Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense: The Courtroom Battle to Save His Legacy

Dan Abrams (Author) David Fisher (Author)



2020 Audie Finalist--History/Biography

A Mental Floss Book to Read in Summer 2019

"Gripping.... Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense is a must-read." --NPR

A President on Trial. A Reputation at Stake.

ABC News legal correspondent and host of LIVE PD Dan Abrams reveals the story of Teddy Roosevelt's last stand--an epic courtroom battle against corruption--in this thrilling follow-up to the New York Times bestseller Lincoln's Last Trial.

"No more dramatic courtroom scene has ever been enacted," reported the Syracuse Herald on May 22, 1915 as it covered "the greatest libel suit in history," a battle fought between former President Theodore Roosevelt and the leader of the Republican party.

Roosevelt, the boisterous and mostly beloved legendary American hero, had accused his former friend and ally, now turned rival, William Barnes of political corruption. The furious Barnes responded by suing Roosevelt for an enormous sum that could have financially devastated him. The spectacle of Roosevelt defending himself in a lawsuit captured the imagination of the nation, and more than fifty newspapers sent reporters to cover the trial. Accounts from inside and outside the courtroom combined with excerpts from the trial transcript give us Roosevelt in his own words and serve as the heart of Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense.

This was Roosevelt's final fight to defend his political legacy, and perhaps regain his fading stature. He spent more than a week on the witness stand, revealing hidden secrets of the American political system, and then endured a merciless cross-examination. Witnesses including a young Franklin D. Roosevelt and a host of well-known political leaders were questioned by two of the most brilliant attorneys in the country.

Following the case through court transcripts, news reports, and other primary sources, Dan Abrams and David Fisher present a high-definition picture of the American legal system in a nation standing on the precipice of the Great War, with its former president fighting for the ideals he held dear.

Product Details

$27.99  $25.75
Hanover Square Press
Publish Date
May 21, 2019
6.3 X 9.3 X 1.3 inches | 1.2 pounds

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About the Author

Dan Abrams is the CEO and founder of Abrams Media and chief legal affairs anchor for ABC News. He is also the host of both 60 Days In and Live PD on A&E. A graduate of Columbia University Law School, he is the author of the Washington Post bestseller Man Down and has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and the Yale Law and Policy Review, among many others. He lives in New York.

David Fisher is the author of more than twenty New York Times bestsellers and coauthor of Bill O'Reilly's Legends and Lies series. His work has also appeared in most major magazines and many newspapers. He lives in New York with his wife and two sons.


Praise for Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense

"This beautifully-wrought story of Theodore Roosevelt's defense of his claims of corruption in New York State politics has intense echoes today. Abrams and Fisher do a superb job of clearly presenting the issues in this remarkable and intensely dramatic trial." --SCOTT TUROW

"Growing up on Long Island just miles from Teddy Roosevelt's historic home I thought I knew just about everything about our 26th President. I was wrong. Using Roosevelt's eight days of testimony, Dan Abrams and David Fisher present a fascinating window onto the former President Roosevelt that is fresh and often surprising. This trial and Roosevelt's defense of his reputation on the stand, often under fierce questioning, is truly mesmerizing." --BRIAN KILMEADE

"Maintaining suspense about the jury's verdict, Abrams and Fisher deliver a fine and timely legal drama." --Booklist

"Many of the questions the trial raised about the effects of money in politics, the dangers of blind allegiance to party politics, and oversize corporate political influence will resonate with contemporary readers. Legal eagles and history buffs will enjoy this one." --Publishers Weekly

"A feisty Roosevelt takes center stage." --Kirkus Reviews

"Dan Abrams and David Fisher have penned a thrilling account of a nationally important trial that had profound consequences for both parties, one of whom happened to be Teddy Roosevelt. Abrams and Fisher have sifted through the archives to give us a courtroom seat to witness T.R. at his "bully" best in this high stakes, high drama, high profile, yet so far relatively unknown, trial from our nation's history." --GREGG TRIPOLI, Executive Director, Onondaga Historical Association

"Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense reads like a blow-by-blow radio account of a prizefight between two heavyweights, although the arena is a courtroom, not a boxing ring." --New York Journal of Books

