If Trump is Guilty Of Bribery, The Democrats Are Guilty Of Solicitation

Below is my column on the latest alleged crime by President Donald Trump: “Felony bribery.” The allegation shows not only a fundamental misunderstanding of legal standards but a fundamental failure in legal analysis.

Here is the column:

The headlines blasted the news: “Trump Accused of Bribery.” From Forbes to Newsweek, the latest crime was breathlessly reported after former George Bush ethics lawyer Richard Painter declared President Trump a criminal for raising campaign funds for senators who would sit as his jury in any impeachment trial. Over the last three years, such crimes have been declared by legal analysts with a certainty equaled only by their lack of permanency. It began with months of criminal collusion, which is not a crime, before evolving into treason, conspiracy, subornation of perjury, obstruction of justice, campaign finance violations and other offenses.

None of those crimes are included in the impeachment inquiry approved by the House in a partisan vote this week. Despite Democratic leaders insisting the special counsel report gave “ample” basis for impeachment charges, the resolution was conspicuous for its absence of any discussion of these prior “clear” crimes. The whole Russian scandal appears mere prelude to the real criminal conspiracy focused on a July phone call, after special counsel Robert Mueller presented his findings to Congress.

Even on cable news, Painter has distinguished himself as a perpetual motion machine of accusations. He previously said that Trump could be impeached and removed on such grounds as a tweet referencing his ability to use nuclear weapons against an attack by North Korea. Painter also claimed that Trump met the “dictionary definition” of treason, based on Russian interference in the 2016 election. He called for the removal of Trump, under the 25th Amendment, as constitutionally incapacitated.

Now Painter claims that the use of a “vast fundraising network” for some senators seeking reelection in 2020 is a crime. He flatly declared that “this is bribery,” no different than bribing jurors. Any senator accepting such contributions, he insisted, would be “guilty of accepting a bribe” and “should go to the slammer.” Just because a president may face a Senate trial, he is not required to end political activity, particularly with control of Congress in the balance. If that were the case, an opposing party could shut down any political activity by the president by impeaching him.

What is curious about this theory is that Painter does not appear to have any ethical problems with the potential “jurors” including himself running on their support for impeachment. He unsuccessfully ran for the Senate seat vacated by Democrat Al Franken of Minnesota by promising to vote against Trump if elected. Last year, Time magazine reported that Painter “made clear that calls for impeaching the president would be a major part of his platform” and quoted Painter as saying that the removal of Trump was a “very important component” of his campaign for the Senate.

In their campaigns and fundraising, various members of Congress have declared that Trump is guilty of numerous crimes. Future Senate jurors such as Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren have raised money based on impeachment pledges and stating that Trump is guilty. Not waiting for a trial, fellow candidate and Senate juror Kamala Harris declared in the last debate, “As a former prosecutor, I know a confession when I see it. He did it in plain sight. He has given us the evidence.”

Candidate Julián Castro announced that Trump has not only committed impeachable offenses but should be immediately removed. Various House members have pledged to seek impeachment. Representative Rashida Tlaib has sold profane shirts with her impeachment slogan for $29. If Trump is guilty of bribery, then Democrats are guilty of solicitation.

Why is it ethical for a potential Senate juror to raise money or campaign on a promise of voting for conviction, before charges are brought and let alone tried, yet call Trump a criminal for raising campaign funds to keep control of the Senate? Of course, this is a standard that did not apply to President Clinton, who actively campaigned for and helped finance Democratic senators who sat in judgment at his impeachment trial.

The bribery allegation also contradicts the Democratic talking point that impeachment is a political process rather than a legal one. When some of us have objected that such claims of clear criminal acts did not meet the standard of the criminal code or prior rulings, experts have insisted that this is more of a political judgment. Representative Maxine Waters has insisted that this is a political judgment and that “impeachment is about whatever Congress says it is.” So why is it a crime to respond in a political way by fundraising to maintain a Republican majority in the Senate?

