December 12, 2019 / 4:09 PM / a month ago

Lawyer Alan Dershowitz says met Trump amid impeachment battle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lawyer Alan Dershowitz said on Thursday he had met President Donald Trump at the White House amid reports that Trump is considering adding him to his legal team to fight an impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate.

FILE PHOTO: Alan Dershowitz leaves the Manhattan Federal Court in New York, following a status conference in the defamation lawsuit brought by Virginia Giuffre against Dershowitz over discovery issues, in Manhattan, New York, U.S., December 2, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Dershowitz, an emeritus professor at Harvard Law School known for representing controversial clients like sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, disclosed Wednesday’s meeting in an interview with Reuters but declined to say what he and Trump had discussed.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote next week on formal charges that Trump abused the powers of his office and obstructed a congressional impeachment investigation into allegations that he pressured Ukraine to probe a domestic political rival. Trump denies any wrongdoing.

“I feel very strongly that the proposed articles of impeachment endanger the Constitution and endanger the separation of powers,” Dershowitz said. “But I can’t comment on any particular role I might play.”

A person familiar with the matter said Trump was considering hiring Dershowitz but that the discussions were preliminary. U.S. media outlets including the New York Times and ABC News first reported that Dershowitz was under consideration on Wednesday night.

Dershowitz, who often appears on cable television, has represented high-profile criminal defendants including former football player O.J. Simpson and socialite Claus von Bulow in their trials.

Dershowitz’s involvement in the Trump impeachment team may depend on what rules are decided for a Senate trial, including whether any witnesses will be called, the source familiar with the matter said.

The White House declined to comment.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone is expected to lead Trump’s defense in a Senate trial.

Trump is now open to having a shorter trial, Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing sources, after initially proclaiming he wanted a full-blown, potentially lengthy hearing with witnesses including former vice president Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic nomination in 2020.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has received backing from some fellow Republican senators for his suggestion that the trial be kept short and that no witnesses be called.

If he assists Trump, Dershowitz, 81, would be expected to handle constitutional issues as they arise.

Dershowitz, who attended the White House Hanukkah party on Wednesday, views the proposed articles of impeachment as too broad and vague and said they would establish a “terrible” precedent.

Reporting by Karen Freifeld; additional reporting by Steve Holland in Washington; Editing by Ross Colvin and Alistair Bell

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