Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., now calls President Donald Trump’s actions with Ukraine bribery instead of “quid pro quo.”
“Quid pro quo” is the Latin phrase that indicates an exchange of an item or service, or in this case, military aid to Ukraine, for something in return. Democrats allege President Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine in exchange for an investigation (or the announcement of an investigation) into former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden, and Bursima Holdings, the Ukrainian company where Hunter Biden was a board member.
“Bribery” is an offense directly tied to the impeachment clause in the U.S. Constitution. Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution reads, “The President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
U.S. Code § 201.2 is the relevant section that, I assume, Pelosi has in mind. Democrats can’t reasonably suggest that President Donald Trump was doing the bribing since the military aid was passed by Congress and the Ukrainian President wouldn’t meet the definition of “public official” in federal law. Instead, I suspect, they will allege that Trump was the person being bribed.
The section reads:
(2)being a public official or person selected to be a public official, directly or indirectly, corruptly demands, seeks, receives, accepts, or agrees to receive or accept anything of value personally or for any other person or entity, in return for:
(A)being influenced in the performance of any official act;
(B)being influenced to commit or aid in committing, or to collude in, or allow, any fraud, or make opportunity for the commission of any fraud, on the United States; or
(C)being induced to do or omit to do any act in violation of the official duty of such official or person;
To note, the law does not demand that the recipient of a bribe has to actually receive “anything of value personally,” but to just to demand it, seek it, or agree to receive or accept that item. In this case, Democrats will allege, it is the investigation or the promise of an investigation in order to receive the military aid (being influenced in the performance of any official act).
What’s interesting is how Democrats decided to drop “quid pro quo” in favor of “bribery.” It’s not a direct appeal to the law, but to what they learned from a focus group.
I kid you not. The Washington Post reported:
Several Democrats have stopped using the term “quid pro quo,” instead describing “bribery” as a more direct summation of Trump’s alleged conduct.
The shift came after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee conducted focus groups in key House battlegrounds in recent weeks, testing messages related to impeachment. Among the questions put to participants was whether “quid pro quo,” “extortion” or “bribery” was a more compelling description of Trump’s conduct. According to two people familiar with the results, which circulated among Democrats this week, the focus groups found “bribery” to be most damning. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because the results have not been made public.
This just serves as another reminder that impeachment is a political process.