Dershowitz talks Epstein, sexual misconduct allegations, defends Trump at keynote address (with video)
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Famed criminal defense attorney and retired Harvard University professor Alan Dershowitz describes himself as liberal. But that doesn’t mean he always has to agree with a specific political party.
That, he said, is the beauty of individual liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Delivering the keynote address to a full house at the annual Steamboat Institute Freedom Conference & Festival on Friday, Dershowitz covered several topics, from why he chooses to represent high-profile criminals to the recent allegations that he engaged in sex with a minor, to the division of liberals and conservatives. The latter, he said, is worrying, especially heading into the 2020 presidential election.
Despite being a classical liberal, Dershowitz said he finds that, today, he has much more in common with classical conservatives than with the “hard-left.” Though, he hasn’t abandoned all of his liberal political leanings, despite being a supporter of President Donald Trump.
“I’m here because I disagree with you on certain issues,” he told the audience, noting differences on topics such as gay marriage, female reproductive rights and taxation.
There is a common commitment, he said, to principled dialogue and decision making, to the protection of opposing views and for due process for those with differing ideologies.
A fierce litigator
Dershowitz gained fame in the 1980s when he successfully represented Claus von Bülow, who was charged with the attempted murder of his wife, socialite Sunny von Bülow. His career also included representing Patty Hearst, Mike Tyson and as part of the “dream team” of attorneys that defended O.J. Simpson, offering advice on the appellate process.
In 2008, Dershowitz was part of the legal team to defend Jeffrey Epstein, the millionaire who was charged with trafficking underage girls for sex. He had helped negotiate a 2008 plea deal for Epstein on charges of soliciting a minor for sex in Florida. Epstein was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment.
Epstein was arrested again in July on suspicion of sex trafficking minors in Florida and New York. He killed himself in prison earlier this month.
“The vast majority of my clients have been guilty,” Dershowitz told the audience. “Thank God for that. Would anyone want to live in a country where the vast majority of people accused of crimes were innocent?”
When asking about the #MeToo movement, Hadley Heath Manning, director of policy at the Independent Women’s Forum and moderator of the conversation with Dershowitz, brought up the charges that have surfaced from a woman who said she was held as a sex slave by Epstein. She alleged that she had sex with Dershowitz, in addition to several other high-profile men, when she was underage.
Deshowitz had a simple response.
“I never met the woman. I never heard of her,” he said. “But you go on Twitter, and I’m a pedophile; I’m a child rapist.”
He told the audience that his name has been cleared, that an investigation into the matter found no truth to the charges. He simply was not where she said he had been, he explained, and that there was “overwhelming” evidence of his innocence.
“We live in a post-truth world where identity politics prevails over everything else,” he said.
But “the #MeToo movement is great. It’s wonderful,” he remarked. “They have made people responsible for acts they’ve done in the past.”
The movement, Manning added, is something that has “affected at least our cultural perceptions of the presumption of innocence.”
The matter with the woman who accused Dershowitz is still pending in court.
Dershowitz recently released a book, “The Case Against Impeaching Trump,” which argues against impeaching the president, but to the audience’s chagrin, it wasn’t originally meant to be about Trump. Instead, it was written about Hillary Clinton.
It was penned prior to the 2016 election, but the message, he said, wouldn’t change regardless of who was president.
Dershowitz said he wanted Clinton to win the 2016 election, having contributed financially to her campaign and had offered staunch support.
Still, he said, he’s able to support Trump.
“President Trump hasn’t even come close to committing anything that would be an impeachable offense,” said Dershowitz. “So, I’m not going to remain silent in the face of that.”
And that, he said, is a great test of principle: the “shoe on the other foot” test, as he called it.
“If the facts were the opposite, or the party was the opposite, would you still be making that argument?” he asked.
Looking to the 2020 presidential election, Dershowitz said he’s worried the Democratic Party is being held “captive of some people on the extreme, hard left,” he said. “I never want to see the Republicans and the Democrats so far apart that they can’t talk to each other.”
Bipartisanship requires two things, according to Dershowitz. It requires the ability to condemn the person that an individual had voted for if they did something wrong; and being able to support the other side when they do something right.
He supported Trump on several matters, including his direction to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the nation’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights region.
Conversely, he said he “mercilessly” disagreed with President Barack Obama’s allowing of the United Nations to pass a resolution that declared Israel had illegally occupied territory, including the section of Jerusalem that featured the Western Wall.
But Dershowitz also admitted he has had disagreements with Trump, who he called a personal friend, namely over his administration’s immigration policy. He had previously advised Trump that families shouldn’t be separated at the U.S.-Mexican border and that the U.S. Constitution allowed the president legal standing to cease such an act.
Trump did not heed his advice, he said.
Despite being a liberal speaking to a mostly conservative audience, Dershowitz was met with roaring applause and a standing ovation following his address.
“I thought it was great,” said Bob Weston of Littleton, who came to Steamboat Springs to attend the three-day conference. “As conservatives, we can buy-in to most of what he said. Without a doubt.”
Too many liberals and conservatives are unwilling to listen any longer, Weston said.
For Jean Pierre Sagouspe, a board member of the Steamboat Institute from Los Banos, California, Dershowitz was a refreshing voice.
“Liberals are not all that bad,” he said, laughing. “We all have our positions. We can’t talk about them and we can’t discuss them, so we never get solutions. (Dershowitz) is a solutions person that’s based in the Constitution. There’s not a lot of people on either side that way anymore.”
Steamboat resident David Wilson agreed.
“Our Constitution is designed to protect your rights and my rights, and to disagree with each other, at the same time to live equally in this society,” Wilson said. “We have to remain a society that the rule of law applies regardless of ideology, regardless of who the whipping boy or girl is of the day.”
To reach Bryce Martin, call 970-871-4206 or email bmartin@SteamboatPilot.com.
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