BBC News admits error after tapping Epstein pal Alan Dershowitz to analyze Ghislaine Maxwell verdict

When Fox News demonstrates more journalistic scruples than the BBC, you know we’re in trouble. 

Famed constitutional scholar Alan Dershowitz, who thinks the Constitution gives Donald Trump the power to do anything he wants so long as he’s earnestly attempting to steal elections, appeared on BBC News Wednesday after Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty on five counts of sex trafficking. The problem? The network presented him as an impartial legal expert without acknowledging that he’s been implicated in some of the same crimes involving Maxwell and her erstwhile boyfriend, notorious convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. 

The Washington Post:

Shortly after Maxwell was convicted Wednesday of sex-trafficking charges for assisting Epstein in abusing young girls, BBC News brought on Dershowitz to analyze the guilty verdict of Epstein’s longtime paramour. But the network failed to mention that Dershowitz not only previously served as Epstein’s attorney but that he is accused of having sex with Virginia Roberts Giuffre when she was as young as 16. Dershowitz has denied the allegations.

Dershowitz used his time on the “BBC World News” to slam Giuffre for supposedly not being a credible witness in the Maxwell case — claims that went unchallenged by the show’s anchor. He also claimed the case from Giuffre against him and Britain’s Prince Andrew, who has also been accused of sexual assault and has denied the allegations, was somehow weakened after Maxwell’s guilty verdict.

Have a looksee.

BBC interview Alan Dershowitz over Ghislaine Maxwell - a new low BBC, a new low. pic.twitter.com/dapu03gkAl

— Steve E Ennever (@MusicMiscreant) December 29, 2021

Whoo! Great job, BBC. What’s next? Inviting Jared Fogle to write a weight-loss column, or giving Bill Cosby a segment to discuss his favorite cocktail recipes? It’s probably too late to run Jeffrey Dahmer’s outré restaurant reviews. 

Fox News at least acknowledged Dershowitz's connections with Epstein. Unfathomable that the BBC thought this was a good idea. https://t.co/KZKisz3VX4

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 30, 2021

Is it rude to suggest that maybe, just maybe, Dershowitz is being blackmailed? This self-proclaimed liberal has Human Centipeded himself to Donald Trump’s backside with such alacrity, it’s almost impossible to imagine he’s not being pressured somehow. But hey, maybe Epstein Island was just an elaborate Chuck E. Cheese with Friday night pizza parties, unlimited Skee-Ball, and an animatronic Jerry Sandusky Jug Band.

Of course Dershowitz also appeared on Fox News on Wednesday, because Fox never misses a chance to be ghastly. But as journalist and tweeter extraordinaire Aaron Rupar noted above, at least Fox acknowledged Dershowitz’s connections to Epstein and Maxwell.

amazing pic.twitter.com/T7fr4XCzoH

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 30, 2021

Meanwhile, some very smart people—all of whom would have been more credible on this issue than Dershowitz—were appalled by the BBC’s lapse in judgment.

I couldn’t believe it - totally inexcusable.

— Siobhan Benita (@SiobhanBenita) December 29, 2021

Know who else was appalled? The BBC.

Statement on interview with Alan Dershowitz pic.twitter.com/MlXkqdJI8u

— BBC News Press Team (@BBCNewsPR) December 30, 2021

For the nontweeters:

“Last night’s interview with Alan Dershowitz after the Ghislaine Maxwell verdict did not meet the BBC’s editorial standards, as Mr Dershowitz was not a suitable person to interview as an impartial analyst, and we did not make the relevant background clear to our audience. We will look into how this happened.”

Well, at least the network copped to it, even if the statement didn’t include an apology. I would expect a similar mea culpa from Fox News if they had editorial standards to violate. But as long as they rigorously maintain a maximum skirt length and occasionally change the batteries in Brian Kilmeade’s head, their broadcast license isn’t in any danger. Yet it remains a mystery why the very last person who should have been tapped to discuss this subject is the very guy the respected network chose to interview.

Do better, BBC. You don’t want to become the American media. That way lies madness.

It made comedian Sarah Silverman say, “THIS IS FUCKING BRILLIANT,” and prompted author Stephen King to shout “Pulitzer Prize!!!” (on Twitter, that is). What is it? The viral letter that launched four hilarious Trump-trolling books. Get them all, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.

Alan Dershowitz jumps in to attack the ridiculous theories of legal muttonhead Alan Dershowitz

Alan Dershowitz may have kept his underwear on in the Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump—though, thankfully, we do not know that one way or the other. What he didn’t keep was any pretense that his “constitutional scholarship” went beyond the ability to say “James Madison” while providing a defense of nothing less than overt fascism.

In a series of appearances, Dershowitz declared that there’s nothing wrong with a president using the federal government to launch investigations of opponents, nothing wrong with a president extorting political assistance from a foreign government, and in fact nothing at all forbidden to a president clinging to power. Nothing.

