The difficult thing about Donald Trump’s impeachment for Democrats is that he’s not accused of any crime.
Scholars have said this isn’t a prerequisite for impeachment and removal, especially given that impeachment is an inherently political act, but it helps when you’re trying to convince a skeptical public (not to mention Republican senators) of your case when you can point to an actual felony the president has committed.
Democratic impeachment manager Rep. Jason Crow, however, insists that attempted bribery occurred during President Trump’s dealings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The Colorado Democrat just can’t explain why that wasn’t in the articles of impeachment.
Crow was appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday where he made the case yet again for the Senate calling witnesses (“He has said that his call was a perfect call, he has said that he has done nothing wrong, so let’s have the people that are in the best position to confirm that come in and testify before the U.S. Senate”) and insisted, as a member of the House Democratic majority that ran the vulgarized, fast-track inquiry, that what they really wanted was fairness in the upper chamber (“The American people deserve a fair trial, so let’s have that fair trial”).
So far, so repetitive. What really set Crow’s appearance apart was his willingness to accuse the president of bribery with a total lack of explanation of why the accusation wasn’t in the articles of impeachment.
To be fair, Crow didn’t bring it up unprompted. “State of the Union” host Brianna Keilar asked whether he thought the president had committed the offense.
“I think that the president did a lot of things that abused his power,” Crow responded. When asked if it was bribery specifically, he responded affirmatively.
“Specifically, you know, he did attempt to bribe and coerce a foreign government official,” Crow said. “In this case, the president of Ukraine.”
“And why isn’t that an article?” Keilar asked.
See if you can pick out anything about bribery in Crow’s answer:
“We have to look at the entire context of what happened here. That is what this is about. It is about the abuse of power. It’s about jeopardizing our national security, our troops. It is about undermining our free and fair elections. The broad context of the pattern of this president is what is really important, and that is why we proceeded with the impeachment.”
Keilar pushed the point, especially since Trump defense team member Alan Dershowitz, the constitutional scholar, was on earlier in the show arguing that the articles set forth by the Democrats — obstruction and abuse of power — didn’t meet the criteria for impeachment set out in the Constitution. Bribery, however, is specifically mentioned as an impeachable offense.
Check out his answers here:
“You could have had bribery as an article and then abuse of power as an article, and, for instance, Alan Dershowitz is going to argue on the Senate floor, as he basically just stated, that bribery is in the Constitution when it comes to impeachment. He will argue, or will certainly feel, that you, Democrats, would have had a much better case to actually say bribery if you thought it was bribery,” Keilar said, asking if Crow thought it would have been a better idea, given what Dershowitz was going to argue, to include bribery in the articles of impeachment.
Again, Crow didn’t actually talk about bribery:
“Let’s broaden back out here and talk about what is really going on here. The president’s team is trying to say that the president can’t be indicted, because it is DOJ policy that a standing president or sitting president can’t be indicted.
“At the same time, they are also making arguments that the House of Representatives and Congress cannot subpoena documents or witnesses, and that we can’t bring an impeachment case, that it has to be a crime. That high crimes and misdemeanors do not include abuse of power and abuse of the public trust,” he said.
“So if all of the president’s arguments are true, that a president cannot be indicted, that the abuse of power and abuse of the public trust does not constitute impeachable offense. If that is true, then no president can be held accountable, that the president truly is above the law,” he said.
“So those arguments can’t possibly be true. They can’t stand because then our entire system of checks and balances would not hold.”
Right. Crow, like plenty of other Democrats, wants to say Trump is guilty of bribery. They can’t. They had that opportunity, but they realized it would be difficult to make the point that, statutorily, what Trump did constituted bribery — even if they could prove a quid pro quo.
Federal statutes indicate that bribery occurs when an official “directly or indirectly, corruptly demands, seeks, receives, accepts, or agrees to receive or accept anything of value personally … in return for … being influenced in the performance of any official act.”
Members of the Democratic majority in the House likely realized they couldn’t prove there was a corrupt demand or that “anything of value” changed hands. So instead, their impeachment case hinges on something more nebulous — which means it’s mostly just election-year posturing and making sure the scarlet “I” could finally be applied to the president.
And that’s the important thing for Democrats. Just ask Nancy Pelosi: “He has been impeached and you can never erase that,” she said at the news conference where she announced the impeachment managers.
But impeached for what? Of the three presidential impeachment trials in the history of the country, this one easily starts with the weakest evidence against the accused. But, as GOP Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming pointed out, at least Democrats got the pens from the signing of the articles of impeachment:
Saying it doesn’t make it so, @RepJasonCrow.
You impeached the President with no direct evidence in a totally partisan process where Dems set all the rules, picked all the witnesses, and denied due process.
And you still failed to prove your case.
But you got a cool pen. https://t.co/PvpIsxoJcz
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) January 19, 2020
There was no chance of ever proving bribery and the Democrats knew it. They couldn’t even get their own conference to agree to include it in the articles of impeachment, even when those articles were entirely cosmetic.
The time to talk about bribery has passed. Rep. Crow and the Democrats should have spoken then.
Now it’s time for them to forever hold their peace, along with those precious pens.