Tribe: The Choice is Now Between Witnesses and Dictatorship

While I disagreed with Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz on this theory of impeachment, I recently praised his presentation in the Senate as a cogent and well-constructed case for the defense. Clearly, his colleague Harvard Professor Laurence Tribe does not share my view. He denounced Dershowitz’s argument as “remarkably absurd and extreme and dangerous.” In this presentation, Dershowitz defended his own switch on the issue of the prerequisite of criminality for impeachment by noting that Tribe had also switched his view. Tribe went further to declare that the choice was now between witnesses and “dictatorship.” Even as someone who favors witnesses, I fail to see the imminent danger of dictatorship on the issue. Indeed, I understand the reluctance over witnesses aside from any desire to protect Trump. I believe senators have a legitimate interest in not creating precedent allowing the House to impeachment on such a slipshod and incomplete record. That is why I proposed an alternative solution.

On MSNBC’s “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,” Tribe stated that, if the President succeeds in blocking witnesses, “You will harm not only the country today but you will leave a lesson for future presidents that will be terrible to the Republic. It will not be a constitutional democracy but it will be a dictatorship.”

The use of O’Donnell’s show to warn of authoritarianism was curious since the host recently declared that his show would not invite Trump defenders because they are all “liars.”

Tribe however had particularly caustic remarks for Dershowitz as advancing an “absurd” argument that “it doesn’t matter if a president uses the vast powers of his office to shake down an ally and help an adversary in order to get dirt on an enemy and corrupt an election.” He spoke directly to Senators and added “So I implore you, if you are inclined to vote to acquit this president, don’t do it on the ridiculous basis that abuse of power, because it’s not a statutory crime and is rather open-ended, is not a basis to remove.”

One senator who may not be inclined to listen is Mitch McConnell who Tribe has called “McTurtle” and a “flagrant d**khead.”

I have previously discussed my disagreement with Dershowitz’s theory, including what I believe is a misreading of the trial of Andrew Johnson and defense of Justice Benjamin Curtis. This however is a good-faith academic dispute and I felt that Dershowitz raised some interesting point. While I was not persuaded, it is unfair to characterize them as “absurd.”

59 thoughts on “Tribe: The Choice is Now Between Witnesses and Dictatorship”

  1. Laurence Tribe said Mitch is a Dxxxhead? wow

    He should have his law license reprimanded under Rule of Profesional conduct 8.4

    “It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to:

    (d) engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice”

    over the past couple decades, this rule and its analogues state to state, have been misused a lot to punish “over the top” and foul-mouthed speech by lawyers, and the First Amendment has never been a successful defense.

    Almost ALL of those cases involved Left wing viewpoints trying to protect the hurt feelings of women, people of color, homosexuals, and “undocumented migrants”… such that a lawyer can’t even use the lawful term “illegal alien” in a civil proceeding when it is perfectly germane and relevant!

    So, let’s see an avalanche of complaints filed against Larry Tribe and see if Mass. lawyer regulators want to weigh in on his UNCIVIL DISCOURSE

    or if they want to clarify the rule that offensive political speech by lawyers is ok, GREAT i welcome that.

  2. Laurence Tribe is wildly exaggerating the threat of dictatorship. Here is a partial lists on counter-dictatorship checks and balances:
    • term limits for President of 8 years max
    • a bipartisan impeachment
    • inability to control diverse media — inability to shape opinion thru gaining exclusive control over information
    • the non-cooperation of the US Military and domestic law enforcement
    • the non-cooperation of US Courts
    • having the states and localities in control of elections

    1. if Trump were a dictator then he would really have the tools to drain the swamp.

      well, folks, don’t get your hopes up!

