“Quid Pro Quo” to Bribery: How Democrats Trapped the GOP on Impeachment

 In just over an hour, the United States House of Representatives will enter the public period of the evidence gathering period in the impeachment inquiry of Donald J. Trump. Ambassador William Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent is scheduled to testify on the first day of public testimony in the House Intelligence Committee chaired by the legendary Adam Schiff.

Watch it here:

There will be a desperate attempt by Republicans on the Committee - who are fighting for their political life as well as that of their cult leader - to derail the hearing, complain about process, and bring up irrelevant things that have no bearing on what Donald Trump is being impeached for.

The House has written the rules seriously and anticipating GOP monkey-wrenching, but Republicans will not be the only ones who will be looking for any excuse for a shiny-object distraction. The media will be on high alert to do the same. The media as a whole has already spent too much time covering Republican theatrics over the substance of the impeachment. We cannot allow that to happen.

Chairman Schiff said yesterday that enough evidence exists to impeach Trump for bribery.

Democrats have recently - and smartly - changed their public facing communications from ‘quid pro quo’ to a much more straight-forward and understandable word: extortion. Extortion is the act of (or attempt to) obtaining something of value through force or threats. The withholding of Congressionally approved money from Ukraine is both.

The flip side of extortion is, of course, bribery, the attempt to obtain an unwarranted favor for personal gain in exchange for providing money or something of value. By making it clear to Ukraine that it would not receive the money Congress approved if it hadn’t committed publicly to manufacture dirt on a political rival and “investigate” conspiracy theories that undercuts the fact of Russian invasion of American elections.

Most observers have commented that this move is smart precisely because the terms ‘extortion’, and ‘bribery’, while conveying the same meaning as ‘quid pro quo’, are simpler and easier to understand. But scratch a little under the surface, and it’s clear that there is a much more brilliant reason for this transformation.

A look at the timeline of the change in messaging is revealing. When the impeachment inquiry started, Republicans in Congress - and Donald Trump - insisted that there was no quid pro quo. They argued that Trump, in the infamous July 26 phone call, was not implying that military aide was being held up pending Ukraine’s announcement of the aforementioned manufactured investigations. They insisted that since the money was eventually released and no such public pronouncements happened from Ukrainians, no quid pro quo took place.

That defense has been systematically dismantled through documents and testimony. We know now that Trump had fully intended to block the funding until Congress became aware of his scheme thanks to the whistleblower report. We know from testimony that Trump and the White House - as well as his shadow emissary Rudy Giuliani - absolutely made the aid conditional on personal, political benefits to Trump.

Just as this happened, the Republican defense - if you can call it that - evolved from “no quid pro quo” to an admission that a quid pro quo happened, but that it either wasn’t wrong or at least, not impeachable. Call it the quid-pro-so-what defense.

Democrats have watched Trump and Republicans for a while now, and this was a predictable move. Trump always starts off by proclaiming innocence, and when exposed, shifts the claim to, basically, so what?

Republicans had banked on trying to muddy the waters on the term ‘quid pro quo,’ and at any event, arguing that a quid pro quo is not an impeachable offense. They were hoping they could simply argue that a ‘quid pro quo’ is not a ‘high crime’ or ‘misdemeanor’ as a ground for impeachment as outlined in the US Constitution.

There is no such argument to be made for bribery. Bribery, you see, is a named impeachable offense in the Constitution. Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, reads, in its entirety:

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

And the Republicans have already admitted to the charge of bribery. By admitting to this specific quid pro quo, Republicans have also conceded to the extortion and bribery at play here.

Therein lied the trap. Democrats laid it smartly, and Republicans have walked right into it. They can no longer legitimately claim there wasn’t bribery here, and if there was bribery, impeachment is warranted.