The argument given a few moments ago about quid pro quos from Alan Dershowitz was so disingenuous and willfully bamboozling that I think it’s important to briefly unpack it. Dershowitz argued that with many foreign policy decisions a President is both advancing the national interest and also looking to his personal political fortunes. That cannot be an impeachable offense, he argues.
Let’s consider, as he does, the Israel-Palestine conflict. Many Presidents have invested immense time in trying to solve this issue. Mainly they were trying to settle a conflict the continuance of which is a clear challenge for U.S. interests. But it’s certainly fair to say that President Clinton or Bush or Obama would have realized that if they succeeded it could certainly buoy their reelection prospects or general reputation as President. Big successes get Presidents reelected. Certainly this secondary motive couldn’t constitute an impeachable offense. Dershowitz is clearly right about this.
But this has no connection to the facts at issue. President Trump wasn’t pursuing a Ukraine policy the success of which he thought would secure his reelection. He was trying to get the President of Ukraine to interfere in and sabotage the next Presidential election in his favor. This is just categorically and obviously different. Dershowitz didn’t even do a good job obscuring this obvious difference.
One could say secondarily that in order to coerce that intervention Trump actually went against what the vast majority of people in his administration said was the U.S. national security interest. But that’s really secondary. Trying to get foreign policy successes in part to improve your chances of reelection has nothing to do with trying to extort a foreign leader into interfering in your reelection on your behalf.
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