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My WCBS interview with Alan Dershowitz ahead of impeachment trial

Harvard Law Prof Waffles on Scope of His Role

Asserts ‘I’m not a full-fledged member’ of impeachment defense team

Claims Sekulow is not conflicted by Parnas allegations

Dershowitz arguably should be considered an expert witness in this case and Dems should get a rebuttal witness

Sekulow should be called to testify on Parnas representation

When is a lawyer an advocate and when is he or she a witness? And if a lawyer is a witness, should he or she be allowed to represent their client in that case?

More specifically, if Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republican majority are not going to allow witnesses at the impeachment trial of President Trump, should two of the President’s lawyers, who arguably fall into the category of witnesses, be allowed to represent him?

Those issues are central to the live on-air interview I conducted with Harvard Law Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz about his role on President Trump’s impeachment defense team in my 2pm hourly newscast on WCBS Newsradio 880 on Saturday.

Dershowitz waffled on the issue of how much of a lawyer for President Trump he actually is. Before I even asked a question, he asserted he was playing a “limited role” in Trump’s defense, making only a constitutional argument against the Articles of Impeachment. He insisted he’s not part of the strategic defense team and won’t get involved in the issue of facts, later asserting again, “I’m not a full-fledged member of the team.”

Dershowitz doth protest too much, methinks. He has been on a campaign the past few days to let the public know that he is with the President, but at the same time has nothing to do with the President’s defense strategy. He even told ABC “This Week” that “I didn’t sign that brief,” distancing himself from the White House response to the House Democrats’ impeachment case.

On the substance, Dershowitz’s claims that abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are not impeachable offenses have been labelled “baseless” by his former colleague, Harvard Law Prof. Laurence Tribe.

When I asked Dershowitz about the Government Accountability Office’s finding that Mr. Trump’s withholding of aid to Ukraine constituted a violation of law, and as such, was impeachable, he rejected the contention, saying “the GAO is simply dead wrong.”

I also asked Dershowitz whether attorney Jay Sekulow is conflicted from representing the President in the impeachment because of allegations by Lev Parnas, a former associate of the President’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

Parnas last week said that Sekulow arranged for President Trump to give permission for the President’s former lawyer, John Dowd, to represent Parnas. Dershowitz rejected the suggestion that Sekulow’s involvement in the matters at issue in the impeachment rendered Sekulow a potential witness in the case and thus, arguably ineligible to represent the President as a lawyer.

But I’d like to hear why Sekulow was possibly defending what Parnas has called an effort to withhold all U.S. aid to Ukraine in exchange for an investigation of the Bidens. And if you don’t believe Parnas, let’s put him under oath too and get to the truth.

Still it seems Dershowitz wants to have it both ways. He says he is a lawyer, representing Mr. Trump, but he’s not on “the team.” When I asked him if he has lawyer/client privilege with the President, a key indicator of whether someone is acting as a lawyer, he seemed to say no.

If he’s not the President’s lawyer, then he is more akin to a legal expert testifying in the case as a witness. I tried to get at that issue in one question. But it’s not clear that McConnell will allow witnesses. So it seems that the Trump team has managed to insert a prominent legal expert into the case by labelling that expert a lawyer, while the Senate may not afford the other side the opportunity to present opposing legal experts as witnesses — a pretty slick move.

It remains to be seen whether the Senate has any inclination to allow a full airing of the issues.

On a personal note, my producer informed me that I would be interviewing Dershowitz only ten minutes before I went on the air, so I spent all of my time during the commercials ahead of the interview trying to compose my questions. And I was supposed to end the interview at seven minutes to get to traffic and weather, but was having so much fun, I let it go nine minutes. I found that I enjoyed interviewing Dershowitz, because even though he made sure to push his talking points, unlike many politicians I have interviewed, he engaged with every question and treated it with respect.

The interview was broadcast live on WCBS Newsradio 880 and worldwide on the app.