Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi shifted her choice of terminology on Thursday, changing from calling the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump an examination of a possible quid pro quo, and instead describing it as a possible instance of the president engaging in bribery.
The distinction is important as it pertains to the Constitution, which reads that the president “shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Legal arguments on whether the authority to impeach Trump based on his conversation with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky centered upon whether it was a “high crime and misdemeanor,” with many experts saying that it could be interpreted in that way, but some defenders of Trump saying that it was not. By calling it bribery, the case for impeachment becomes more concrete.
“The bribe [was] to grant or withhold military assistance in return for a public statement of a fake investigation into the elections. That’s bribery,” Pelosi said on Thursday.
Fox News host Laura Ingraham took issue with Pelosi’s argument, stating on her program Thursday evening that the charges of bribery were improper. Beyond that, however, Ingraham made a curious argument: that Trump couldn’t be charged with bribery because he failed at it.
Laura Ingraham: "Attempted bribery isn't in the Constitution" pic.twitter.com/uGtsDyc8a7
— Jason Campbell (@JasonSCampbell) November 15, 2019
“Even assuming the Democrats’ strained and ridiculous interpretation of the facts…attempted bribery isn’t in the Constitution,” Ingraham said, according to a tweet from Jason Campbell, a researcher from Media Matters for America.
Many on social media took issue with Ingraham’s assumption. But as former U.S. Attorney Joyce Alene pointed out, attempted bribery is indeed a criminal action, one that, if a president tried to carry out, would still land them in deep trouble.
“Actually, it is,” Alene said in response to Ingraham’s insinuation about bribery not being a crime.
Actually, it is. You see, the federal bribery statute, 18 USC 201, defines bribery to include attempted bribery. It's enough to "seek" a bribe – you don't actually have to pull your illegal scheme off. https://t.co/Q6KynEOQIF
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) November 15, 2019
“You see, the federal bribery statute, 18 USC 201, defines bribery to include attempted bribery,” Alene added. “It’s enough to ‘seek” a bribe — you don’t actually have to pull your illegal scheme off.”