Dershowitz says media 'willfully distorted' his view of presidential power

Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan DershowitzAlan Morton DershowitzCBS All Access launches animated 'Tooning Out the News' series Trump's three-track clemency process just might work A disgraced Senate and president have no business confirming judges MORE on Thursday sought to clarify remarks he made at President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden campaign: Trump and former vice president will have phone call about coronavirus Esper: Military personnel could help treat coronavirus patients 'if push comes to shove' Schumer calls for military official to act as medical equipment czar MORE’s impeachment trial while articulating his view of presidential power, saying media outlets “willfully distorted” his argument.

Dershowitz said CNN, MSNBC and other news outlets intentionally ignored a nuanced point he made on Wednesday about the mental state a president must possess in order to commit an impeachable offense.

“They characterized my argument as if I had said that if a president believes that his reelection was in the national interest, he can do anything,” Dershowitz, a opinion contributor to The Hill, said on Twitter.

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“I said nothing like that, as anyone who actually heard what I said can attest.”

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Many media pundits broadly characterized Dershowitz’s Wednesday remarks as espousing an expansive and perhaps virtually limitless view of permissible presidential conduct, with some even referring to his comments as the “Dershowitz Doctrine.”

What drew the most attention was Dershowitz’s description of the legal boundaries around a presidential quid pro quo.

“If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment,” Dershowitz said Wednesday.

But in the Thursday response on Twitter, Dershowitz said his remarks should not be taken to mean the president is essentially unfettered by the law.

Dershowitz’s critics say his argument rests on a mangled interpretation of “mens rea,” the legal term for the mental state that generally must be proved alongside a criminal act to reach a conviction.

The abuse of power impeachment article against Trump accuses him of inviting foreign interference to help him in the upcoming 2020 election. The alleged scheme involved Trump suspending U.S. aid to Ukraine to pressure that country into investigating former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden campaign: Trump and former vice president will have phone call about coronavirus Overnight Health Care: Trump resists pressure for nationwide stay-at-home order | Trump open to speaking to Biden about virus response | Fauci gets security detail | Outbreak creates emergency in nursing homes 16 things to know today about coronavirus outbreak MORE, a leading Democratic candidate for president, and Biden's son.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMcConnell launches ad touting role in passing coronavirus relief Joe Biden can't lead the charge from his home in Delaware Texas man arrested for allegedly threatening Democrats over coronavirus bill MORE (D-N.Y.) on Thursday said Dershowitz's argument that a president cannot be impeached for a quid pro quo done to promote the “public interest” was "a load of nonsense."

"The Dershowitz argument, frankly, would unleash a monster,” Schumer told reporters. “More aptly, it would unleash a monarch." 

Updated at 12:25 p.m.