CLAIM: The president’s lawyers said “there could be no impeachment without a statutory crime.”
VERDICT: FALSE. That is the opposite of what the president’s lawyers argued before the Senate.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) misquoted the White House counsel’s argument in his speech in the Senate Wednesday explaining why he would vote to remove President Donald Trump from office.
Romney said that one of the president’s defenses was that “there could be no impeachment without a statutory crime.”
That is not, however, what the White House counsel argued.
Alan Dershowitz presented the constitutional arguments against impeachment. He argued that a president had to commit “criminal-like” behavior even if there had been no statutory crime.
Specifically, Dershowitz said that the Constitution required “criminal-like conduct akin to treason and bribery.”
Dershowitz then added the exact opposite of what Romney claimed he said: “There need not be, in my view, conclusive evidence of a technical crime that would necessarily result in a criminal conviction.”
Compare those two statements again:
Romney: “The president’s team claimed ‘there could be no impeachment without a statutory crime.’”
Dershowitz: “There need not be, in my view, conclusive evidence of a technical crime that would necessarily result in a criminal conviction.”
The White House did point out that no president had ever been impeached before without any crime or even any statutory violation being alleged in the articles of impeachment, but the president’s lawyers did not make the argument Romney claimed.
Either Romney was not paying attention, or he simply constructed a “straw man” to justify a decision he had made for other, personal or political, reasons.
Romney said that the idea that “the lack of a codified and comprehensive list of all the outrageous acts that a president might conceivably commit renders Congress powerless to remove such a president defies reason.”
No one in the White House team of lawyers ever made such an argument.
Romney’s misquote continues a pattern among the president’s detractors. Lead House impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) also repeatedly distorted and lied about what Dershowitz said.
Romney’s decision to vote to convict on the first article of impeachment, alleging “abuse of power” (he reportedly decided not to vote for the second, alleging “obstruction of justice”) will make at least that part of the vote to remove Trump from office a bipartisan one, even if it fails the two-thirds threshold.
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.