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 SchiffOvernight Defense: Administration says 'low to moderate confidence' Russia behind Afghanistan troop bounties | 'Low to medium risk' of Russia invading Ukraine in next few weeks | Intelligence leaders face sharp questions during House worldwide threats he Hillicon Valley: Biden administration sanctions Russia for SolarWinds hack, election interference Intelligence leaders face sharp questions during House worldwide threats hearing 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 DershowitzDershowitz advising MyPillow CEO's lawyers in Dominion case Kushner planning book about time in Trump White House: report A victory for the Constitution, not so much for Trump MORE, a newly announced member of President TrumpDonald TrumpDC goes to the dogs — Major and Champ, that is Biden on refugee cap: 'We couldn't do two things at once' Taylor Greene defends 'America First' effort, pushes back on critics 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.


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 PelosiDemocrats debate timing and wisdom of reparations vote Biden angers Democrats by keeping Trump-era refugee cap Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones calls on Breyer to retire 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.