November 13, 2019 | Reading Time: 3 minutes

QT: Schiff focusing in bribery


Share this article

I want to bring your attention to this NPR interview Adam Schiff gave late Tuesday. In it, he lays out the broad outlines of what constitutes “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Pay close attention to the meaning of bribery as the framers understood it. Also pay close attention to what bribery entails in the executive’s care of the public trust.

All italics are mine. —JS

Steve Inskeep: I want to begin with some words in the Constitution about impeachment. The document says that an official can be impeached and removed for treason, bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors. Which are these, in your view?

Rep. Adam Schiff: Well, I don’t think any decision has been made on the ultimate question about whether articles of impeachment should be brought. That will be the purpose of these hearings and the subsequent work done in the Judiciary Committee. But on the basis of what the witnesses have had to say so far, there are any number of potentially impeachable offenses: including bribery, including high crimes and misdemeanors. The basic allegations against the president are that he sought foreign interference in a U.S. election, that he conditioned official acts on the performance of these political favors — and those official acts include a White House meeting that the president of Ukraine desperately sought with President Trump, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funded military assistance for a country that is at war with Russia and a country that the United States has a deep national security interest in making sure it can defend itself.

Can you explain for the layman how those acts — if everything happened, as you suspect it did — how those acts would be “bribery” – the word you used?

Well, bribery, first of all, 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. Here you have the president of the United States seeking help from Ukraine in his reelection campaign in the form of two investigations that he thought were politically advantageous, including one of his primary rival.

That’s a payoff, is what you’re saying. That would be the payoff in this scenario.

Well, bribery only requires that you’re soliciting something of value. It doesn’t have to be cash. It can be something of value. And clearly, given the concerted effort that was brought about to get these investigations going by the president, by Rudy Giuliani, by Ambassador Sondland, by others, this was something of great value to the president. And conditioning the performance of an official act for some private benefit, you know, is very potentially a violation of not only what the founders had in mind in terms of bribery, but the bribery statutes even of today.


  • Ukraine Ambassador William Taylor said in testimony today that his aide overheard Trump ask EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland for an update on “the investigations.” That phone call took place on July 26, a day after Trump tried to shake down Volodymyr Zelensky. Implication: the president wasn’t pressing Zelensky to combat ordinary generic corruption. He had something else in mind.

  • Deval Patrick is officially running as of this week.

  • New FBI report: Jews target of overwhelming number of religious hate crimes.

  • Andrew Napolitano is probably the only honest on-air talent on Fox News.

  • Chuck Woolery found a way to blame Trump for his dead career.


John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

Leave a Comment

Want to comment on this post?
Click here to upgrade to a premium membership.