Civil liberties attorney Alan Dershowitz told KTVT-TV that he fears political differences are being criminalized and special counsels are not the way to approach criminal justice. The practice sets a dangerous precedent that can impact not only presidents, but other politicians and the general public, as well, he said.
He made the comments Wednesday in reference to the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into whether the President Donald Trump's campaign colluded with Russian leaders to influence the 2016 election.
Dershowitz said the current investigation should be called off and Congress "should appoint a special non-partisan commission." A Congressional committee would be too partisan, he said.
Why are these investigations dangerous?
Special counsel investigations can be dangerous because they are designed to “get” the person being investigated, he said.
“They’re going to find crimes, or they’re going to manufacture crimes, or they’re going to stretch the criminal law to fit the ‘crimes’ because they’re not going to come away empty-handed,” Dershowitz said.
He also said personal matters that do not directly impact Trump’s presidency should be left out of the investigation.
“I think (U.S. Deputy Attorney General) Rod Rosenstein needs to say to the special counsel, ‘Do not investigate the private finances of the president before he became president; do not investigate his relatives; do not investigate his sex life.’ Don’t do – to President Trump – what Ken Starr did to President Clinton,” Dershowitz told KTVT. “It started with Whitewater and ended up with a blue dress. That’s not the appropriate way a special counsel should operate.”
“That’s the way it’s done in other western democracies,” Dershowitz said. “They don’t appoint a special counsel and tell them to ‘Get that guy...’ that’s what they did in the Soviet Union. Lavrentiy Beria, the head of the KGB said to Stalin, ‘Show me the man, and I’ll find you the crime!'" That’s what special counsel does.”
“I’m not comparing obviously the Soviet Union and the United States," he added. "We have structural protections in our Bill Of Rights but it’s going down the wrong direction.”
A serious discussion needs to take place on the 'criminalization' of political differences, according to Dershowitz.
“The issue of criminalization [of political differences] has not been subject to rational discourse,” he said. “Democrats hate when they politicize and criminalize political differences against Democrats...when they did it with Bill Clinton. Republicans hate when they do it against their people...President Trump. But each one supports it when they’re against their enemies and partisanship prevails over principle. It’s very hard to have a reasonable discussion.”
Could this practice impact everyone?
Dershowitz cautioned that the handling of the investigation sets a precedent that could possibly impact even the average citizen down the road.
“Tomorrow, it can affect you and me,” Dershowitz said. “If you give the prosecutor the ability to stretch the criminal law to fit a target, it’s very dangerous.”
“When you appoint a special counsel you give them targets and you say, ‘You better get that guy or the people around him...and we’re going to give you tens of millions of dollars. And if you come up empty-handed, you’re a failure.'”
Dershowitz said that ultimately, the American public is losing faith in the justice system.
“We need neutral objective people administering justice,” he told KTVT. You can’t have an FBI agent like [Peter] Strzok who is writing messages saying, ‘Oh we have to stop Trump from becoming President.'”