Stop Parroting the Quid Pro Quo Talking Point

Rather than a rooster to greet the morning sun, one can easily imagine that somewhere within the confines of the Beltway there is a domesticated parrot greeting the daily appearance of that burning star with a robust squawk of, “No quid pro quo!

The phrase—like the outmoded “collusion” or “constitutional crisis”—has become the new soothing mantra of the ruling class, uttered without the slightest comprehension of its true meaning or import, apart from the belief that repeating it is somehow damaging to President Trump. 

To understand why the phrase so quickly spills forth from the lips of the permanent political class in D.C., one has to understand that elected officials (and the minions who serve or imagine they are influencing them) are always on the hustle for money from people who want something from them. 

Listen to this phone message left by a congresswoman on a lobbyist’s voicemail. “I was frankly surprised to see that we don’t have a record, so far as I can tell, of your having given to me despite my long and deep work,” she says. In fact, it’s been my major work on the committee and subcommittee it’s been essentially in your sector. I am, I’m simply candidly calling to ask for a contribution.” 

While it might sound like the congresswoman is asking for a bribe, she’s not. Because, “BAWK, no quid pro quo!” She’s asking for a payoff for work that she’s already accomplished and not offering to trade money for any future official action. 

The Latin phrase simply means an exchange of something for something. That phrase defines the very thin line that exists between a bribe and a campaign contribution, so it easily flies to the lips of those working in an industry turning power into cash.

The farce posing as the Ukraine theory of impeachment provides that Donald Trump engaged in a corrupt quid pro quo by holding up military aid in order to gain opposition research against his political opponent. In the minds of his accusers, opposition research should be a commodity you buy. Clinton, for example, paid good money for the Fusion GPS dossier that falsely accused candidate Trump of being a Russian asset colluding to subvert the 2016 presidential election. True or not, the dossier was expensive and just as valuable as folding cash in the hands of a campaign official buying television spots for negative political ads.

The holy grail for the Democrats seeking a permanent majority is a system of election law that criminalizes anything that might have the effect of helping a Republican win. In reaching this goal, the Democrats, on several fronts, have attempted to characterize the mere sharing of information as a political expenditure. Thus, even a factual bit of dirt uncovered in the ordinary operation of government, if it goes against Joe Biden, can be regulated as a “campaign contribution” that must be reported and can never come from a foreign source.

If that argument succeeds in gaining ground, the implications would be staggering. Anytime a third party passes on a piece of gossip or dirt to a campaign, bureaucrats could fire up a prosecution against both the campaign and the gossiper on the grounds that the “information” is a thing of value. Mind you, this interpretation will only be used against Republicans, as the Democrats appear totally immune to criticism on the same principle.

Fortunately, information merely passed along is not considered “a thing of value” for purposes of election law. The Washington Post published a thoughtful analysis explaining why. So let’s return to the question, is there anything wrong with the president of the United States asking the president of Ukraine to cooperate in an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden and/or the origins of the Russian collusion hoax?

The answer to that question lies in another question: Is it a matter of legitimate public interest whether Vice President Joe Biden sought the firing of the Ukrainian prosecutor in order to benefit the company for which his son worked? Did Biden engage in a “quid pro quo,” i.e., protecting Burisma in exchange for his son’s outsized salary for board membership? That seems like a question of vital public interest. And the interest of the public in that question shouldn’t change depending on the political allegiance of the people involved.

Does the fact that Biden is also a potential political opponent of Donald Trump confer some kind of immunity from scrutiny? It certainly didn’t when the Obama Administration used the same January 2016 meeting to pressure Ukraine to end an investigation into the Bidens and launch an investigation into Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

Also, as noted by John Solomon, Ukraine produced a forged ledger that falsified evidence of corrupt actions by Manafort. The story of the ledger was then leaked and reported by the press in a successful effort to embarrass candidate Trump and drive a wedge between him and Manafort. The forgery thus had a tangible impact on the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Ultimately, the ledger was so obviously faked that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team discarded it during Manafort’s trial. 

Attorney General Bill Barr has launched an investigation into the Russia collusion hoax and the phony Manfort ledger is a relevant topic. Barr did not approach Ukraine directly but instead, per protocol, requested an introduction and sponsorship by the president of the United States to all foreign leaders from whom Barr might want help. The phone call between Trump and the president of Ukraine was simply that—a heads-up to the Ukrainian president of the investigation and a request to cooperate.

The true purpose of the impeachment inquiry is to protect the business model of turning power and influence into cash. If the Bidens go down, who knows who might be next? The Democrats are attempting to use the “thing of value” theory of election law to stymie a legitimate inquiry into political corruption. Because asking questions might hurt Biden’s chances in the 2020 election, Trump can’t ask them. Or so the argument goes. 

Republicans wringing their hands over a “quid pro quo,” are buying a false premise: That the Biden-Ukraine shenanigans do not involve legitimate concerns over the corruption of real American interests. We can’t have our leaders using their official diplomatic positions to enrich their families because it distorts and weakens America’s foreign policy. 

Alternatively, if the military aid was withheld to ensure cooperation with the investigation into Ukraine’s role in the Russia collusion hoax, this, too, is a legitimate line of inquiry. If that inquiry is legitimate, leveraging the aid to ensure cooperation is also legitimate. 

Washington is squealing because the Biden-Ukraine model has been used so often to make the families of “public servants” into millionaires. It is “the way things are done.” But those squeals should be ignored. America deserves an accounting of what happened.

About Adam Mill

Adam Mill is a pen name. He is an adjunct fellow of the Center for American Greatness and works in Kansas City, Missouri as an attorney specializing in labor and employment and public administration law. He graduated from the University of Kansas and has been admitted to practice in Kansas and Missouri. Mill has contributed to The Federalist, American Greatness, and The Daily Caller.

Photo: iStock/Getty Images

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