Fact Check: Adam Schiff Lies About What Dershowitz Said on ‘Quid Pro Quo’

John Lamparski/Getty Images for Hulu
John Lamparski/Getty Images for Hulu

CLAIM: Alan Dershowitz and the White House lawyers believe that any action a president claims is in the public interest is unimpeachable.

VERDICT: FALSE. Dershowitz specifically said crime-like actions are impeachable.

Schiff told the Senate during the second day of questions and answers in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial that Dershowitz, and the White House, believe that a president cannot be impeached for a “quid pro quo,” and it “doesn’t matter how corrupt that quid pro quo is.”

He then claimed as he has done throughout the trial, that his opponents are acting in bad faith, claiming their argument is what you say when your client is “guilty and dead to rights” and that it was “an argument made of desperation.”

Here is what Dershowitz actually said the day before.

Dershowitz began by saying that the use of “quid pro quo” was ordinary in foreign affairs. He added: “The only thing that would make the quid pro quo unlawful would be if the quo were in some way illegal.”

So from the outset, he — and the White House — accepted that some forms of “quid pro quo” were impeachable.

Dershowitz then outline three possible motives for presidential conduct. A president could be acting in pursuit of pure financial interest, which would be corrupt and impeachable. He could also be acting out of public interests, which would not be impeachable. And he could also be acting out of political interest.

It was to that political interest that Dershowitz then turned, noting that almost every politician — including those before him in the Senate — believes that he or she is acting in the public interest when they do something in the public interest.

“If a president does soehing which he believe will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.

He cited President Abraham Lincoln telling General William Tecumseh Sherman to let his troops go to Indiana to vote Republican during the Civil War, noting that Lincoln believed there was a public interest because if he were not re-elected the war might be abandoned.

It would be very difficult, Dershowitz said, to discern whether a president’s motives were solely “corrupt,” especially if they were not “pecuniary” or financial.

And because every politician acts out of “mixed motives,” he said, Democrats were applying an impossible standard that would result in every president being impeached.

Dershowitz responded to Schiff on Twitter:

Dershowitz never said that a president “cannot” be impeached for a “quid pro quo” and it “doesn’t matter how corrupt that quid pro quo is.”

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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