6:07 a.m. Eastern
JOHN BERMAN: So, this morning, in an argument that has turned the legal world upside down, the President's defense team seems to be redefining the powers of the President -- redefining them to infinity.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, IN SENATE SPEECH: Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest. And mostly you're right -- your election is in the public interest. And if a President does something which he believes will help him get elected is in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.
BERMAN: If you look at what he says there, it blows your mind. He says if a President is running for reelection because he thinks getting elected will help America, he can do anything -- anything. And that redefines the presidency and, frankly, redefines America.
(JOSHUA GELTZER, GEORGETOWN LAW PROFESSOR)
ALISYN CAMEROTA: Just to put a finer point on it, Dershowitz is arguing for unchecked, unrestrained presidential power.
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. And the case may be dismissed as absurd by 99 percent of constitutional scholars, but if Republicans in the Senate back this argument, they are making a precedent. And let's look at the impact on America that it would create because that argument would exonerate Richard Nixon and repudiate Alexander Hamilton and the Founding Fathers who argued that impeachment was explicitly for the use against public men who abused the public trust. Watergate could be okay as long as a President felt that their reelection was in the public interest. ...
BERMAN: You say Watergate would be allowed under this framework. Watergate is chump change under this framework. You can to anything under this framework, and Dershowitz wasn't ambiguous here. He went on. He expanded on. He goes, "A President goes, 'I want to be reelected -- I think I'm a great President -- I think I'm the greatest President there ever was -- if I'm not elected, the national interest will suffer greatly.' That can't be impeachable," he says. … This means a President can do anything -- anything.
BERMAN: Also the stunning argument being floated by the President's attorney. We use the word "stunning." Others have said it's "remarkable." But, honestly, it's somewhere between bizarre and nuts. Listen to Alan Dershowitz on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
(replays part of Dershowitz soundbite from before)
Dershowitz says that if a President believes his own reelection is in the public interest -- and what candidate doesn't think that? --- he has a green light to use his power however he wants to win. … That argument has profound if not staggering implications for the presidency and the country. … There were a lot of people alarmed by what Professor Dershowitz said on the Senate floor because the argument is that a candidate who thinks he or she, if they get elected, is good for America, they can do anything to get elected. And that changes the country. It changes the presidency.