November 16, 2019

"The reason bribery is now the Democratic impeachment word of choice has less to do with the law than with politics."

"The Washington Post reports that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently conducted focus groups in key House battleground districts to test 'messages related to impeachment.' Voters were asked whether 'quid pro quo,' 'extortion' or 'bribery' were more compelling.'The focus groups found "bribery" to be most damning,' according to the Post. Democrats got the message because last weekend they began using 'bribery' almost in unison to describe Mr. Trump's conduct. Mr. Schiff's NPR riff is an attempt to make the noncrime fit the political spin."

From "Adam Schiff, Founding Father," a Wall Street Journal editorial.

If the focus group found "bribery" the strongest word, I suspect it was because the definition they had in their head was a narrow one, in which some private citizen hands the accused politician X amount of dollars in exchange for a specific act of government power. If you change the definition of the word so that the accused politician is the one paying the money — and the money is the government's money — and the recipient is another government — which is supposed to do something with its governmental power — then you're not talking about the same thing the people were thinking about when they were asked about the word.

People may continue to think bribery is terrible, but the central question becomes is this bribery? The risk is, once you've said it's a question of bribery, you're focusing us on the definition of bribery, and when it looks like you're trying to stretch the definition so it fits whatever it is Trump did, it seems dishonest. I mean, look at Schiff, selling his expansive definition of "bribery":
"Well, bribery, first of all, as the Founders understood bribery, it was not as we understand it in law today. It was much broader. 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...."
Seen in that light, is there anything politicians do that is not bribery?

ADDED: Trump does a similar thing with the word "treason."

33 comments:

wendybar said...

They have NOTHING. Changing the word will only make sure that Joe Biden gets the same treatment since HIS EXTORTION AND BRIBERY of Ukraine to stop a prosecutor looking into his son's corruption.

Mr. Majestyk said...

Bribery? That's so yesterday! The High Crimne & Misdemeanor du jour is witness intimidiation via tweet. As the witness is testifying. Presumably not checking the President's twitter feed and thus entiely unaware of the tweet. Until Adam Shiff helpfully tells the witness about the tweet. Or something.

Fernandinande said...

Bribery? "Why not mass murder?" he wrote.

tim maguire said...

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master—that's all."

Lucien said...

President Obama moderated his actions against Russia based on campaign meddling in 2016 because he expected Clinton to win, and didn’t want Trump to claim the election had been rigged. So therefore he risked our national security in the service of his personal political ends, or those of his party. President Kennedy moderated his actions regarding Vietnam because he didn’t want Republicans to brand him as soft on communism in the ‘64 election. So his personal political goals trumped national security.

The truth is that every President becomes sincerely convinced that the very best thing for the country is for him (or his party) to remain in power, and shapes foreign and domestic policy with an eye to attaining that end.

Krumhorn said...

I did not have sexual relations with that woman. I guess it depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is.

- Krumhorn

Wince said...

"Trump does a similar thing with the word 'treason'."

Treason: the crime of betraying one's country, especially by attempting to kill the sovereign or overthrow the government.

Not sure I follow the comparison with Schiff's convoluted use of word "bribery".

Anonymous said...

People may continue to think bribery is terrible, but the central question becomes is this bribery? The risk is, once you've said it's a question of bribery, you're focusing us on the definition of bribery, and when it looks like you're trying to stretch the definition so it fits whatever it is Trump did, it seems dishonest.

I don't think that's an accurate description of what people are thinking, or what the "risk" is here. People who are not idiots already know that they're watching a farce, and therefore aren't carefully analyzing and weighing the horseshit coming out of the actors' mouths as if it were a rational argument about which they need to make an informed decision.

The "risk" the Democrats appear to have weighed here is to what extent the non-idiot/idiot* ratio works for or against them electorally. They're behaving as if they've bet on it working in their favor. We'll find out if their risk-analysis is correct soon enough.


*The denominator here includes otherwise non-idiots whose cognitive function has been impaired by TDS.

Can Of Cheese for Hunter said...

Schitt must be removed from office - then prosecuted for his lies. 50 years.

Can Of Cheese for Hunter said...

Schitt is a Russian asset. Certainly a Soviet one.

Can Of Cheese for Hunter said...

Biden is on video - captured - BRIBING Ukrainian officials,. The media exonerated him. The corrupt media.

Matt Sablan said...

Was the Marshal Plan bribery? What about the Lend-Lease Act?

Matt Sablan said...

Ugh. Two ls in Marshall Plan.

JML said...

“Four legs good, two legs bad.”

But later in the story:

“Four legs good, two legs better.”

tommyesq said...

... 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...."

So by this (Schiff's own) definition, the act must be both (1) for some personal or political reason, and (2) not in the nation's interest. Seems like, at least in so far as the Ukraine call is concerned, game over - it is clearly in the national interest to investigate fraud, bribery and election tampering, so it doesn't matter if it would also have benefited Trump personally.

stonethrower said...

Trump is his own focus group.

Char Char Binks, Esq. said...

It’s against the law to act as president.

Bob Boyd said...

some private citizen hands the accused politician X amount of dollars in exchange for a specific act of government power.

Like when Burisma paid the Bidens?

Bruce Hayden said...

Of course, it isn’t legally bribery under the law. The primary federal bribery statute is 18 USC § 201 (Bribery of public officials and witnesses). By its title, it is supposed to be used against people who try to bribe public officials. But never fear. Lawfare has been at their normal job of twisting statutes. There are three sections to the statute. The first section (a) has the definitions. The first definition (1) is for “public official”. The second section (b) covers quid pro quo exchanges with public officials. The third section (c) covers rewarding public officials with favors for official actions. The difference is that (b) involves an offer of something of value first, official action second, while (c) involves the opposite, official favor first, something of value second.

