He’s one of the biggest critics of the FBI’s broad subpoena served on President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. As the latest Trump Whisperer, he attended a private dinner with the president at the White House last week. And he has backed the administration’s controversial move to declare Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
But please don’t call attorney and former Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz a pro-Trump supporter.
“I’m not stating any conservative views, I’m stating civil liberties liberal views,” he told The Jewish Week. Dershowitz has argued that the raid on Cohen’s office was an over-reach and that the sacrosanct notion of attorney-client privilege is being trampled on.
“It is the liberals who are becoming reactionaries because the ‘get Trump’ mentality prevails over any concerns for civil liberties,” he said. “And the worst offender is the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union]. It has just switched sides. It is no longer a civil liberties organization; it is a ‘get Trump’ organization. I think it is going to go on for as long as he’s president unless people stop supporting the ACLU. I’ve supported the ACLU for 53 years, [but] I will never give another penny to the ACLU as long as it continues to defend the government against individuals. That’s not its job.”
Asked why the switch, Dershowitz replied matter-of-factly, “A hatred for Trump. People don’t care any longer about civil liberties, they only care about getting Trump. … The point I want to make very clearly is I’m not Trump’s lawyer. I didn’t vote for him. I do not support many of his policies. I am doing exactly the same thing I would be doing if Hillary Clinton had been elected president and they were saying ‘Lock her up.’ I did the same thing for Bill Clinton. But because of the extreme partisanship, people have misunderstood my views as being pro-Trump and they’re just not.
“And that is why people have turned against me — many of my liberal friends. They think I’m pro-Trump, and they’re dead wrong. I am pro- civil liberties. I’m taking over for the ACLU because they’re not doing their job.”
Not everyone agrees with Dershowitz on the attorney-client privilege matter, including the ACLU, which cited the “crime-fraud exception. Many commentators pointed out that before a search warrant could be issued on a practicing attorney, top Justice Department officials had to sign off and a federal judge had to find that there was probable cause to believe Cohen’s home, office, hotel room and phones contained evidence of a federal crime.
Regarding last week’s White House dinner with the president, Dershowitz said he had been invited the prior week to come to the White House for a meeting about Israel.
“I spent about seven hours with his staff people on Israel and then he invited me to have an hour-and-a-quarter dinner with him in which we talked about Israel and a range of other things — but mostly Israel,” he said. “This is the third time I’ve met with him on Israel, and I’m going to continue to meet with any president. I met with [Barack] Obama on Israel, I met with [Bill] Clinton on Israel, I met with [George W.] Bush on Israel. I’m going to continue to do that.”
Among the other topics discussed with Trump, Dershowitz said, was Syria, which is a particular concern for Israel because two of Israel’s enemies, Hezbollah and Iran, are operating there.
Asked if he encouraged the release of the White House’s proposed Middle East peace plan, Dershowitz said he did not encourage anything specific except to “stay involved and try to create an opportunity for the Israelis and the Palestinians to sit down together and negotiate. … I think the idea is to get the Sunni Arabs behind it and then the Palestinians will have pressure put on them. But if the Palestinians don’t even want to negotiate, let the world know that.”