It was such an amazing statement that it generated immediate concern—from everyone except Republican senators who who will vote to endorse that theory on Friday. But now Dershowitz’s embrace of unbounded authoritarianism is under assault from a new source: Alan Dershowitz.

On Thursday morning, Dershowitz—clothing status unknown—tweeted that when he said a president could never be impeached for abuse of power, that a president was perfectly justified in using his office to persecute opponents, and that there were no limits on what a president could do to cling to power … people were taking it the wrong way.

“They characterized my argument as if I had said that if a president believes that his re-election was in the national interest, he can do anything,” complained the attorney of Jeffrey Epstein and Harvey Weinstein. “I said nothing like that, as anyone who actually heard what I said can attest.”

Well, it’s certainly a good thing that Mitch McConnell’s personally controlled camera was fixed on Dershowitz during his appearance so that these slanderous accounts can be cleared up.

What did Dershowitz really say? Well, there was the part where he discussed what a president could demand, from anyone, including foreign governments, in exchange for political help against opponents.

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

If that wasn’t clear enough, Dershowitz walked through scenarios to make it clear that, no matter how severe the action, there was nothing, nothing, nothing off the table. All it takes is anything that creates the slightest possibility of mixed motives … even if the “good” part of that mixture is unlimited hubris.

’I want to be elected. I think I’m a great president. I think I’m the greatest president there ever was. And if I’m not elected, the national interest will suffer greatly.’ That cannot be an impeachable offense.

And rather than suggesting that it was an issue for the president to use his power to solicit—or order—investigations into political opponents, Dershowitz made the case that, because Joe Biden is a candidate, Trump can put him under additional scrutiny.

The fact that he’s announced his candidacy is a very good reason for upping the interest in his son.

If the media is reporting that Dershowitz said a president can do anything to maintain their own power, and a president can use that power to persecute opponents, it’s because he did. No matter what Alan Dershowitz says.

And when the Senate votes on Friday, it’s exactly these theories that it’ll be voting on.

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Senate Republicans make clear: It’s not about Ukraine. It’s about ending American democracy for good

On Wednesday, the Senate conducted the first of two days of question-and-answer in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump, with the House managers and Trump’s legal team. Throughout the sessions, Trump’s team made it clear that any attempt to get at the truth of what happened would result in retaliation in the form of asking for an endless stream of witnesses, fighting every request in court, and holding up activity in the Senate “for a very long time.” Meanwhile, the House managers continued to swing for the fences with a number of stirring moments, sharp responses, and ringing calls for the Senate to do its job for the country.

From the start of this session, it was clear that Republicans were not taking the day seriously. Confident that enough of their members had fallen in line to suppress any possibility of subpoenaing a witness, the Republican side indulged in question after question written for no other reason than to promote conspiracy theories and smears by having Chief Justice John Roberts read them aloud. But even that wasn’t the worst damage done during the course of the evening.

As the night wore on, Trump legal team member Alan Dershowitz rose repeatedly to make it very clear what Republicans were authorizing: They were not just embracing foreign interference, but literally allowing Donald Trump to do anything in pursuit of reelection.

Much of the evening seemed to be the Ted Cruz Show. Having abandoned any pretense that they were seeking information, Republicans allowed the Texas assassin to have a hand in at least eight questions, all of them designed to spread ridiculous, corrosive smears against the whistleblower, Rep. Adam Schiff, and former Vice President Joe Biden. Trump’s defense team joined in eagerly, citing information from the worst of right-wing sites as “public information” to justify repeating claims. By the end of the night, Senate Republicans had endorsed every aspect of the conspiracy theory that Trump had tried to extort from Ukraine, and they had gone on to indict the whistleblower as having a hand in the “double bribery.”

Again and again, Republicans such as Cruz and Josh Hawley demonstrated that they were laughing up their sleeves, playing the “Roberts will repeat anything” game. That included using questions to make statements that Adam Schiff had collaborated with the whistleblower, long after Schiff had explained—again—that he had not met the whistleblower, that he did not know the whistleblower, and that no member of his staff was involved in preparing the whistleblower’s complaint. It didn’t matter, because for Cruz, getting out the facts was never the point of the exercise.

A special award goes to Kentucky Republican Rand Paul. At one point in the late afternoon, he managed to concoct a question so vile that Roberts refused to read it—the only time that happened, even though some of the questions from Cruz included recitations of multiple false charges.

Trump’s team leaned into the chance to spread unfounded information. Despite hours and days of chest-beating over “hearsay” or “second-hand information,” Trump’s attorneys relished every word of the beyond-Q conspiracies that came their way (including a rare appearance from benchwarmer Pam Bondi so bad that it’s already gathered more than two million views). And when not rolling in vile claims with absolutely no foundation, they used much of their time to directly threaten the Senate, stating again and again that any attempt to call a witness would be met with an unending string of requests, privilege claims, and court fights. 

