Democrats are making a concerted effort to move away from the Latin phrase ‘quid pro quo’ that so dominated the news cycle for several weeks of closed-door impeachment testimony. At her weekly press conference Thursday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters the first public hearings on Wednesday had “corroborated evidence of bribery.” Asked what the bribe was, Pelosi explained, “The bribe is to grant or withhold military assistance in return for a public statement of a fake investigation into the elections. That’s bribery.”
Sure sounds like bribery, which, as luck would have it, is also one of just three offenses listed in Article II the Constitution warranting impeachment and removal from office. “Treason” and “high crimes and misdemeanors” are the other two. But bribery is a graspable concept. As a society, we tend to think of bribes as inherently corrupt behavior—which jibes perfectly with Trump’s entire tenure, not to mention life.
House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff also previewed the opening of the impeachment hearings by telling NPR that Trump may have committed bribery.
“Bribery, first of all, as the founders understood bribery, it was not as we understand it in law today. It was much broader,” Schiff said. “It connoted the breach of the public trust in a way where you’re offering official acts for some personal or political reason, not in the nation’s interest.”
Schiff added that Democrats would have to prove Trump “solicited a thing of value,” which he believes multiple witnesses have attested to in private testimony.
Witnesses aside, Trump himself clearly viewed the investigations of the Bidens as valuable—valuable enough to urge the Ukrainian president to open Biden investigations no less than eight times during their July 25 phone call. He also found them valuable enough to field a phone call the next day from Ambassador Gordon Sondland and inquire directly about “the investigations.” After hanging up from the call, Sondland allegedly told two U.S. embassy staffers that Trump was far more invested in those investigations than he was in anything related to Ukraine.