I have never agreed with dismissals of impeachment as a purely political process. The Constitution includes a legal standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors” that has long been defined in light of controlling legal definitions and case law. I disagree with former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who seemed to suggest that “abuse of power” cannot be the basis for impeachment because “abuse of power is not a crime.”

Abuse of power is clearly impeachable. If the Senate established such abuse of power in a quid pro quo arrangement with Ukraine, it could be the basis to remove Trump. However, the fact that abuse of power is not a standalone crime does not make it a purely political judgment. It is based on the misuse of public authority and trust in carrying out duties defined by law and practice. It is a difficult standard to prove. All elected officials use their offices to advance themselves. The Senate would need to clearly distinguish the conduct of Trump from the myriad decisions made by his predecessors that benefited their positions or those of their parties.

Moving forward with an allegation of abuse of power is problematic if that is the sole grounds for removal. Abuse of power is stronger in the context of other specific articles of impeachment. If abuse of discretion is the sole or primary charge, it would maximize the chances for the defense in a Senate trial, in which the president can cite a variety of motives, allowing for claims of reasonable doubt by senators. Politics inspires many things, but ethical clarity is not one of them. However, the law is based on both clarity and consistency. That is why no one is “going to the slammer” for bribery. The greater problem is not jurors, but analysts, behaving like politicians.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. He also served as the last lead counsel in a Senate impeachment trial and testified as a constitutional expert in the Clinton impeachment hearings. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

130 thoughts on “If Trump is Guilty Of Bribery, The Democrats Are Guilty Of Solicitation”

  1. With regard to the two variables Turley lists, it is a failure. But some feel it is not a failure in terms of getting on T.V., cable “news” ratings, and additional clicks on an Internet article.

    Sometimes I’ll tune in or click on something like this to get a good laugh. And I’ve had plenty with regard to this idiocy.

  2. Oh oh! Someone has some splainin to do.

    Hunter Biden and his Ukrainian gas firm colleagues had multiple contacts with the Obama State Department during the 2016 election cycle, including one just a month before Vice President Joe Biden forced Ukraine to fire the prosecutor investigating his son’s company for corruption, newly released memos show.

  3. OT:


    [VIDEO] Leaked Insider Recording From ABC News Reveals Network Executives Killed Bombshell Story Implicating Jeffrey Epstein

    “I’ve Had This Story for Three Years… (ABC) Would Not Put It on The Air” says Good Morning America Breaking News Anchor, and 20/20 Co-Anchor Amy Robach. “It Was Unbelievable… We Had – Clinton, We Had Everything…”

    Robach: “We Had Her Whole Allegations About Prince Andrew…I Got a Little Concerned About Why I Couldn’t Get On.” ….

  4. The democrats are playing a very dangerous game here.

    Trump is the president like it or not and he sets USA policies and has every right to ask any foreign government for help in an ongoing USA justice department investigation into Ukraine interference in the 2016 election ( which the Ukraine actually bragged about)

    And to look into crimes that Biden facilitated ie firing a Ukraine prosecutor investigating corruption in the company his son magically had a month after getting kicked out of the USA military for drugs.Biden even bragged about blackmail and Victoria “ F the EU” Nuland was exposed by her e mails supporting the coup.

    The real crime is the USA coup in the Ukraine advanced by literal Nazis the USA armed and supported.

    Democrats are now the pro war party pushing against Russia as Europe is turning its back on the USA and building the natural gas pipeline with Russia leaving the USA supporting the despicable Saudies terror state that attacked the USA on 9/11.

    Democrats are standing with the Saudie terrorists.

    1. (Canon 3 a 3)
      A judge should be patient, dignified, respectful, and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers, and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity. A judge should require similar conduct of those subject to the judge’s control, including lawyers to the extent consistent with their role in the adversary process.

      The Judicial Canons are a joke. The “laws” governing the behavior of our illustrious judges have no teeth. Our Judiciary is out of control, a complete disgrace. When the citizens no longer have faith in their democratic institutions, particularly the judicial system, the very foundation of our society cracks. CRACKS. FOUNDATION. SOCIETY.

