You ought to read Isaac Chotiner’s interview in Slate with Alan Dershowitz, the famous lawyer turned Trump defender. As it becomes ever more unsustainable to maintain the president’s innocence, more Trump supporters will fall back on Dershowitz’s theory that the president cannot be held to account—especially now that Dershowitz’s arguments have been endorsed by President Trump himself.
In the Chotiner interview, Dershowitz makes his case at greater length than cable television allows. It’s worth hearing and weighing his argument in order to appreciate how very wrong it is—and must be:
Of course the president can obstruct justice. Nixon obstructed justice. President Clinton was charged with obstructing justice. A president can’t obstruct justice by simply exercising his constitutional authority. That is: A president can’t obstruct justice by pardoning. A president can’t obstruct justice by firing somebody he’s authorized to fire. If a president bribes or takes a bribe, or if a president, as Nixon did, pays hush money, or tells his subordinates to lie to the FBI, or destroys evidence, of course he can be charged with obstruction of justice, but he can’t be charged with obstruction of justice simply by exercising his constitutional authority.
I’ll put the follow-up question more rudely than Chotiner, in order to set up Dershowitz’s amazing answer. What if he’s exercising that authority to thwart the investigation of a crime in which he might be implicated? What if the president appears on television and boasts to the world afterward?