There are two important limitations here in §201(b) (quid pro quo). One is that the recipient be the benefit, directly or indirectly, be a public official. Fine, Trump supposedly offered the president of the Ukraine something of value (not really, of course, but that is the pretense). And that was that he would hold up some foreign aid if the Ukrainians didn’t investigate Burisma, and thus, the Bidens. And, of course, that supposedly would help Trump’s re-election, because Biden was running against him (it isn’t Burisma that is mostly hurting Biden, but rather his age and his mental facilities). But key here is that neither Trump nor the Ukrainian President are public officials under this statute. Trump isn’t because he is President, and doesn't fall into any of the categories in §201(a)(1). He isn't a member of Congress, nor is he an “officer” of our government, nor does he fall into any of the other categories. And the President of the Ukraine isn’t a Public Official, because he doesn’t represent the US government, but rather represents the Ukrainian government.

Then there is the usual Lawfare problem with intent. The second section (§201(b)) requires in each subsection that the action constituting bribery be done “corruptly”. The mens rea requirement then is specific intent. The third section (§201(c)) has a general intent mens rea, but doesn’t involve quid pro quo deals, but rather rewarding a public official for official acts. This is similar, but maybe even more egregious, than the Lawfare interpretation used by the Mueller prosecutors who converted the statutory specific intent mens rea into general intent, to much the same effect, except here, “corruptly” is specifically listed as an element of every subsection of §201(b). It isn’t sufficient to argue that personal benefit is sufficient, because if there is an apparent legitimate reason for the action, then absent mind reading, or some expression of corrupt intent, it is impossible to prove that the act was committed for a corrupt reason, instead of a legitimate one, beyond the required level of beyond a reasonable doubt. Short rephrasing of that - you can’t impute corrupt intent when there is legitimate intent shown, just because there was, arguably, personal benefit.

Also, it is extremely arguable whether or not hurting the electoral chances of a potential opponent in an upcoming election would constitute something of value. Biden seems to be self destructing quite well on his own.

Finally, there could not be an offer or promise of something of value if neither party realized that a quid pro quo bargain was being proposed, or that the official act had been offered or accepted. Contracts 101 - meeting of the minds. There was none, in regards to the supposed trade for US aid in exchange for investigation into Burisma (and thus the Bidens).

But never mind. According to Lawfare, our founders in 1787 or so didn’t mean the crime of Bribery found in our criminal laws, but the common law definition that was statutorily abrogated almost 200 years ago.

Bay Area Guy said...

"Bribery" is certainly better than "Emoluments!" or "Quid Pro Quo"

Democrat voters know what bribery is - you bribe somebody. That's easy. But they certainly don't know what "Emoluments!" are. And they never took Latin, so "quid pro quo" is fuzzy too.

Live by the focus group, die by the focus group.

M said...

When I saw them shifting to the term bribery I knew it was because a large part of their base didn’t understand the term quid pro quo and were too lazy to look it up. Anything that makes them feel dumb or requires unsatisfying effort on their part they just ignore. Therefore they were ignoring the impeachment show trials.

Changing the terms is a way to sell the impeachment to the low info Dems in the most blatant, lowest denominator advertising exec way. This is the Don Draper in action for the DNC.

stevew said...

So those authors that penned the letter to the NYT a week or so ago got their way. Out, Quid Pro Quo; In, Bribery.

Bruce Hayden said...

An unneeded thought experiment here. Given the definition of Bribery being foist upon us by the Dems, why wouldn’t Crooked Hillary have violated the Bribery statute (as well as the Extortion statute) hundreds of times whole Secretary of State? It is well known that she ran a pay to play scheme over at Foggy Bottom. And was so venal that she would require sizable contributions to her family foundation/slush fund or husband’s speaking fees before meeting with supplicants from around the world. Moreover, really big foreign policy changes would require even more significant contributions.

Francisco D said...

The High Crimne & Misdemeanor du jour is witness intimidiation via tweet.

Obama left the Libyan ambassador to die, but that's OK.

Trump said negative things about the former Ukraine ambassador, he must be impeached.

mccullough said...

Bribery is what Biden did. And Obama. And Kerry. And McConnell.

Bilwick said...

"Liberal" Democrats, the biggest and stupidest hypocrites on the planet, are past masters of the crassest form of bribery: "Vote for me, Peter, and I'll rip off Paul and split the loot with you." It's how elections became, in the words of Mencken, "an auction of stolen goods held before the fact."

Mark said...

I've said it before -- a charge of bribery opens up any Senate action to a demurrer, a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.

bgates said...

Bribery is when a Republican president mentions to a foreign government official that he's concerned about corruption.

Diplomacy is when a Democratic president sends an airliner full of cash to a foreign government as a secret part of a deal with them.

mockturtle said...

Bgates @ 1:54, yes, that's it in a nutshell.

narciso said...

now biden was so concerned about Karzai, that his Sherpa peter galbraith, mounted a campaign against him, which Karzai took as a personal assault, on the leading ally in the war on terror,

pacwest said...

Has anyone checked for bitcoin transfers coming out of Ukraine to government officials?

Maillard Reactionary said...

It's not working.

Sad!

narciso said...

now galbraith's prize for advising the partition of Iraq, was an oil concession for a Norwegian company, granted to an intermediary in ras al khalmah, the emirate glenn simpson helped prop up when he left the journal, the first time with sue Schmidt of the times,