I was pleased to see that the Judiciary Committee dropped previous claims of bribery, extortion, campaign finance and obstruction of justice as the basis for impeachment. I testified that the repeated assurances on these allegations from members, legal analysts, and my fellow witnesses were well outside the definitions for these crimes. The Committee ultimately went forward with the only two articles that I viewed as legitimate while rejecting my arguments to wait to build a sufficient record for submission to the Senate. I have received considerable criticism for my long opposition to the bribery theory as unsustainable as an impeachable offense. Thus, I was interested in hearing from the two members who were most adamant in their past declarations that bribery was established: Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff. Speaker Pelosi has now responded and her answer is far from satisfying. Frankly, calling the evidence of bribery “devastating” is a lot like calling the Ukrainian call “perfect.” It can be dismissed as hyperbolic but Pelosi was declaring the expected basis for the impeachment of an American president.
As I mentioned in my testimony, after hearing only two witnesses, Speaker Pelosi declared witnesses offered “devastating” evidence that “corroborated” bribery. This view was developed further by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff who repeatedly returned to the definition of bribery. He also added the caveat that, even if this did not meet the legal definition of bribery, it might meet a prior definition under an uncharacteristically originalist view: “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.”
Even before the hearing I warned that this theory of bribery would be as mistaken in the eighteenth century as it would be today. Yet, Speaker Pelosi continued to maintain that this was bribery — plain and simple. She was joined by a host of commentators who back up the claim that the evidence was now overwhelming. This position was also advanced by the Democratic witnesses who testified with me at the impeachment hearing.
When confronted on her earlier declaration, Pelosi simply declared that she is not a lawyer. However, that qualification never appeared in her prior declarations of impeachable bribery as Speaker of the House of Representatives. She spoke as the House Speaker and insisted that bribery was now a proven crime and impeachable act. I was curious how, after days of contemplation, the Speaker and others would address the glaring contradiction. The answer turned about to be effectively a shrug:
As with the host of legal analysts assuring viewers that this is clearly bribery under recognized definitions, Pelosi never qualified her repeated declarations to that effect. Saying that the “articles are what they are” hardly explains her prior statements or the questions of responsibility for making such declarations.
Frankly, the question was a rare occasion where Speaker Pelosi or anyone was confronted by past assurances of proven criminal conduct. Amazingly, President Donald Trump helped defuse the situation for the Speaker with another personal and unpresidential attack about her “teeth falling out.” That effectively ended further inquiry as the media turned to the latest controversial tweet.