The Slatest

Schiff Slams “Absurdist Position” That Abuse of Power Is Not Impeachable

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) (C) speaks after U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (R) announces that he and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and five additional members will be managers of the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol January 15, 2020 in Washington, D.C.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) (C) speaks after U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (R) announces that he and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and five additional members will be managers of the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol January 15, 2020 in Washington, D.C.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

House Intelligence Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead impeachment manager, is slamming the argument by Donald Trump lawyer Alan Dershowitz that abuse of power is not an impeachable offense as an “absurdist position.” The only reason the president’s legal team would even attempt to make that argument, he said, is if they know that the facts are “so dead set against” the commander in chief.

“You had to go so far out of the mainstream to find someone to make that argument,” Schiff said on ABC’s This Week. “You had to leave the realm of constitutional law scholars and go to criminal defense lawyers.” Dershowitz argued that even if proven, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress do not add up to impeachable offenses. “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 said about the argument.

So far, the way Trump’s legal team has responded to impeachment shows that “the facts aren’t seriously contested,” Schiff 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.”

Dershowitz pushed back against Schiff’s characterization, saying that the same argument was used 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 argument is a strong one, the Senate should hear it. I am privileged to be able to make it,” Dershowitz said on This Week. “I have a limited role in the case. I’m only as counsel on the constitutional criteria on impeachment.”

In an interview with CNN, Dershowitz also said that if his legal arguments are successful, there will be no need to call witnesses during the Senate trial. “If my argument succeeds, there’s no need for witnesses. Indeed there is no need for even arguments, any further arguments,” he added. “If the House charges do not include impeachable offenses, that’s really the end of the matter.” Whether or not to call witnesses during the trial that begins this week has been a key point of disagreement between Republicans and Democrats.