"Dan Abrams and David Fisher prove that the story of a libel case can indeed make for gripping reading.... Abrams and Fisher are gifted writers, and their prose is neither overly spare nor showy; they're clearly fascinated by the trial, and their enthusiasm for their subject matter shows. Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense is a must-read for anyone with a deep interest in the 26th president, or in First Amendment law, but any reader with an affection for American history will find something to admire in this book." --NPR

"Meticulously chronicles what happened during the four-week trial, at which over 100 witnesses, including the governor of New York and many members of the state Legislature, were called to testify. The reader gets to know the lawyers, the judge, the jurors, the witnesses, the arguments and the rulings--and above all, the indomitable TR.... All are brought vividly to life by Abrams and Fisher." --Law360


"Dan Abrams and David Fisher write the heart-pounding pulse of history. Abraham Lincoln: the dusty shoes, the weary eyes, the Jedi mastery of a jury in a true case of life and death. So pull up a chair. This book not only brings a rare transcript to life, it makes you feel as if you are watching a live camera riveted on a courtroom more than 150 years ago."--Diane Sawyer

"You didn't know that Abraham Lincoln was the defense lawyer in a notorious murder case on the eve of his presidency? Neither did I. But Dan Abrams and David Fisher tell the remarkable tale in Lincoln's Last Trial, and the story is both compelling on its own terms and a lesson about some eternal truths about criminal justice."--Jeffrey Toobin, author ofAmerican Heiress

"We all know the story of Abraham Lincoln the wartime president, the defender of the Union, and the emancipator of the slaves. But Abraham Lincoln, the defense lawyer? Dan Abrams and David Fisher recount the engaging story of Lincoln's last trial, occurring on the cusp of the Civil War. An entertaining book filled with twists and turns and tailor-made for Civil War buffs."--Jay Winik, author ofApril 1865and1944

"Lincoln's wartime leadership overshadows his life as a lawyer. But you can't understand one without the other. In this rich and previously unexplored corner of history, the authors take you inside the courtroom to watch Abraham Lincoln - at the height of his powers as a lawyer and on the edge of eternal fame - as he tries a thrilling murder trial to a jury."--Chris DeRose, New York Timesbestselling author ofThe Presidents' War, Congressman Lincoln, andFounding Rivals

"Abraham Lincoln was involved in thousands of cases in his distinguished legal career, few more intriguing than the 1859 murder trial of 'Peachy' Quinn Harrison... Abrams and Fisher adeptly place the Harrison trial within the context of Lincoln's legal career and his well-known skills before a jury. " -Kirkus Reviews

"The authors give readers a moment-by-moment account of the murder trial, which featured a well-liked young victim, a claim of self-defense, [and] a deathbed admission... Lincoln enthusiasts will find the illumination of his preternatural legal skills a worthy subject; casual readers will find the centerpiece murder trial an engrossing legal thriller."--Publishers Weekly

"Legal affairs journalist Abrams and coauthor Fisher illuminate a key marker on Abraham Lincoln's path to the White House... The transcripts reveal Lincoln at his best, fighting for a cause he believed in with brilliance and passion--qualities that would serve him so well as president."--Booklist

"Abrams and Fisher quote generously from Hitt's transcript to bring into sharp focus the witness-by-witness testimony and courtroom proceedings."--Library Journal

"Dan Abrams tells the story of Lincoln's last trial as an immersive true crime and courtroom drama experience, with impeccable research and highly entertaining digressions on such topics as 19th century jury selection."--Crimereads

"[The case] cemented Lincoln's image as a courtroom star--and Abrams and Fisher have made the most of their material, polishing a musty transcript into an entertaining slice of life."--USA Today

"His last great legal case." --New York Post

"Many aspects of the Harrison trial made it spellbinding and important. ... [Lincoln's Last Trial] adds a new layer of understanding about how Lincoln's mind worked as a consummate trial lawyer, and how that mind provided the platform for his political prowess." --Washington Independent Review of Books

"A vivid portrait of Lincoln, other attorneys, what happened in the tragic case and the era. ... Lincoln's Last Trial may represent his last major case as an attorney but hopefully it is just the beginning of a series of history books from Abrams and Fisher." --Valdosta Daily Times