I asked on out Politics site, Why is Trump not being impeached for bribery?, and one answer (with 5 upvotes currently) said

The answer to this one is simple - the only logical reason to drop this article of impeachment is because there is no evidence that bribery, as it is legally defined, took place. Adam Schiff's definition of bribery is wholly irrelevant ...

It certainly seems to me - a layperson - that there appeared to be, at least, attempted bribery (or, possibly, corecion).

How do the legal experts here see it - not opinion based, obviously - given publicly available information, is there a case for bribery?

I can see that the Democrats might consider that there is a case, but not want to muddy the waters with too many articles of impeachment, or that poster on Politics may be correct.

Does anyone see a legal case for (attempted) bribery in the publicly available information?

  • "Is there evidence of Trump's attempted bribery of Ukraine?" Yes, there is.
    – spring
    Dec 15, 2019 at 1:39
  • citation needed
    – Mawg
    Dec 15, 2019 at 8:23
  • 1
    I can no longer answer because this question is closed for some reason, but Adam Schiff explained on Fox News on Sunday that "bribery and extortion are a subset of abuse of power, [which] better connotes the full range of the President's misconduct..." youtube.com/watch?v=EMvhyuqNiBY&t=71s. Also, before the articles were finalised, some legal experts argued that it would be better to leave out bribery in favour of abuse of power to reduce the risk of muddying the waters with arguments about the definition of bribery and whether the conduct met that definition.
    – Lag
    Dec 16, 2019 at 19:01

2 Answers 2


Proof is for a courtroom

Or in this case, the Senate.

Proof is what you get when the trial is complete, the evidence has been considered and the verdict is in.

Is there evidence?

The Federal crime of bribery :

that the defendants acted with corrupt intent to engage in a quid pro quo, that is, “a specific intent to give or receive something of value in exchange for an official act.” United States v. Sun-Diamond Growers, 526 U.S. 398, 404-05 (1999).

There is testimony from a number of witnesses that the President did that. That’s evidence.

  • @Mawg Impeachment: is a formal accusation of a crime (a criminal charge) which starts a criminal case (trial). Dec 14, 2019 at 8:58
  • Testimony is evidence but not very good evidence with relation to politics, opinions and conflicting testimony. Dec 14, 2019 at 13:01
  • 3
    @MatthewWhited Actually testimony is everything. Evidence is either testimony or physical, and physical evidence can only be introduced if someone can testify to its authenticity and meaning. E.g. a fingerprint requires testimony from the officer who found it and an expert who made the match. Dec 15, 2019 at 18:00

A quick answer: It's the politics, Mawg!

The House managers, like all prosecutors, based their charging decisions on more than whether they thought they had proof that the President was guilty of bribery. Like all prosecutors, they know their view of the strength of the case may be irrelevant, since someone else -- judge or jury -- will decide whether they have proved their case. So, like all prosecutors, they decided which charges to bring based in part on their assessment of how likely they are to win using the different charges. Like all prosecutors facing a jury (in this case, the Senate), they took into account how a jury is likely to react to the charges. And, like all elected prosecutors, the House managers care about the impact of the case on their chances of getting re-elected.

In this case, I am sure their decision not to charge on bribery reflected all of those factors. They may not have wanted to charge based on a federal crime. Charging based on a federal crime would make it more likely the trial in the Senate would turn on the exact meaning of legal terms. Such discussions would not help the Democrats, who know they are going to lose.

  • 5
    The Framer's could not have meant the Federal crime of bribery: that did not exist until decades after the Constitution was written.
    – DJohnM
    Dec 14, 2019 at 1:31
  • @DJohnM I think you meant to ask this question of Dale M. Also, at the time of the Founding, most ratifiers would have looked to the common law, not statutes. See, for example, (SCOTUS) Justice Joseph Story, in his Commentaries on the Constitution: "for the definition of bribery, resort is naturally and necessarily had to the common law; for that, as the common basis of our jurisprudence, can alone furnish the proper exposition of the nature and limits of this offence." (Story was not a Founder, but he did know what early Americans thought about the Constitution.)
    – Just a guy
    Dec 15, 2019 at 19:34
  • Indeed, Story, through his Commentaries and 30+ years as a Justice, shaped what early Americans thought about the Constitution.
    – Just a guy
    Dec 15, 2019 at 19:37

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