  5. The law school which employs Painter hires clowns. The State of Minnesota ought to close it.

  6. Just in case there is any doubt about John Durham’s objectivity, this biography should remove any doubt.

    From all this, we can surmise a few things about Durham’s ongoing investigation into the launch of the probe of Donald Trump and his potential connections to Russia during the 2016 campaign. Durham will not speak to the press at all until he is done, and probably not even then. He and his team are extremely unlikely to leak. He is not afraid to reach conclusions that will disappoint or frustrate Attorney General Barr or President Trump. He will not be rushed; there is no guarantee that Durham will reach any prosecutorial decisions before the 2020 elections. And he will investigate so extensively and thoroughly that no reasonable observer will be able to argue that something important was missed. As Sullivan describes Durham, “He will be in constant pursuit of the truth and the facts and the evidence. John doesn’t take days off. He is methodical, but he is always working.”

    If Durham chooses to bring charges against any official who launched the Trump probe, history suggests he is extremely likely to persuade a jury to convict the accused and sustain those convictions upon appeal. And if he does not bring charges, it is extremely unlikely that any other prosecutor could have succeeded; regardless of what the official did, the evidence would not be there to convict or sustain a conviction.

    John Durham’s career is full of big, high-stakes, politically charged cases, but this one is the biggest, highest-stakes, and most politically charged of all. Luckily, it seems like his whole life has prepared him for this moment.

    1. He won’t find anything that Clinton and her buddies haven’t done– squared. After all, she married a lying, conniving rapist and wuss who allowed 800,000 innocent black folks to be butchered and lied about it. I don’t mind if our government crumbles. We can groove on the rubble. That’s when the Ruskies official celebration begins.

  7. Sign on a wall in Minnesota. We are from france where people wear no pants. Vote for hilary.

  8. SCOOP: CIA, FBI Informant Was Washington Post Source For Russiagate Smears

    By Margot Cleveland

    The Federalist has learned that the now-outed CIA and FBI informant Stefan Halper served as a source for Washington Post reporter David Ignatius, providing more evidence that the intelligence community has co-opted the press to push anti-Trump conspiracy theories. In addition, an email recently obtained by The Federalist from the MI5-connected Christopher Andrew bragging that his long-time friend Ignatius has the “‘inside track’ on Flynn” adds further confirmation of this conclusion


    1. David Ignatius: hypocrite and new convert to blowing secrets.

      “ When Does Blowing Secrets Cross the Line?

      David Ignatius
      July 2, 2000

      If driving government officials crazy is a mark of reportorial success, then Bill Gertz of the Washington Times has to be the hottest reporter in town. His scoops based on “top secret” intelligence reports have been infuriating officials for years.

      What upsets Pentagon and CIA officials is that Gertz’s scoops often blow intelligence sources–especially communications intercepts and satellite reconnaissance systems that cost U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars to create.

      In terms of reportorial hustle, it’s hard to fault Gertz. He breaks dozens of big stories every year, and he’s read carefully by people who follow national-security issues, not to mention the foreign spooks and military attaches around town. Yet precisely because he’s so aggressive, Gertz poses the interesting question of what responsibility, if any, a journalist has to avoid blowing secrets.

      The National Security Agency worries about the leak problem so much that a senior official testified about it in November to the House Intelligence Committee. The official said the NSA counted 40 instances in 1998 when its signals-intelligence (SIGINT) capabilities were disclosed for the first time in the media, and 34 instances during the first nine months of 1999. Gertz’s stories accounted for many of these leaks, officials said.”


  9. Soliciting a bribe is in and of itself a crime. Something the left should remember when they encourage citizens to vote for them. Especially when they have no intention of paying.

    1. Does this also include the senate majority leader of soliciting a bribe when he campaigned to raise funds by stating that the President would not be found guilty in the senate as long as he was in charge? Just wondering

  10. An early comment is all that is needed. IF Trump is guilty of bribery then the left is guilty of solicitation. The only possible missing bit of information is ‘on what street corner were Waters and Harris, Schiff and Schumer, Pelosi and Feinstein standing when they made the offer.

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