Democrats are still determined as ever to impeach President Donald Trump over his July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president.
But their first public impeachment hearing on Wednesday was a total snooze-fest, and their witnesses didn’t provide any information that was harmful to the president.
In an obviously desperate move to keep their impeachment pipe dreams alive, Democrats are trying to push a new charge against Trump.
In a detailed piece from Andrew McCarthy, a former chief assistant US attorney, he explains how Democrats are trying to claim Trump is guilty of committing bribery.
Democrats claim that Trump tried to bribe the Ukrainian president during their phone call by saying he will only release U.S. military aid to them if they agreed to open an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden’s shady business deals in the country.
McCarthy notes that Democrats have already failed on their “quid pro quo” allegations, so now they claim the president should be impeached for trying to bribe the Ukrainian president.
By contrast, bribery is cleaner as a proof proposition. It is a federal felony with settled, well-understood offense elements. And proving guilt doesn’t require showing an actual, completed bribe. What’s necessary is to establish that, with corrupt intent, a public official demanded “anything of value” in exchange for performing an official act.
That is the Democrats’ theory.
They want to frame the focus of the negotiations narrowly: The official acts by the president sought by Ukraine were the delivery of nearly $400 million in defense aid and a White House visit for the newly elected Zelensky; the thing of value demanded by the president was a Ukrainian investigation of Hunter Biden, son of Joe Biden, whom Trump feared as his most likely 2020 Democratic opponent.
However, McCarthy says Republicans have plenty of ammunition to fight the bribery theory.
Most significantly, all negotiations between sovereign nations involve mutual exchange — that is not corruption or bribery; it is foreign relations. And this negotiation, like most, was more complex than Democrats portray it to be. In the conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart, Trump made two different requests. They were not demands in the context of the Trump-Zelensky conversation. They were framed as requests.
As Republicans repeatedly stressed, Zelensky never felt threatened, although it is fair to say there is evidence that the president’s subordinates signaled to Ukrainians that the official acts they sought were conditioned on their reciprocity.
Yet to establish a bribe, corrupt intent must be proved. While it would obviously have been preferable if Trump hadn’t singled out the Bidens, it is nevertheless permissible for presidents to encourage countries receiving American aid to investigate and root out corruption. Indeed, the legislation authorizing aid for Ukraine actually directs the executive branch to certify that Ukraine is making such efforts.
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