Trump counsel calls out Schiff for latest fast one, stunt ‘would’ve been automatic mistrial’ in ‘ordinary court’

(PBS video screenshots)

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.”

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.”

Listen (disable your adblocker if the video doesn’t appear):

(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 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.’


This claim has inspired its own backlash and rebuttals:


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