Columnist explains why Trump's Ukraine scandal is absolutely impeachable — it's right there in the Constitution

Columnist explains why Trump's Ukraine scandal is absolutely impeachable — it's right there in the Constitution
President Donald J. Trump participates in a bilateral meeting with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zalensky Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019, at the InterContinental New York Barclay in New York City. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

During the Ukraine scandal and the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump underway in the U.S. House of Representatives, legal experts and constitutional scholars have had a lot to say about the term “high crimes and misdemeanors” and exactly what it means under the U.S. Constitution. But journalist Conor Friedersdorf, in a November 8 article for The Atlantic, asserts that there is “no need” to debate “high crimes and misdemeanors” in relation to Trump and Ukraine; “bribery,” Friedersdorf emphasizes, is more than enough reason for Trump to be impeached in the House and subsequently removed from office by the U.S. Senate.

Friedersdorf quotes the U.S. Constitution, which says, “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 Friedersdorf goes on to explain exactly what Trump did that qualifies as bribery, according to the U.S. Constitution.

The Ukraine scandal came about after a whistleblower in the intelligence community made a formal complaint about Trump’s July 25 phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who the president tried to pressure into investigating a political rival he might be running against in the 2020 election — former Vice President Joe Biden — and his son Hunter Biden. Trump’s sycophants have been insisting that there was never a “quid pro quo” during that conversation; many of his critics have been responding that military aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigating the Bidens most definitely qualifies as a “quid pro quo” (which in Latin — the language upon which Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Catalan are all based — means one thing in exchange for another).

Friedersdorf explains, “The bribe would be obvious to everyone if Trump and the people acting on his behalf had told the Ukrainians: we’ll release your military aid, but do us the favor of contributing $1 million to Trump 2020. Instead, they pressed Ukraine for a favor as valuable to Trump 2020 as $1 million: they asked Ukraine to launch, or at least to announce, a corruption investigation into the Biden family. In return, Team Trump implied, Ukraine would get its military aid or an Oval Office meeting.”

Zelensky never gave Trump or his allies the dirt on the Bidens they were hoping for. Regardless, Friedersdorf asserts, merely making the request is impeachable.

“It doesn’t matter that Ukraine didn’t deliver the thing of value,” Friedersdorf  observes. “Mere solicitation of a bribe is verboten. Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich went to prison for soliciting money in exchange for an appointment to the U.S. Senate. It didn’t matter that he never got paid. The recording of his request was enough.”

Friedersdorf asserts that whether one thinks of bribery from the viewpoint of the Founding Fathers or from a 2019 standpoint under current federal law, Trump clearly committed an impeachable offense.

“Trump asked for a favor that would benefit him politically and tied it to foreign aid,” Friedersdorf emphasizes. “He sought a thing he valued because it would help him get reelected with the implied promise that it would change his behavior as president.”

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