Elizabeth Warren clashes with former Harvard colleague Alan Dershowitz over his impeachment trial argument

"I truly could not follow it."

In this image from video, Alan Dershowitz, an attorney for President Donald Trump, speaks during the impeachment trial against Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)
Alan Dershowitz, an attorney for President Donald Trump, speaks during the impeachment trial Monday in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. –Senate Television via AP

Sen. Elizabeth Warren did not find Alan Dershowitz’s argument Monday particularly convincing.

Following the former Harvard Law professor’s impeachment trial defense of President Donald Trump on Monday night, Warren ripped Dershowitz’s argument as “contrary to both law and fact.”

“His characterization of the law simply is unsupported,” the Massachusetts senator told reporters, igniting a dispute between the two former colleagues.

Warren, a 2020 presidential candidate and former Harvard Law professor herself, shared the same group of first-year students with Dershowitz during her days at the Cambridge university, as WBUR reported last year. However, she said she didn’t recognize the constitutional argument Dershowitz was now making in defense of the Republican president.

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During his more than hour-long opening statement, Dershowitz argued that there was no legal basis for Trump’s impeachment and potential removal from office, because House Democrats were ascribing political motivations to the president’s alleged conduct (holding up military aid to Ukraine unless the country investigated potential 2020 opponent Joe Biden and his son) and that “the framers could not have intended this psychoanalytic approach to presidential motives.”

Dershowitz argued that political interests and national interests often “overlap.” Furthermore, he said that even if former national security adviser John Bolton’s reported claims that Trump demanded assistance to Ukraine be used as leverage for an investigation into the Bidens are true, it would not constitute impeachable conduct.

“You cannot turn conduct that is not impeachable into impeachable conduct simply by using words like ‘quid pro quo’ and ‘personal benefit,'” Dershowitz said.

But according to Warren, intent is something that is often considered under criminal law. Referring to the legal concept of mens rea, she told reporters Monday night that Dershowitz’s argument “that we should not be using the president’s intent as part of understanding impeachment” didn’t follow, according to The Hill and BuzzFeed.

“Criminal law is all about intent,” Warren said. “Mens rea is the heart of criminal law. That’s the very basis of it. So it makes his whole presentation just nonsensical. I truly could not follow it.”

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Trump’s defense team is scheduled to conclude their opening arguments Tuesday.

Shortly after the trial resumed Tuesday afternoon, Dershowitz shot back on Twitter, arguing that Warren, whose expertise is in bankruptcy law, “doesn’t understand the law” and “willfully mischaracterized” what he said.

“My former colleague, Senator Warren, claims she could not follow my carefully laid out presentation that everybody else seemed to understand,” Dershowitz tweeted. “This says more about Warren than it does about me.”

The famed trial lawyer — who has rankled his liberal peers for his outspoken arguments against impeaching Trump — went on to chide Warren for confusing his argument about Trump’s motives with criminal “intent.”

“I challenge her to find that word anywhere in my presentation,” he wrote.

“I talked about the difficulty of discerning mixed motives,” Dershowitz continued. “If Warren knew anything about criminal law she would understand the distinction between motives – which are not elements of crime—and intent, which is. It’s the responsibility of presidential candidates to have a better understanding of the law.”

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