  3. It will not be a constitutional democracy but it will be a dictatorship.”

    So from which country is Tribe from. It’s apparent he supports a dictatorship of the socialist ruling class but that has nought to do with this mythical constitutional dictatorship. And this is supposed to be an educated individual. Me thinks not. Member of The Stupid Party’s Collective more likely

    For the un and under educated the founders rejected democracy as a usable system nine times during the two years of discussion (Journal of the Constitutional Congress – Madison) and others and refused to let any form of the word in the new Constitution. Thus it is an urban myth manufactured uneducated non professors and their propagandist media.

    It does have a valid use but I doubt he would have learned it. The founders blended the one thing democracy contributed which is the replacement of ‘divine right’ and similar with ‘well spring of power listing the ‘whole citizens of the USA) Whole is how they described full citizenship which Tribe apparently didn’t notice to include indebted, indentured and eventually former slaves, native indigenous, and women down to the age of being drafted into the military.

    However it does not include those who have rejected their citizenship and taken allegiance to a foreign ideology.

    So Professor Dip just where In OUR Constitution did you find the word Democracy or were you just being good socialist and made it up to fit the moment with something else to lie about tomorrow?.

  4. The problem that I see with the Senate calling witnesses, is that they legitimize the process in the house of total lack of due process. You “fail to see the imminent danger of dictatorship on the issue”, but you are looking in the wrong place. The Dictator would be the Speaker of the House, and her appointed minions. Total control of who can be called as witnesses, which testimony would be released, secret hearings that were never made public. No attorneys for witnesses or defendants, etc. Does that look like a Dictatorship, or a Republic? Can you cite a Democracy that follows this process? Can you cite a Civil or Criminal case in this country that follows this process? Do you think the authors of the Constitution contemplated this process in an impeachment proceedings? Do you think the Founders meant to say Speaker instead of House when they granted power to impeach?
    If the Senate calls witnesses the House declined to call, then the Witness score would be House 19, President 0. (I’m counting the alleged still secret testimony of the Intelligence AG).
    Quite plainly, anytime in the future the party controlling the House but not the Presidency, could institute Impeachment on Inauguration Day, especially if they had done their “opposition research”, and more especially if they had a compliant media.
    Is this new testimony likely to be corroborated, or a he said/she said. Is that the kind of testimony we should be impeaching on.
    Republicans have called this impeachment a coup. They are wrong, no one starts a coup knowing it is not going to succeed. It’s a business tool, and the business is politics. Businesses often institute lawsuits they know they can’t win, with the object to cost the other company out of business, or damage their image. They usually don’t find the other business, (in this case the other party), cooperating in supporting their actions.

    Even with a final score of House 19, President 0, I don’t think you can find a Bookie to take your bet on the House.

  5. his colleague Harvard Professor Laurence Tribe

    That you continue to buttress his existence is mystifying.

    I never heard of Tribe until I joined your blog. I laugh at how the non-science faculty types arrogate onto themselves importance particularly in a field that is devoid of rigorous scholarly data.

    Why can’t we place Tribe on a petri dish and dissect him?

    As to Harvard being an organization that should be taken seriously, their Chemistry Department Chairman was just arrested by the FBI.

    what type of “research funding” does Tribe receive? hmmmmm

    1. Harvard is definitely taken seriously

      Tribe is famed. I had his constitutional law book decades ago, and it was a good textbook

      yet, his political opinions are garbage

      make no mistake Tribe’s histrionics and preposterous slanders are indeed newsworthy for comment by Turley

  6. “One senator who may not be inclined to listen is Mitch McConnell who Tribe has called “McTurtle” and a “flagrant d**khead.””

    You know, Democrats have been calling Republicans names like this for 2 decades, and they think it’s “brave.” Now they are behaving just the same, but they suddenly started blaming Trump. It’s all Trump’s fault for the country’s divisiveness.

    We don’t have amnesia. “Republicans under Bush want to throw your grandmother off a cliff.” If you oppose Obamacare, you want poor people to die. If you want a work requirement for the able bodied, you want the poor to die. Yeah, that was Trump’s fault, too. Perhaps it’s Alinsky’s.

