Bribery? That’s Ridiculous

Bribery? Seriously, bribery? Why not cattle rustling or importing unauthorized produce from Canada? Can anyone name a single case in nearly 1,000 years of Anglo-American jurisprudence in which a public official was convicted of “bribery” under these circumstances?

I’ll accept any example of any official within the United States, the English Commonwealth, Great Britain, or even India. I challenge the get-Trump crowd to identify just one example since the birth of the English language after the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

It’s excruciating to watch allegedly intelligent people in the news media supply oxygen to this absurd charge against the president. We are asked to believe that because Trump inquired about possible bribery of former Vice President Joe Biden, he may be guilty of bribery? It makes perfect sense, but only if you’re in the late stages of Trump Derangement Syndrome.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff’s partisan, anti-democracy project is beginning to approach Michael Avenatti levels of absurdity and it is doing incalculable damage to the Democratic brand.

Last week, the California Democrat attempted to criminalize a tweet of the president’s in which Trump criticized former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. Intimidation, he said. They tried the same trick whenever Trump criticized the lawless Mueller investigation. Criticizing the politicized witch hunt is not “witness intimidation” any more than paying aid to the Ukrainian treasury is a bribe. Avenatti used a related “defamation” theory when he sued Trump for criticizing Stormy Daniels and we saw how that worked out. Whoops!

Only 13 million Americans in a nation of 331 million tuned into the hearings. In other words, roughly 95 percent of the public has tuned out this drama. Recall the list of legislative priorities the Democrats promised after the voters gave them power in the 2018 elections. At some point, voters will ask whether they did anything to advance these priorities. The Iowa caucus is just around the corner and the candidates can’t get their messages to Democratic primary voters because Schiff’s face dominates the news cycle.

As a person still attached to the quaint notion that the law is something written, I may be forgiven for boring the reader with the actual law on “bribery.” The federal bribery statute provides, “Whoever—directly or indirectly, corruptly . . . offers or promises any public official . . . to give anything of value to any other person or entity, with intent—to influence any official act . . . shall be fined under this title or not more than three times the monetary equivalent of the thing of value, whichever is greater, or imprisoned for not more than fifteen years, or both, and may be disqualified from holding any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.”

Did Trump offer to pay the president of Ukraine a “bribe?” No, that’s ridiculous. Nobody has ever suggested Trump offered to pay money directly to the president of Ukraine. Neither Trump nor the Ukrainian president is putting anything in his own pocket (unlike Hunter Biden).

The nonsense charge overlooks this key aspect of a “bribe” case. A bribe case would require that either President Trump or the President of Ukraine take money for personal benefit. At most, this is just a nation-to-nation exchange of aid for cooperation in a law enforcement investigation.

Maybe it’s bad politics because Biden’s elitist perks seem to entitle him to immunity from investigation—or so all the howls from other elitists in government would have us believe. But it’s not a “bribe.” Every penny of the Ukraine aid stays in the U.S. treasury until its deposited in the Ukraine treasury. No bribe.

It’s therefore no surprise that Trump’s accusers haven’t actually explained their “bribery” theory because they can’t. And they don’t need to. The media just bob their heads up and down as they senselessly repeat the “bribery” charge without having bothered to think it through.

“Bribery” requires taking money or something worth money and putting it into your pocket. Actually, the actions of the Bidens appear to be a much closer fit for the definition.

Based upon undisputed facts in wide circulation, the Biden/Ukraine scandal looks an awful lot like “bribery.” It looks like Burisma paid Hunter Biden for protection from prosecution. It looks like Burisma got its protection from Hunter’s dad. That’s more than enough information to justify opening an investigation into the Bidens. In a sane world, a president would be expected to demand cooperation from Ukraine to uphold and enforce U.S. law.

Nobody is above the law. Not even a vice president. Right?

The Democrats have spent so much time in their get-Trump echo chamber that it has corrupted their ability even to invent a persuasive case. Instead of showing how the alleged “bribe” ended up in the pocket of either President Trump or Ukraine’s President Zelensky, the impeachment hearing largely has focused on sinister-sounding “shadow” diplomacy and “irregular channels,” none of which involve bribery.

The hearings are boring because Adam Schiff uses his “questioning” of witnesses to give speeches. His questions are leading and convoluted. The House Democrats’ attorney asks witnesses with little first-hand personal knowledge to offer “opinions” about how “irregular” Trump’s actions were. And it’s all about hurt feelings.

Anything goes in this Schiff show but the tactics nevertheless undermine persuasiveness.

“I think that if you’re not moved . . . by the testimony of Marie Yovanovich today, you don’t have a pulse,” Fox News host Chris Wallace said of her performance. Wallace, like so many other “journalists,” uses his perch to keep viewers distracted from the utter irrelevance of the hurt feelings of bureaucrats. In the anti-Trump echo chamber, feelings are facts. That explains why the Democrats pursued drama and camera-worthy soundbites. In contrast, the Republicans used the last three witnesses to gather hard facts for their eventual minority report.

Why did Republicans pass on the opportunity to embarrass and discredit the three witnesses of the first two days of hearings? Rumors swirled of dirt on the three witnesses. But why legitimize a witness who is totally irrelevant and testimony that ought to inspire little more than contempt?

The Republicans were generally pleasant and complimentary of the witnesses even as they asked informed and penetrating questions. Seemingly harmless, almost goofy, Republican attorney Steve Castor obtained devastating admissions from Yovanovitch—that she only cared about election interference that harmed Clinton. Ukrainian-originated interference directed at her boss, Donald Trump, did not concern her at all. Often, the Republicans knew the facts better than Schiff’s witnesses.

Last week, Yovanovitch said of her position with Ukraine, “I advocated for the U.S. position that rule of law should prevail and Ukrainian law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges should stop wielding their power selectively as a political weapon against their adversaries and start dealing with all consistently and according to the law.” Wouldn’t it be nice if Democrats here in America used issues instead of trumped-up criminal charges to defeat their opponents? If only the diplomatic corps could return home to provide the same advice to their get-Trump allies here in America.

What is Schiff’s exit strategy? At one time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) worked at blocking impeachment, at least until the anti-Trump coalition had bipartisan support. But there is no hope of persuading any Trump supporters with these kangaroo proceedings. A long trial in the Senate would allow the Republicans to call witnesses to expose the Bidens’ corruption and Democratic dirty tricks in the 2016 election. And it would significantly hamper the Democratic primary process. So it’s hard to see that happening

Is Schiff hoping that the televised hearings will make Trump less electable? There’s no evidence that he’s changing anyone’s mind. Perhaps there’s some grand strategy not immediately apparent. Perhaps they’re hoping that a presiding Chief Justice John Roberts will follow Schiff’s absurd rule barring as “irrelevant” any evidence that helps the president? That seems doubtful.

As far as I can tell, there isn’t any strategy beyond catharsis for Democrats who are really angry about having lost in 2016.

About Adam Mill

Adam Mill is a pen name. He 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: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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