As House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., passed the impeachment inquiry baton to the Judiciary Committee this week, he said the central allegation against President Donald Trump is that the president “solicited foreign interference in the 2020 presidential election.”
This accusation will likely be the heart of any articles of impeachment the Judiciary Committee produces against the president.
If that’s the Democrats’ choice, so be it. But choices have consequences. If the Democrats go with solicitation, they’ll have to actually prove it.
As House Democrats have pursued an impeachment, they’ve turned to focus groups to find the phrases that will serve them best. This marketing research led them to drop the “quid pro quo” accusation.
It turns out most people realize a quid pro quo is nothing more than an exchange of one thing for another—something that happened this morning when I filled up my car at the gas station and I paid with my credit card.
As the focus group feedback rolled in, Schiff shifted to words like “bribery,” “extortion,” or “shake-down.” Perhaps Democrats have now settled on “solicitation” for the same reason.
While specific terms may resonate more or less among focus groups, some of them also have specific legal definitions. Under federal law (18 U.S. Code §373), for example, solicitation of a crime of violence requires not only a specific intent but also that the solicitation occurs “under circumstances strongly corroborative of that intent.”
The Justice Department’s Criminal Resource Manual explains that “the Government must establish that the defendant had the intent that another person engages in conduct constituting a felony crime of violence in violation of Federal law. The intent must be shown to be serious by strongly corroborative circumstances. Second, the Government must prove that the defendant commanded, induced, or otherwise endeavored to persuade the other person to commit the felony.”
The whole impeachment ballgame comes down to whether Trump took certain actions in relation to Ukraine for the specific purpose of manipulating the 2020 presidential election.