    As soon as a Republican, Trump, started throwing the manure back, they started pearl clutching, pretending they’ve been nuns in church who never even use euphemisms, and always speak with proper grammar and the kindest possible rhetoric. It’s like they’ve seen the end of times if a Republican acts like too many Democrats have with impunity.

    Personally, I’d like the name calling to stop, but in the meantime, guess I’ll just watch the hypocrisy unfold.

    1. Good post Karen. I hadn’t paid much attention to the term projection before President Trump was elected. But that is the best term to characterize the actions of the Democrat party and their radical base of supporters. Hypocrites is another, but projecting is more useful towards unmasking their motives. Of course you’ll get the Shill’s crying whataboutism. But given his inability to think critically, he wouldn’t understand that is not actually an insult. One more thing; it is remarkable that without fail, everything the Left has accused this President of is exactly what they have done. Well here is a page dedicated to the Left’s remarkable inability of self-reflection: HE WHO SMELT IT, DEALT IT.

    2. Karen, poor you again!

      You’re ignoring the fact that no president has ever travelled the low road Trump lives on, and unfortunately presidents are heard round the world and to all ages. Hopefully the bar does not stay on the ground after he leaves office, but who knows.

      By the way, as a Democrat I’m used to reading insulting comments from commentators not in the WH. I suggest you quit feeling sorry for yourself, which is the root of most of your posts. You support a self centered lying sociopath for cripes sake.

      1. PS I guess Karen has never heard Rush Limbaugh or the hundreds of other right wing radio hosts who are national radio 24/7 and for years now calling democrats traitors, “the enemy”, and all other non-expletive names they can think of. Millions tune in every day to this and there is no left wing equivalent.

        1. bythebook:

          There is no Left wing equivalent of Rush Limbaugh, because he’s the most popular radio talk show host in America. I get that Leftist are envious, but there are in fact a wide range of Leftist talk radio, cable news, local news, and internet sites.

          Socialism has killed millions of people. Quite obviously, efforts to turn America into yet another Socialist dictatorship is a threat to our freedom. Rush Limbaugh never called anyone an enemy to be shot on sight. He’s used the verbiage of an opponent in a political movement he believes will destroy the country.

          He’s addressed one Constitutional right after another that Democrats want to weaken or abolish, and considers that a threat to our freedoms and society. Plus he’s also addressed the constant ad hominem on the left.

          You think Trump is an enemy of the universe, and have no trouble calling him an enemy, any number of names, his voters, etc.

          If you listen to the Rush Limbaugh show, he takes callers who vehemently disagree with him, and he’ll treat them with respect. When he goes to a dinner party or an event, he’s very polite company.

          It sounds like you’ve never actually listened to the show. I don’t catch it very often but if I’m in the car during his show I’ve tuned in.

          There are other radio hosts who are not as polite on their shows.

      2. “You’re ignoring the fact that no president has ever travelled the low road Trump lives on”. Well, that’s alone. JFK was a total horn dog who slept with myriad strippers and actresses and mistresses while President. He even had Marilyn Monroe sing him a sexy “Happy Birthday” song in a sheer dress she had to be sewn into.

        Boy, I’ll just bet Jackie was so pleased and proud, to witness one of her husband’s many, many mistresses sing a sexy song in a bedroom voice, to her husband, on national television.

        LBJ was a drunk vulgar lout, who used to put his hands down his pants to scratch himself, while talking to people. He was vulgar, uncouth, and a total racist. “That title actually belongs to a Texan Democrat, Lyndon B. Johnson, a howling, flatulent tormentor of women whose cussing and racism remain breathtaking today.”

        One of our friends was a crew member for Air Force One for multiple presidents. Oh, the stories he’d tell. The staff used to water down LBJ’s drinks to slow down the inebriation. He recalled when LBJ discovered it, while aboard, and cussed a blue streak, threatening to fire everyone.

