House Intelligence Committee chair turned House impeachment manager Adam Schiff tried to pull a fast one Wednesday by accusing President Donald Trump of “bribery” and “extortion.”
“[W]e think there is a crime here of bribery or extortion, conditioning official acts for personal favors; that is bribery, it’s also what the founders understood as extortion,” he said while trying to rebut an argument from the president’s legal team that only actual criminal acts such as bribery are impeachable offenses.
But neither “bribery” nor “extortion” were included in the articles of impeachment filed against the president last month. Instead, the articles centered on two highly nebulous charges: “abuse of power” and “obstruction of justice.”
Questioning for 5 hours so far in the Senate. Adam Schiff just said House Dems’ case is about bribery. But they didn’t allege bribery in the Articles! Or extortion. Or any unlawful conduct of any kind. But we should overturn an election? Schiff & Co getting desperate
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) January 29, 2020
And according to Deputy White House Counsel Patrick Philbin, the act of suddenly introducing new charges into an ongoing trial would, in normal circumstances, lead to an automatic mistrial. Luckily for Schiff, Trump’s trial isn’t exactly normal.
“If this were a criminal trial in an ordinary court and Mr. Schiff had done what he just did on the floor here, and start talking about crimes of bribery and extortion that were not in the indictment, it would’ve been an automatic mistrial,” Philbin said. “We’d all be done now, and we could go home. And Mr. Schiff knows that, because he’s a former prosecutor.”
“It is not permissible for the House to come here, failing to have charged, failing to have put in the articles of impeachment any crime at all, and then to start arguing that, ‘Actually — Oh we think there is some crime involved, and actually, we think we actually proved it, even though we provided no notice we were going to try to prove that. It’s totally impermissible. It’s a fundamental violation of due process.”
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So why weren’t “bribery” and “extortion” included in the House’s articles of impeachment? Because their inclusion would have likely led to a near-automatic acquittal, some legal experts have argued.
“I have to tell you — I don’t believe [Democrats] have made out a case for bribery either under the modern definition or how the framers understood it,” liberal legal scholar Jonathan Turley opined in November, about a month before the articles were filed.
Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee a few weeks later, he reiterated this sentiment, warning Democrats, “You can’t accuse the president of bribery and then say, ‘Well it’s just impeachment, we don’t have to prove the offense.”
“This isn’t improvisational jazz. Close enough isn’t good enough. If you are going to accuse the president of bribery you need to make it stick because you are trying to remove a duly elected president of the United States.”
He also addressed the Democrats’ then-evolving new “abuse of power” narrative.
“Appearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Turley accused lawmakers of doing ‘precisely’ what they’re condemning Trump for doing and urged the committee to respect the separation of powers during the process or risk abusing their positions,” Fox News reported at the time.
“I can’t emphasize this enough and I’ll say it just one more time: If you impeach a president, if you make a high crime and misdemeanor out of going to the courts; it is an abuse of power,” he said. “It’s your abuse of power.”
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(Source: Fox News)
The nebulous “abuse of power” charge is based partly on the president preventing — as is his right per executive privilege — his former and current officials from testifying before Congress. This matter could have eventually been resolved had Democrats been patient enough to wait for the courts to order the president’s officials to testify. But instead of waiting, impatient Democrats skipped the court process and decided to charge Trump for his legal and justified use of executive privilege.
There’s a certain irony to it, because now, a month later, Democrats are again being accused of perpetrating “abuse of power” as per Schiff’s “improper” and “disgraceful” decision to introduce two entirely new charges into the president’s trial.
Schiff has proven that there was an Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress. The problem for him though is that he and his cohorts are the ones guilty of those charges, not the President.
— Lee Zeldin (@RepLeeZeldin) January 30, 2020
Schiff got absolutely torched by Philbin. Alleging non-charged crimes is itself an abuse of power https://t.co/mF4xFxEn3u
— Undercover Huber (@JohnWHuber) January 30, 2020
Bribery and extortion failed the Dems poll-tests and every legal test. That’s why they’re not in the articles
Yet Schiff throws around those smears anyway
Patrick Philbin points out if this was a real court and Schiff did that, it would be dismissed as a mistrial
— Elizabeth Harrington (@LizRNC) January 30, 2020
Schiff has for his part tried pushing back on the mounting criticism by arguing that “abuse of power” is a higher-level crime that encompasses “bribery” and “extortion.’
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said President Trump could have been charged with bribery, but “abuse of power is the highest crime”: “The important point is that we charged a Constitutional crime — the most serious crime” https://t.co/up2CQNLRW8 pic.twitter.com/AA8zjY0Umn
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 30, 2020
This claim has inspired its own backlash and rebuttals:
This is literally nuts. @RepAdamSchiff is trying to argue that “abuse of power” is not only included in “High Crimes and Misdemeanors,” but that it is a HIGHER crime than “Treason.” Or “Bribery.”
The Constitution did not mention “abuse of power.”
— Joel B. Pollak (@joelpollak) January 30, 2020
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