In this image from video, Alan Dershowitz, an attorney for...

In this image from video, Alan Dershowitz, an attorney for President Donald Trump, answers a question during the impeachment trial against Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Wednesday. Credit: AP

Forget about John Bolton for a minute. Put aside your political orientation, whatever it is, and lay down your partisan arms. Stop talking. And listen.

Listen to what's being said on the floor of the U.S. Senate about the power of the presidency and about our elections.

And if you do listen, really listen, and then think through the implications, there is only one conclusion you can draw: What the lawyers representing President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial have been saying is extremely troubling.

In responding to senators' questions, these attorneys have made arguments that fly in the face of the law and what our country has done for decades. And they are dangerously lowering the bar for what is acceptable presidential behavior.

Deputy White House Counsel Patrick Philbin said that a president who asks a foreign country to investigate a political opponent would not be breaking campaign finance laws that say it is illegal to accept or request anything of "value" from a foreign source. Obtaining and publicizing information about wrongdoing that is "credible," he said, is not campaign interference.

That's not what the law says, and it's not how candidates of many parties over many years have conducted campaigns. Nor should we want that changed.

Former Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz went one outrageous step further. Dershowitz, with virtually no allies among constitutional scholars, claimed that a president who believes his election is in the public interest and makes a nefarious deal, a "quid pro quo," to help himself get elected, cannot be impeached. Equating a politician's personal benefit with the public interest is a breathtaking and arrogant leap beyond both law and precedent.

When a president, any president, decides he doesn't like a law and violates it for his own self-interest and then is allowed to get away with that, we're on the road to dictatorship. Then the president is no longer the head of state but is the state itself, pretending what's good for the president is good for the nation.

The founders would be aghast.

If the nation wants to allow foreign governments to play a role in our elections — and to be clear, we should not — then current law must be changed. Indeed, Trump's impeachment saga and entire presidency have underscored the need to amend the Constitution to better define when a president can be charged with a crime, the enforcement of the emoluments clause, the burden of proof for impeachment and the role of the chief justice in those proceedings.

Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential campaign was a crime. Trump benefiting from that was wrong. How can we ensure the honesty and integrity of the next election when the president's attorneys say there is no problem here and the Senate fails to push back? There is a real risk that a vote not to impeach becomes a ratification of these dangerous ideas.

This is so elemental, so foundational, so core to our identity as a nation, that people of principle must stand up and say no.

— The editorial board