        In fact, there is a very long history of heavy drinking and uncouth behavior among Presidents. It’s also ludicrous to state that no one has ever traveled such a low road as Trump. Not even any of the pro-slavery Presidents who balked at the chance to deal with this issue?

        If you think Trump is any kind of trend setter in behavior you object to, perhaps you should read Brian Abrams’ book, “Party Like a President: True Tales of Inebriation, Lechery and Mischief from the Oval Office,”

        Then there’s the long presidential history in the United States of affairs, mistresses, land snatching, going back on treaties, backstabbing political rivals…Seriously, Trump is the worst you can contemplate? He sends rude Tweets regarding people who sent rude Tweets about him. This isn’t the end of civilization, or unprecedented quarreling…it’s just that it used the modern technology of Twitter.

        Once again, bythebook weaponizes a mental illness diagnosis for political purposes. That’s unethical and pretty low. Ironically, this false allegation comes after severely scolding Trump as the lowest president of all time. I find it humorous that he’s unaware of the irony.

      3. bythebook:

        “Hopefully the bar does not stay on the ground after he leaves office, but who knows.”

        The material was a sheer, flesh-colored marquisette fabric and embellished with over 2,500 hand-sewn crystals and 6,000 shimmering rhinestones. The dress was so tight-fitting that Monroe had to be sewn into it on the day of the celebration. Moreover, she decided to wear absolutely nothing underneath the gown in order for a seamless fit…When Monroe finally appeared in a spotlight, Lawford introduced her as the “late Marilyn Monroe” Monroe peeled off her white ermine fur coat, revealing the dress, and the audience gasped. Adlai Stevenson said later her appearance was “skin and beads.”

        Now that’s the level of class and sophistication that all presidents should aspire to. Have a woman the President slept with, while in office, sing the sexiest version of “Happy Birthday” to him, on national television, while wearing a shear dress, any opacity achieved by rhinestones, without any underwear. Jackie might have avoided attending, but she had the humiliation of seeing it all over TV.

        That was nice.

        And Obama is another paragon of virtue. Sure, he lied to our faces that if we like our insurance, or our doctors, we could keep them. But, as one of the architects of the ACA said, he had to “take advantage of the stupidity of the American people.”

        Meanwhile, Trump sent some really mean Tweets to people who send really mean Tweets about him, and he stands accused of having cheated on his wife years ago. The trauma! Forget about the healthy economy, the fact that our enemies abroad know Trump will defend our country if attacked, the extreme difference in how he reacted to the bombing of our embassy vs Obama’s, the fact that more minorities are employed than ever before, the fact that he’s named conservative Supreme Court justices to the bench…

        None of that matters. He sent a rude Tweet. We must ignore the billions of rude Tweets about Trump and his voters, from politicians and pundits. Nope. Trump send rude Tweets so he’s a threat to the democracy.

        You guys seriously lack judgement.

        1. Whoops. I forgot to insert the quotes around the description of Marilyn Monroe’s dress. That was from a lead up story to the sale of the dress at Christies for over a million dollars.

  7. Why anyone pays attention to Tribe is beyond me. The man is not even American in the true sense. He is an Eastern European Jew who was born in China and came to the United States at some point. He has no ties to the United States other than having immigrated here. His viewpoints are not American, they’re Eastern European and leftist.

  8. You stand accused of murder.

    But…the guy you claim I murdered is standing right there! Obviously I didn’t murder anyone.

    A whistleblower who gained access to your office in order to spy on you says that you did.

    Well, he’s wrong. Don’t you have eyes?

    We are competing against you in the next election and don’t want you to win. We want access to your personal emails, letters, phone transcripts of every conversation you had, and access to everyone who works for you, whose ever worked for you. We require you to waive privilege to prove you are innocent of murdering this person, who is standing here alive and well. There is a guy who claims that you thought you’d like to murder him, and he has access to all sorts of personal information about you. We want that guy. It doesn’t matter that you can’t be punished for your thoughts. We’ve decided there are different rules that apply to Republicans and Democrats, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. We are Legion, and we’re in all the government agencies that really run the country.

