Famed legal scholar Alan Dershowitz told radio show host Hugh Hewitt that it was a “terrible mistake” for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to announce the indictment of 12 Russian officials just before President Donald Trump held a summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday. Speaking on Thursday, Dershowitz told Hewitt, “I think it was a terrible mistake for the Department of Justice to issue that indictment on the eve of a foreign policy trip,” and added, “The Justice Department is not supposed to be intruding on the foreign policy of the United States. They should have, on their own, held off.” Dershowitz said that Democrats are also making a mistake in their outrage over the summit meeting.
“The issue is timing. You know, the Justice Department policy say[s] you don’t issue indictments just before an election, because you’re not supposed to be influencing policy,” Dershowitz added. “And embarrassing the president by issuing these indictments before he meets Putin was a serious blunder.The Justice Department should not have done that.”
Last Friday, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein announced that special counsel Robert Mueller had indicted the 12 Russian officials with the allegation that they had been engaged "in a sustained effort" to hack computers at the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign during the 2016 presidential race. According to Bloomberg News, President Trump told Rosenstein to make the announcement before the summit meeting. Since Monday, Trump’s critics (including some Republicans) have criticized some of his statements at the press conference after he met with Putin. Some of the critics have suggested that Trump’s actions and statements amounted to treason, especially in view of his one-on-one meeting with Putin, where only two interpreters were present. This comes despite a history of previous presidents who have had personal dealings with Soviet and Russian leaders.
In the interview with Hewitt, Dershowitz said that accusations of “treason” laid against the president are “over the top.” "You might not like what Trump did. I didn’t like what he did. But to call it treason is just wrong as a matter of constitutional law," Dershowitz said. "What President Trump is alleged to have done, you know, making the image of Putin stronger and helping him gain international credibility around the world doesn’t even come close to treason under the Constitution," Dershowitz said.
According to Dershowitz -- a lifelong Democrat -- the outrage over Trump’s meeting with Putin is actually strengthening Trump’s appeal to his base. "It shows that the Democrats and the opponents of Trump are not making nuanced, carefully thought through, calibrated criticisms. They’re going completely, completely over the top," Dershowitz said.
The famed retired Harvard professor said that Democrats and anti-Trump personalities are deliberately choosing to accuse Trump of "treason" for a specific purpose. "Treason is one of the two crimes specified for impeachment, and that’s why I think so many of the Trump opponents are focusing on treason, because if he did commit treason … then he would be subject to impeachment," Dershowitz said.
Dershowitz went on to say, “But the criteria for treason is laid out clearly in the Constitution, and people shouldn’t just be making up crimes."
"So I think we’re seeing Trump’s opponents lose credibility by making these kind of arguments that just have no basis in law or the Constitution. I didn’t vote for Donald Trump. I voted for Hillary Clinton. I’m a liberal Democrat. But I don’t want to see the law stretched to target somebody whose politics we disapprove of," Dershowitz said.