Are Trump, Biden, and the Ukrainian President All Guilty of Bribery
Imagine you sit on a jury that must decide whether these three individuals are guilty of bribery.
For all three, military aid was the value or consideration, and political corruption was the justification. Were personal or political benefits incidental or intentional? Were threats to withhold military aid overt or inherent? Are they guilty or innocent?
Let’s be clear about what is bribery.
From Black’s Law Dictionary, bribery is the offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of any item of value to influence the actions of an official in charge of a public or legal duty.
It includes a reward if the individual agrees to comply. In other words, I will do something for you if you will do something
for me, or the now displaced ‘quid pro quo.’
The General Federal Bribery Statute describes the offense of bribery as an act of an individual who directly or indirectly “gives, offers, or promises” something of value to a public official with the intent to influence his or her official act.
But let’s broaden bribery beyond federal statutes. Let’s call it the corrupt exercise of power in exchange for a personal benefit.
The Trump Case
Did President Trump receive personal benefit? Was it a corrupt exercise of power?
Trump made clear to Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky that he was asking him for a “favor”. He asked President Zelensky to reopen the case against the Ukrainian natural gas holding company, Burisma.
Trump told Zelensky : “[T]here’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.”
And Zelensky replied: “Since we have won the absolute majority in
our Parliament; the next prosecutor general will be 100% my person, my candidate, who will be approved, by the parliament and will start as a new prosecutor in September. He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue. The issue of the investigation of the
case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honesty so we will take care of that and will work on the investigation of the case.”
There is no mention of military aid, and the Ukrainian government was unaware that a hold had been placed on a military aid package. Trump argues that he was rooting out Ukrainian corruption and so he requested reopening the Burisma investigation. But that would likely benefit Trump’s re-election efforts.
The Biden Case
Did Former Vice President Biden receive personal benefit? Was it a corrupt exercise of power?
Biden claimed he forced the removal of Prosecutor General Viktor Shokina, who was investigating the Ukrainian gas company, Burisma. Beginning in 2014, Biden’s son was a director of Burisma.
Biden in 2016 said: “I said, I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars. I said, you’re not getting the billion. I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch. (Laughter.) He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.”
Biden clearly threatened to stop military aid. Like Trump, Biden claimed that he was rooting out Ukrainian corruption — namely a corrupt prosecutor, but his son’s firm benefited from the firing of the Ukrainian prosecutor.
The Zelensky Case
President Zelensky said: ”There was no blackmail.”
However, Zelensky knew Ukraine is reliant on U.S. and other foreign loans to rebuild its economy. American military aid and diplomatic support is important to help it in its long-standing conflict with Russia.
While the $400 million dollar aid package was never raised in the April 25, 2019 phone call with President Trump, Zelensky had to be aware of Vice President Biden’s threat a few years earlier.
Did he deny any ‘blackmail’ in order to safeguard the pending military aid, and isn’t that in broad terms accepting a bribe in the form of an implied threat? Did he enjoy political benefits for his anti-corruption campaign by re-opening an investigation that had remained dormant.
So you as the jury must decide. For all three, military aid was the value or consideration and political corruption was the justification.
Were personal or political benefits incidental or intentional? Were the threats to withhold military aid overt or inherent? Are they guilty or innocent?