In the middle of the evening, Schiff made a major play and said that, to expedite the process, the House managers would agree to be bound by decisions from Roberts when it came to validating subpoenas, authorizing witnesses, and requesting documents. Citing the way that the House had taken as many as five depositions in a week, Schiff made it clear that there was no reason that a process involving witnesses had to be lengthy. But Trump’s legal team said that it would not agree. Instead, it continued its threat to respond to any call for witnesses by wrecking the Senate, drowning the trial in frivolous requests, and demanding a string of witnesses (including every member of the Biden family, every House manager, the whistleblower, people cited in right-wing media … an unending parade). And Republicans on both sides of the table pretended that this threat wasn’t simply an argument that any legal process can be crushed by the power of the White House.

But it wasn’t the cudgel of delay, or the giggling efforts of Cruz, Hawley, Paul, and others to place their hands under Robert’s robe and make him talk that did the most damage. The worst damage to the evening, the trial, and America’s future came from doddering Alan Dershowitz, who used the evening to expand his previous defense to a degree that didn’t just exonerate Trump in this case, but also exonerated him in any possible case. 

In a pair of appearances, Dershowitz expanded on his theory that abuse of power isn’t a permissible cause for impeachment. Deliberately and directly contradicting the historical sources he cited, Dershowitz called every constitutional expert in America a “never Trumper” for daring to disagree with him. And while claiming to be the only reasonable man in the country, he said he didn’t stand alone … because he had found a single attorney in 1867 whose views were similar. And 1867 is closer to when the Constitution was written, so that view wins. If you ignore all the people involved in the writing of it.

Then, having literally made up dictionary entries to support his redefinition of legal terms, Dershowitz went not just all-in, but completely overboard. According to Trump’s finest legal mind, there is nothing that Trump can’t do in pursuit of reelection. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. So long as Trump believes that his reelection would be good for the nation, he can extort foreign governments for made-up dirt. He can directly threaten an ally. There is no limit.

Along the way, Dershowitz also argued that there is absolutely nothing wrong with launching an investigation into a political opponent. In fact, he asserted that a run for office itself can be justification for investigating an opponent. He directly embraced the idea that a president launching investigations of his political opponents using domestic or foreign sources wasn’t just fine; it was desirable. He argued that daring to run against Trump painted a target on anyone’s back, and that Trump had all the power he needed to shoot at it.

If there was any doubt going into the evening, Dershowitz removed it: voting to acquit Trump means voting not just to dismiss this charge, but to embrace the idea that Trump trumps the law. He didn’t hint that Trump could do anything he wanted in pursuit of reelection; that was the core theme of his whole presentation. That was the point. That was what he said.

The Senate listened to a presentation from Trump’s legal team according to which there is nothing Trump can do in pursuit of reelection that isn’t justified. There is no limit to how Trump can use his power to persecute political opponents. According to the theory that was put forward on the floor of the Senate, Trump could simply lock up every Democratic opponent, or suspend elections indefinitely, and that would be just fine—not only an impeachable offense, but a good thing.

Republicans are going to vote for that. Republicans are going to press the button on not just a step toward autocracy, but a full-on embrace of it. They’re going to do it with a smile.

Alan Dershowitz insists Trump can’t be impeached for anything he does to get re-elected

Alan Dershowitz uncorked a defense of Donald Trump Wednesday afternoon that left listeners stunned and bewildered, asking, “Did he really just say that?”

The answer is yes. Specifically, Dershowitz claimed, “If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.”

So … literally any quid pro quo Trump could dream up would be unimpeachable as long as he believed it would help him get elected and that his election was in the public interest? 

Let’s give Dershowitz the benefit of the doubt. Maybe more context would help here. He started with the Israel-Palestine plan Trump unveiled on Tuesday, jumping from that to a hypothetical Israel-Palestine quid pro quo that a future Democratic president might impose, trading funding for some change in behavior on one side or the other.

“The only thing that would make a quid pro quo unlawful is if the quo were, in some way, illegal,” he said, ignoring that soliciting foreign election interference is in fact illegal. “Now, we talked about motive. There are three possible motives that a political figure could have. One, a motive in the public interest. The Israel argument would be in the public interest.”

“The second is in his own political interest, and the third, which hasn’t been mentioned, would be in his own financial interest,” Dershowitz continued. “Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest. And mostly you’re right: Your election is in the public interest. And if a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.”

The generous read here is that Dershowitz merely mangled an argument that, as Josh Marshall characterizes it, “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.” It’s a stretch to hear Dershowitz actually saying that, though. If you took out “Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest. And mostly you’re right: your election is in the public interest” and changed the following sentence to “If a president does something that is in the public interest and that he also believes will help him get elected, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.” 

But as it stands, what Dershowitz said is that a president can engage in any quid pro quo that he thinks will help him get re-elected as long as he thinks his re-election is in the public interest. “Accepting this argument would put us on a short path toward dictatorship, benevolent or otherwise. It’s incompatible with government of, by, and for the people. It’s government by egomania,” constitutional law scholar Laurence Tribe tweeted.