Dershowitz raised eyebrows during the Senate trial by saying that ‘if a president does something which he believes will help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment’.
The attorney had earlier said that a quid pro quo would be unlawful if ‘the quo were somehow illegal’, but is now accusing CNN of airing misleading footage in a ‘barrage of defamatory programming’ that led to Dershowitz being ‘openly mocked’.
The lawsuit filed in Florida court is seeking $250million of punitive damages and a further $50million in compensation from the network.
Alan Dershowitz speaks during Donald Trump’s impeachment trial earlier this year, where he made comments about presidential powers which he says were misrepresented by CNN
Dershowitz spoke during the impeachment trial in January, in which Trump was accused of abusing his power by strong-arming Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.
In response to a question by Republican senator Ted Cruz, Dershowitz said: ‘The only thing that would make a quid pro quo unlawful is if the quo were somehow illegal.’
He continued: ‘Now we talk about motive. There are three possible motives that a political figure could have.
‘One, a motive in the public interest and the Israel argument would be in the public interest. The second is in his own political interest and the third, which hasn’t been mentioned, would be his own financial interest, his own pure financial interest, just putting money in the bank.
‘I want to focus on the second one for just one moment.
‘Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest and, mostly you are right, your election is in the public interest, and if a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.’
Democrats seized on Dershowitz’s remarks but the lawyer said his comments had been misinterpreted and ‘wilfully distorted’ in media coverage of the trial.
In the lawsuit, Dershowitz claims that CNN broadcast only a short segment of his answer in order to ‘fool its viewers’ about what he said.
CNN hosts are accused of ‘exploding into a one-sided and false narrative’ that Dershowitz had argued that presidents could act illegally if they believed their re-election was in the public interest.
Trump (pictured in Washington yesterday) was impeached and acquitted on charges of abusing his power to strong-arm Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden
‘The very notion of that was preposterous and foolish on its face, and that was the point: to falsely paint Professor Dershowitz as a constitutional scholar and intellectual who had lost his mind,’ the lawsuit says.
‘With that branding, Professor Dershowitz’s sound and meritorious arguments would then be drowned under a sea of repeated lies.’
In fact, Dershowitz had ‘unequivocally and unambiguously stated’ that a president could not act illegally, the lawsuit argues.
The legal filing says that Dershowitz was ‘openly mocked by most of the top national talk show hosts’ and by CNN viewers following coverage of his comments.
‘Due to the overwhelming vastness of its broadcasts, CNN caused substantial damage to Professor Dershowitz by irreparably harming his reputation,’ it says.
Dershowitz, 82, is demanding a trial by jury as he seeks $300million damages from the network.
Last year, Dershowitz filed a defamation claim against Jeffrey Epstein accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre after she claimed she was trafficked to prominent men including Dershowitz.
The attorney denied Giuffre’s claims and said her allegations had caused him severe emotional distress.
Dershowitz says he has travel records, credit card statements and phone records proving he was never in places where Giuffre claims to have had sex with him.
He filed a counter-claim for unspecified damages last November after Giuffre filed her own lawsuit against him in April 2019.
Dershowitz had previously represented Epstein against sex crime charges for which he served a 13-month sentence. Epstein died in his Manhattan jail cell last year.
Despite the outcry over Dershowitz’s comments in the impeachment trial, Trump was acquitted on the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice in early February.
Trump had insisted that there was no ‘quid pro quo’ when he urged Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son Hunter, who was once on the board of a Kiev-based energy firm.
Democrats accused Trump of using $391million in military aid and the offer of a White House visit to coax Ukraine’s president into agreeing to his demands.