A Perfect Phone Call All Right—Perfect Evidence of Bribery

Trump’s July 25 call was indeed perfect: a perfect example of the crime of bribery.

Republicans are transitioning to the No-Harm-No-Foul defense. That defense does not cut the mustard. That dog won’t hunt. That cock won’t fight.

Relying on help from a more learned friend, I explained the point in a previous post. Now, Randall D. Eliason, Professorial Lecturer in Law at the George Washington University*  lays it all out in Trump and Ukraine: Call it Bribery, Not Extortion.  I won’t relay all the technical legal analysis, but here is the key passage:

The federal bribery statute, 18 U.S.C. 201, makes it a crime for a public official to corruptly demand, seek, receive, accept, or agree to receive or accept anything of value in exchange for being influenced in the performance of an official act. In this case, the public official is president Trump. The thing of value he demanded was public investigations of his political rival Joe Biden and of a debunked conspiracy theory involving interference in the 2016 election and a computer server supposedly located in Ukraine.  And the official act Trump would perform in return would be releasing the approved military aid to Ukraine. Trump’s behavior toward Ukraine readily meets the elements of the bribery statute.

A key factor in this charge is the breadth of the term “thing of value.” It encompasses anything of subjective value to the official that would have the potential to influence his or her behavior. Offers of future contracts or employment, sexual favors, companionship, and other intangibles all have been held to be things of value for purposes of the bribery statute. Publicly-announced investigations that would benefit Trump politically would certainly qualify. Trump’s actions in seeking the investigations, both personally and through intermediaries such as his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, amply demonstrate how personally valuable he thought Ukraine’s actions could be.

*”Randall D. Eliason spent 12 years as an assistant United States attorney for the District of Columbia, working in various areas including misdemeanors, grand jury, narcotics, general felonies, and the Violent Crime Unit. For more than eight years, Mr. Eliason specialized in white collar crime as a member of the Public Corruption/Government Fraud section. From 1999 to 2001, he served as chief of that section, supervising a staff of eleven AUSA’s prosecuting white collar cases in federal court.

“Mr. Eliason is the recipient of numerous awards and commendations from the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, and other law enforcement agencies. While at the U.S. Attorney’s office, he lectured at the Department of Justice National Advocacy Center in South Carolina and at the Attorney General’s Advocacy Institute in Washington, D.C. He also served as the Professional Responsibility Officer (ethics advisor) for the Criminal Division.”