“Where’s the beef?” Alan Dershowitz asked Sean Hannity. “Where’s the crime?”
In the hours that followed Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former attorney, pleading guilty Thursday to lying to Congress about a Moscow real estate deal Trump was eyeing in 2016 as he was inching closer to the Republican nomination, Dershowitz wasn’t having it.
During a Thursday night interview with Fox’s Hannity, Dershowitz, a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, blasted special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, suggested that the focus of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election has changed to look at any possible political crimes and demanded that the Justice Department withhold the investigation’s findings until Trump’s attorneys can respond.
“The problem is Mueller is straying away from his mandate to find crime, and he is now looking for political sin,” Dershowitz said to Hannity. “Building buildings in Moscow, using stolen material from [Julian] Assange — these are not crimes. He has no authority to be a roving commissioner to find political sins.
“So far, I don’t see any evidence of crimes, except for ones that he helped to facilitate by getting people to lie in front of his own investigators.”
Unsurprisingly, Trump, who is known for tweeting out quotes from Fox News segments, was apparently tuning in and tweeting. Earlier in the day, the president said that Cohen is “lying” and “trying to get a reduced sentence for things that have nothing to do with me.” On Twitter, Trump, who landed in Buenos Aires late Thursday for the Group of 20 summit, again called for Mueller’s probe to come to an end.
“This is an illegal Hoax that should be ended immediately,” Trump added after Hannity’s show concluded. “Mueller refuses to look at the real crimes on the other side. Where is the IG REPORT?”
The pushback from the president and his defenders came after Cohen made a surprise appearance before U.S. District Judge Andrew L. Carter Jr. in New York on Thursday to make a guilty plea. As The Washington Post’s Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky and Rosalind S. Helderman reported, Cohen said he lied to the Senate and House intelligence committees for the person listed in court documents as “Individual 1,” whom he later identified in court as being the president.
“I was aware of Individual 1’s repeated disavowals of commercial and political ties between himself and Russia, his repeated statements that investigations of such ties were politically motivated and without evidence, and that any contact with Russian nationals by Individual 1’s campaign or the Trump Organization had all terminated before the Iowa Caucus, which was on February 1 of 2016,” Cohen told the judge.
The timing of the Cohen news was on everyone’s mind. It was especially topical for Dershowitz, who told The Post’s Fred Barbash last year that his defense of Trump has resulted in him being shunned by political allies and not getting invited to dinner by any of his liberal friends. He went so far in his Fox interview as to recommend that Trump and his attorneys offer a response report to Mueller’s, suggesting that the president’s team tell the Justice Department to withhold the special counsel’s findings until their rebuttal is ready to publish.
“Here’s the problem for the president,” Dershowitz started. “Mueller will write a report. The report will be based on the testimony of people who have lied and who have not been cross-examined.”
On Sunday, the legal scholar told ABC News that while he didn’t think any criminal charges would come out against Trump, Mueller’s report is “going to be devastating to the president” and that Trump’s team was already working on a response. Dershowitz updated his statement to Hannity, arguing that the American public wouldn’t be able to fairly judge the report based on statements from people like Cohen.
“It’s devastating only if it’s unrebutted,” the legal scholar said, referring to Mueller’s report, “which is why it is absolutely essential for the president’s team to demand that the Justice Department not allow the release of the Mueller report until they’ve had a chance to review it and rebut it.”
“That’s right, I agree with you,” interjected Hannity, as Dershowitz continued.
“And then both the reports, the Mueller report and the president’s lawyers' report, come out at the same time so the American public can judge,” Dershowitz said.
It was a busy day for Dershowitz, who made the media rounds to criticize Mueller and the probe and to discuss what Cohen’s guilty plea means to the investigation.
On Fox, he spoke with Bill Hemmer about how Mueller had to “resort to false statement prosecutions” and argued that the special counsel “didn’t start with very much” in the early stages of the investigation.
“I don’t think Mueller’s going to come up with very much, in terms of criminal conduct, that existed before he was appointed, and that’s pretty shocking,” he told Hemmer.
Over at the Hill, Dershowitz repeated the line about how Mueller didn’t have a “roving commission to investigate sin” and used that to play off of one of the president’s favorite terms: witch hunt.
“This is not Salem,” he said to the Hill on Thursday.
Trump’s support for Dershowitz’s sentiment toward Mueller and the probe comes in the same week that the legal scholar was accused of being linked to an explosive report involving Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta.
Earlier this week, an investigation from the Miami Herald reported on Acosta’s time as a U.S. attorney and how he allegedly facilitated a plea agreement and lighter punishment for Florida multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who was accused of “abusing dozens of underage girls.” The Herald reported that one of the women wrote in a 2015 affidavit that she allegedly had sex with Dershowitz, who was a part of Epstein’s legal team, for the first time when she was 16, during her “servitude to Epstein.” Dershowitz has long denied the allegations, telling the Herald he has never met the woman and that “the story was 100 percent flatly, categorically made up.”
“Dershowitz might not be the best person to cite at this particular moment in history,” Jeet Heer, a staff writer at the New Republic, tweeted about Trump quoting the legal scholar.
In the Fox interview, Hannity compared the tactics of Mueller to those used against Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, a former underboss of the Gambino crime family whose testimony helped take down John Gotti. Dershowitz saw it another way.
“What we’re seeing now is case after case being built against people simply for lying,” Dershowitz said.
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