Bribery and Attempted Bribery
A friend who is a legal scholar—and is apparently blessed with some politicians of easy virtue among his client base, and who is therefore an expert on the technicalities of the law of bribery—has contacted me to point out that I am wrong. Along with a whole bunch of talking heads, BTW.
Actually, according to federal law (and, generally speaking, state law as well), attempted bribery is included within the definition of “bribery.” That is to say, if you “offer” or “promise” “anything of value” to someone to influence an official act, then you have violated the law, whether or not the official act ever occurs.*
That’s per United States Code, Title 18, Section 201. The statute has a whole bunch of words—1034 by my count—and if you want to read the whole thing, be my guest. But that’s the salient point.
Soo …. the fact that Trump relented, did not withhold the military aid after all, and did not get his promise to investigate does not let him off the hook under a technical analysis of the federal bribery law. Just as it does not let him off the hook morally or politically—given that he only relented when the whistleblower blew the damn whistle.
But “Aha!,” says Congressman Shouty Shirt, “I jolly well know what DOES get him off the hook. As a matter of legal technicality, Trump’s demand must have been made ‘corruptly’ in order to fall within the bribery law. And as a matter of morals and political appearance, if there is an alternative narrative to explain his September 11 change of mind, then he’s home free.”
(N.B. For the literal minded among you, Congressman Shouty Shirt did not say those exact words. I am putting words in his mouth to reverse engineer his thinking.)
Accordingly, earlier today, we had a brief reprise of the same fairy tale that Gym Jordan told on Wednesday: that Trump wasn’t concerned about investigating the Bidens. Oh, Noes. Perish the thought. Instead, Trump “paused” the military aid to test out whether this new fellow Zelensky was really going to do something about corruption. And when, five months later, his advisors told him that Zelinsky was an OK guy after all, Trump unpaused the military aid—an action having absolutely nothing whatsoever, nothing whatsoever, to do with the whistleblower and his whistle.
A Potential Off Ramp for Trump
Congressman Shouty Shirt’s fairy tale is illogical and unsupported by the evidence. But the congressman named some people—three, I believe—he says are prepared to swear to it. That part went by me real fast, but I did distinctly hear Mike Pence’s name among them.
You would have to be very gullible to buy this tall tale. But at least, from the perspective of Trump and his defenders, it would be better than no tale at all.
*According to my friend, a rare contrary authority is found in a 1929 Hawaii Supreme Court decision, Territory v. Wong. But Wong was wrong.