    But I am innocent of the crime you claim I did. Why should I voluntarily give you access to the people around me, and waive my rights to privilege.

    Because spying on you based on our faked research that we gave to the FBI and claimed it was true didn’t get you fired. So we want to spy on you more, in order to find something, anything, damaging enough so that you will lose the election. Our candidates are total crap. But if you refuse, if you block us, we will call you a dictator with something to hide.

  9. What tribe is this Lawrence guy from?
    Here is what we have:. 1. Lame articles of impeachment. 2. Lame prosecutors who do not know which way the wind blows. 3. Senate trial which been days of opening statements from lame ducks.
    I am sick of it. Motion to dismiss. Vote out any Senator who does not vote to dismiss. Get back to reality.

  10. Over the last few years the public has lost virtually all respect for Harvard law professors. If Dershowitz has a good “showing,” and he did, you might do well to go with that.

    That said, Dershowitz is right on this most salient point – even if the alleged “shakedown” occurred, such actions do NOT amount to an impeachable offense. If they did there would be no need to attach this feeble “abuse of power.”

    And what is Biden in this anyway? Is Biden the pick man here? Because initially he had no plans whatsoever of running for pres; why? Because he has absolutely zero chance of winning.

    1. Biden is not the “pick man” here. He is “collateral damage”. He is also, “the fall guy”, having been “the bag man”, and “the front man”. The “pick man” has to be intelligent, fast, and “stand fast”.

  11. Sometimes one should change one’s mind. But I have not seen JT change his opinion of William Barr (he’s “an honorable man”) despite clear evidence that Barr strongly favors an imperial presidency and is a conservative religious nut who want to re-make the U.S. into a fundamentalist religious country.

    1. Barr strongly favors an imperial presidency and is a conservative religious nut who want to re-make the U.S. into a fundamentalist religious country.

      Your subscription to The Skeptical Inquirer might be due to lapse. Don’t want to miss Joe Nickell’s latest hit job, do you?

    2. RDKAY

      If you support & defend THE SYSTEM, you receive praise & lots of trips to places that most people can’t afford. Plus, you get cushy jobs that pay very well and you get to appear on TV and pose as a Moderate.

      I doubt if JT has ever questioned our WAR economy that’s based on killing dark-skinned people in countries that have lots of valuable natural resources waiting to be stolen by Rex Tillerson et. al.

  12. Laurence Tribe has degraded the value of his formidable intellect, skills, and place in life by forgetting to moderate his feelings of self-importance. He and Trump share the character flaw.

    1. I’d refer you to critiques of Tribe published in 1989 by Stanley Brubaker and Robert Bork, respectively. The man’s on the Harvard faculty due to virtuosity as a bulls!tter and the reality that constitutional law has long been a corrupt apologetical enterprise.

      1. actually Tribe’s textbook on constitutional law is excellent. nonetheless i despise his remarks.

        while credit is due for older achievements….

        “very obviously he has gone insane”

  13. My belief is the Senate has every right to disapprove of the way, manner and substance in bringing these charges. You warned them in your testimony not to impeach until they had a provable case. I wrote a blog called “Voice of Reason” just after your testimony describing your bringing reason to the hearings. The Senate should admonish the House. We know they are not going to stop acting like dictators themselves until the Senate uses their part in checks and balances. We deserve for this madness to end their plan to take away our voting rights

    1. The man’s never had an ounce of integrity. It’s all spin (unless he really is addled by early-onset dementia).


          Laurence Tribe
          That’s true of so many terminal brain cancer victims. Sen. Johnson is an ignorant troll, and you’re right to fight for your husband’s memory
          Quote Tweet

          · Aug 9, 2017
          Replying to @tribelaw
          I’m so disgusted by his comment. My husband died of brain cancer and was in command of his facilities until the last few days of his life.

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