The Harvard law professor and attorney who defended O.J. Simpson says that he is a lifelong liberal but a hard-liner on civil liberties and that he's not about to flip his views just because of attempts to ostracize him.
“These childish efforts to shun me because I refused to change my position on civil liberties that I have kept for half a century discourages vibrant debate and may dissuade other civil libertarians from applying their neutral principles to a president of whom they disapprove,” Dershowitz wrote in a recent column for the Hill. “But one good thing is that being shunned by some 'old friends' on Martha's Vineyard has taught me who my real friends are and who my fairweather friends were.”
Dershowitz has been criticized by some legal scholars for making the case that Trump cannot be guilty of obstruction of justice simply by exercising one of the powers of his office to fire James B. Comey as FBI director — even if Trump's motive may have been to shut down an investigation.
In a column for the Washington Examiner last summer, Dershowitz wrote that Trump had the power to order Comey to end the investigation into Michael Flynn, the president's former national security adviser.
“The president can, as a matter of constitutional law, direct the attorney general, and his subordinate, the director of the FBI, tell them what to do, whom to prosecute and whom not to prosecute,” Dershowitz wrote. “Indeed, the president has the constitutional authority to stop the investigation of any person by simply pardoning that person.”
Dershowitz also has been critical of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether actions by Trump and his subordinates constitute efforts to obstruct that investigation.
Appearing on “Fox & Friends” in December, Dershowitz said Mueller had been “sloppy” in conducting the investigation and raised questions about whether the probe was biased against Trump. On “Hannity” in April, Dershowitz said Mueller appeared to be “laundering information to another prosecutorial authority.” Dershowitz was referring to the ongoing investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York on Michael Cohen, Trump's longtime personal attorney, which was referred to the agency by Mueller.
But Dershowitz, according to the man himself, has become the subject of scorn in other circles, despite having voted for Clinton and twice for Barack Obama. He reminded people that he had contributed money to the Clinton campaign and had opposed appointing a special counsel to investigate her campaign, he wrote for the Hill.
“But that is not good enough for some of my old friends on Martha's Vineyard,” he wrote. “For them, it is enough that what I have said about the Constitution might help Trump.”
In a heated exchange on Anderson Cooper's CNN program in March, one of Dershowitz's former students accused the legal professor of “carrying water for Donald Trump.”
“Alan, I don't know what's going on with you,” CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin told his longtime friend and mentor.
“I'm not carrying his water; I'm saying the exact same thing I've said for 50 years,” Dershowitz responded. “And, Jeffrey, you ought to know that. You were my student. The fact that it applies to Trump now rather than applying to Bill Clinton is why people like you have turned against me.”
Dershowitz likened his alleged shunning — on Martha's Vineyard and elsewhere — to McCarthyism in the 1950s, when lawyers who represented suspected Communists were ostracized.
“I wonder if the professor who refuses to listen to anything I have to say also treats his students similarly,” Dershowitz wrote. “Would he listen to a student who actively supported Trump? What about one who simply supported his civil liberties?”
“Silence is not my style. Cowardice is not my philosophy,” he added. “I tend to speak up when I disagree with Republicans, and I intend to speak up when I disagree with Democrats.”
Specifically, he called out Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who recently urged people to harass Trump administration officials in public.
“She — like those who shun me on Martha's Vineyard — is part of the problem rather than the solution,” Dershowitz wrote.
Dershowitz's column unleashed a fresh round of counterattacks and mockery on Twitter.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), a vocal critic of Trump, said: “You seem bothered your friends in Martha's Vineyard no longer invite you to nice dinners. I note the @POTUS you defend has ripped away babies & kids from parents.”
“Lol, poor Alan Dershowitz is getting the side eye at Chilmark General Store,” Eric Boehlert, writer for the liberal Shareblue Media, said referring to a grocery store on Martha's Vineyard.
Responding to his critics, Dershowitz said Tuesday that he is “reveling not whining.”
“I'm proud of taking an unpopular, principled position that gets me shunned by partisan zealots. It's not about me. I couldn't care less about being shunned by such people,” he tweeted. “It's about their unwillingness to engage in dialogue.”
Unwillingness to hear views with which one disagrees, he said, is “a dangerous sign of the times.”
Fred Barbash and Derek Hawkins contributed to this article.