failed arguments we heard in the House.” 

“The facts aren’t seriously contested,” he said.

“The only thing really new about the president's defense is that they're now arguing, I think, because they can't contest the facts, that the president cannot be impeached for abusing the power of his office,” Schiff added.

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The president’s legal team released a response to the articles of impeachment levied against him on Saturday, calling them “constitutionally invalid” and the outcome of a “lawless process.”

Dershowitz asserted in a separate interview on "This Week" that the argument made by Trump's legal team was used successfully in former President Andrew Johnson's impeachment trial.

"I am making an argument much like the argument made by the great Justice [Benjamin] Curtis, and to call them absurdist is to insult one of the greatest jurists in American history," he said. 

The House passed two articles against Trump last month, one for abuse of power and another for obstruction of Congress. 

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCapitol riot defendants have started a jail newsletter: report On The Money: Biden asks Congress to extend eviction ban with days until expiration | Economic growth rose to 6.5 percent annual rate in second quarter Top Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure MORE (D-Calif.) initially withheld the articles from the Senate in an effort to get information on the layout of the upper chamber’s trial rules. The articles were officially delivered to the Senate last week.