The Focus Group Impeachment Farce

Bribery . . . the latest baseless charge.

The Democrats are engaging in focus group impeachment proceedings. Led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, they are now accusing President Trump of “bribery,” an impeachable offense specifically identified as such in Article III, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution.

“The devastating testimony corroborated evidence of bribery uncovered in the inquiry, and that the president abused his power and violated his oath by threatening to withhold military aid and a White House meeting in exchange for an investigation into his political rival — a clear attempt by the president to give himself an advantage in the 2020 election,” Speaker Pelosi told reporters. The Democrats’ switch from using the more esoteric Latin term “quid pro quo” came after they learned from focus groups organized by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in key battleground states that the charge of bribery resonated more with “ordinary” Americans. Democrat House Intelligence Committee member Jim Himes explained that “it’s probably best not to use Latin words.” Too confusing for folks living in the heartland, the Democrat elitists believe.

Looking to focus groups to validate the Democrats’ “bribery” charge against the president shows how desperate they are in trying to move vast numbers of undecided voters in their direction. They are counting on the public testimony of witnesses and shouting “bribery” over and over again from the rooftops to make their case. But, as the New York Times reported, “after hours of testimony, thousands of news reports and days of streaming headlines, one thing was clear: A lot of Americans weren’t listening.” And for those who are listening, they are deluged with competing narratives. The Democrats are contaminating public discourse by continuously leveling super-charged, unsubstantiated accusations against President Trump that now include bribery. Then they bristle when he fights back.

Bribery of or by public officials is a criminal offense, which with respect to U.S. public officials has been codified in a federal statute (18 U.S.C. § 201). A relevant portion of this statute states that whoever “otherwise than as provided by law for the proper discharge of official duty…directly or indirectly demands, seeks, receives, accepts, or agrees to receive or accept anything of value personally for or because of any official act performed or to be performed by such official or person” shall be guilty of the crime of bribery.

Democrats will most likely latch on to certain isolated words in the federal bribery statute to make their case that President Trump sought directly and indirectly through his agents, such as Mayor Giuliani, to receive a publicly announced commitment from Ukraine’s president to investigate the Bidens for President Trump’s own personal political benefit. In exchange, according to the Democrats’ fantasy bribery charge, President Trump would agree to perform his official act of releasing the security assistance appropriated by Congress that he had ordered suspended. At a very superficial level, where most of the House Democrats spend much of their time, it looks like a “gotcha.” But sorry to disappoint. Both President Trump and the man President Trump was supposedly bribing, Ukrainian President Zelensky, agree that there was no linkage in any way between President Zelensky’s making a public commitment to open the investigations that President Trump was requesting and President Trump’s authorization to release the security assistance. And the assistance was released without any prior public announcement by President Zelensky regarding the investigations. That’s just the start of the Democrats’ problems. There are at least three other glaring holes in the Democrats’ case.

First, there is nothing President Trump was seeking of personal “value” as defined in federal law, which refers to an amount of money or property in terms of face, par, market value or cost. There is nothing in the definition of “value” about political favors which cannot be quantified in any event. (U.S.C. Section 641)

Second, in order for there to be a bribery case the person allegedly being bribed would have to know that something he wanted that was the alleged subject of the bribe was in play. The evidence is clear-cut that neither President Zelensky or any other Ukrainian leaders were aware that the security assistance was on hold until well after the July 25th call between President Trump and President Zelensky.

Third, and most importantly, President Trump was properly exercising his official duties in asking the Ukrainians to open or re-open investigations into specific cases of apparent Ukrainian corruption that affected the United States. One investigation would look into alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The other investigation would look into a Ukrainian energy business, Burisma, that is widely acknowledged to have been a pervasively corrupt company during the same time that a former U.S. vice president’s son was working there and being paid handsomely for a job for which he was not qualified. It’s all well and good to take an interest in rooting out corruption in Ukraine generally. However, when there are allegations of corruption directly affecting the United States or its citizens, they deserve top priority by the president of the United States.

The Democrats are running down a rabbit hole trying to prove that President Trump acted with corrupt intent of his own. It is a futile exercise. On its face, all that President Trump was doing is what a U.S. president sworn to faithfully execute the laws is expected to do. He was enlisting the assistance of a foreign government with which the United States has a Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters to get to the bottom of corruption in its own country directly affecting the United States and its citizens. Whether President Trump may or may not incidentally benefit politically from the investigations is beside the point. There is no evidence that President Trump was involved in any bribe, quid pro quo or whatever term of the day the Democrats want to use based on the results from their latest focus groups.