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Dershowitz, along with a conservative columnist for the Washington Examiner, was making the case that the Mueller investigation is dangerous to our entire system.
In the room, which is normally a comedy club, it was impossible to shake the feeling that something was off. Dershowitz, an iconic civil libertarian and criminal defense lawyer, who circulates between the liberal redoubts of Miami, New York and the Vineyard, has emerged in the past year as the most distinguished legal defender of Trump.
His message is clear: Gen Xers may know him as a celebrity lawyer, a member of O. Baby boomers know him for clearing the socialite Claus von Bulow of poisoning his wife in the s.
But Dershowitz had a year career before that, during which he established himself as one of the most prominent and consistent defenders of civil liberties in America.
Inas a law clerk, he drafted a crucial memo for Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg that led to the death penalty being ruled unconstitutional.
The ruling was later reversed. Harvard recently severed its ties with the clubs. His legal scholarship articulates an expansive view of freedom of speech, freedom of religion and even animal rights. And, until recently, his positions have been tolerated, if not always embraced, by the legal academy and universally acknowledged for their moral seriousness.
Around then, Dershowitz—never one to overlook a celebrity being railroaded—started getting more TV airtime for his argument that a sitting president could not be guilty of obstruction of justice. The liberal intelligentsia recoiled.
Alan Dershowitz during a interview in Jerusalem.
Getty Images But is Dershowitz really a turncoat? In one view, Dershowitz, at the end of his career, has finally crossed the line, defending a demagogue who rejects and threatens the very principles of liberty and fairness to which Dershowitz has dedicated his life.
There have been other prominent lawyers who have represented controversial political causes and unpopular defendants—Clarence Darrow, William Kuntsler and Ramsey Clark are obvious candidates—but none carried on their careers with the publicness with which Dershowitz has conducted his life.
The decision to pursue his path in the law was organic. I was brought up a civil libertarian. In the contemporary context, the challenge might be to consider what you would think about, say, the Electoral College without knowing whether it would work to the benefit of your party or the opposition.
New York hotel queen Leona Helmsley, who was defended by Dershowitz during her battle against charges of tax fraud; O. Simpson, shown here talking with Dershowitz and attorney F.
His commentary in the last year is entirely consistent with that lifelong commitment. But his public statements, argued everywhere from Fox News to the Village Underground, amount to a case with a clear legal shape, the kind of thing a lawyer might argue, if it ever came to court.
The first pillar of the argument is intellectual: He has been sounding this note for years. Clinton, Starr and the Emerging Constitutional Crisis. And he has company. In the case of Trump, some questioned whether Dershowitz has made clear that this is an institutional argument as opposed to a personal attack on Mueller.
The Cohen warrant has widened an already-existing rift in the civil liberties world. In normal times, the FBI raid is the kind of aggressive prosecutorial move that would drive civil libertarians crazy: This seems like it should be a bread-and-butter type issue for the ACLU, but the organization has been nearly silent on the Cohen warrant.
But we also believe in the rule of law as an essential foundation for civil liberties and civil rights. And perhaps the first principle of the rule of law is that no one—not even the president, let alone his lawyer—is above the law.
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