Alan Dershowitz is one of eight lawyers defending President Donald Trump in impeachment proceedings. Until his retirement in 2013, Dershowitz was a law professor at Harvard. He became publicly known through the defense of prominent defendants such as O. J. Simpson and most recently billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who is suspected of having committed countless sex offenses. Dershowitz also advised Bill Clinton in his impeachment proceedings in 1998. The liberal professor was long considered an icon of the civil rights movement. Dershowitz has been committed to the death penalty throughout his life. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, however, he also advocated the use of torture under certain conditions in cases of state emergency. It came as a surprise to many that he stood up for Donald Trump. In response to a text message from ZEIT asking if he was available for an interview, Dershowitz immediately called back – from Florida, where he was preparing his plea for Trump.
THE TIME: Mr. Dershowitz, along with Kenneth Starr, who initiated the impeachment investigation Bill Clinton you recently joined Donald Trump's defense team in impeachment proceedings. How did you get this job?
Alan Dershowitz: It was a long process that has dragged on over the past few weeks. My wife didn't want me to do that. She believes it would be better for me to stay neutral. But then we met Trump at dinner and my wife talked to him for a long time. After that, we agreed that I would only make the constitutional argument and stay out of the argument about the facts.
TIME: Why do you think the procedure is not constitutional?
Dershowitz: I have come to the conclusion that the abuse of office and disability of Congress, the two charges against the Democrats, are not sufficient grounds for impeachment, according to the Constitution. Almost every American president has been accused of abuse of office by his political opponents. The founding fathers wanted very strict criteria for impeachment proceedings. The reasons they named "treason, bribery and other high crimes and offenses" in the constitution. The "other crimes and offenses" listed here must therefore be equivalent to treason and bribery. In a nutshell, that is my argument.
TIME: The constitution does not clearly define what is meant by "other high crimes and offenses". Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers, however, has the basic constitutional requirements Federalist Papers wrote that high crimes and offenses are "caused by misconduct by men in public positions, in other words by abuse and violation of public trust". In essence, this is a political offense, Hamilton writes, because it relates to damage done to society.
Dershowitz: I address this point in my statement. I'm still working on it, but I'll just read it to you: (Quoted) "This is a wrong interpretation of what was written. These words do not describe the criteria for impeachment, but rather describe the reasons stated in the constitution, ie treason, bribery and other high crimes and offenses. Hamilton does not expand the criteria for impeachment, but he narrows them. "
TIME: But then the cat bites its tail. Treason and bribery of civil servants are political in nature, and this does not require any further explanation. However, the formula "other high crimes and offenses" needs to be explained.
Dershowitz: The founding fathers could easily have written "abuse of power" as a reason in the constitution. But they don't have that. So the question that needs to be negotiated before the Senate is not whether President Trump's phone call (with the Ukrainian President, Note d. Red.) Abuse of office has committed, but whether abuse of office is a reason for impeachment.