Yesterday, the House Intelligence Committee released its report into Donald Trump's shenanigans in Ukraine. Senator Richard Blumenthal -- a former federal prosecutor -- writes that Trump was bribing the Ukraine. And bribery is an impeachable offence:
President Trump solicited a bribe. And the Constitution makes clear that a president who engages in bribery “shall be removed from office.” In fact, along with treason, it is one of only two crimes specifically mentioned as conduct that would necessitate impeachment and removal.
Before I joined the Senate, I spent decades in law enforcement deciding when bad conduct rises to the level of illegality. Any good lawyer starts with the legal text, and when the Constitution was drafted, bribery was defined broadly as any “undue reward” for a public action. As illustrated during the House impeachment inquiry, which moves to the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, a political investigation ginned up to reward Trump for providing needed military aid would certainly fit the bill.
But even under the narrower definition of bribery currently in the criminal code, Trump’s actions clearly qualify. Federal law defines bribery as the solicitation of “anything of value personally” by a public official “in return for” an official act. It also specifies that a bribe can be a reward for an act the public official would have done anyway. In short, merely soliciting a bribe is bribery.
The entire Republican Party -- in the House and Senate -- offers two defences of Trump:
First, they argue that Trump can’t be guilty of bribery because Ukraine never conducted the investigations he demanded and because the country still received military aid. Of course, the money was released only after a government whistleblower exposed the president’s plans. As a law enforcement official, I prosecuted criminals whose illegal schemes failed because they were caught red-handed. None had the gall to say they were innocent because their crimes did not achieve their goals. Ineffective criminals are still criminals.
The bribery statute makes clear: Soliciting a bribe is illegal even if the bribe is never paid.
Second, Trump’s defenders argue that no one has testified they directly heard Trump order anybody to demand a bribe. Apparently, they want us to believe that Giuliani — a private citizen — ran a shadow foreign policy to secure political benefits for Trump without Trump’s knowledge or support. The fact that Trump specifically told foreign leaders to contact Giuliani is simply an unfortunate coincidence.
That no witness heard Trump utter the words “please solicit a bribe from Ukraine” should not be shocking. Anybody who has watched a mob movie knows criminals don’t spell out their illegal plans to every subordinate. More importantly, individuals who might have heard Trump say those words may have unlawfully refused to testify, at Trump’s request. When a defendant improperly withholds evidence, courts instruct juries to assume that the evidence would not help the defendant. Americans should make the same assumption here.
But simply, Trump solicited a bribe -- an impeachable offence -- and he was caught red handed. Any other criminal would be sent to jail. But, because he's the president, Trump will probably get off.
Is this "Truth, Justice And The American Way?"
Image: Hartford Courant