Democrats tried to accuse President Donald Trump of “bribery” on Thursday in the House Judiciary Committee, though they had declined to include “bribery” among the two articles of impeachment released earlier this week.
On Monday morning, Democrats unveiled their articles, alleging “abuse of power” and “corruption of Congress.” Contrary to expectations, and to the arguments they had been making for weeks, they did not include “bribery.”
The problem Democrats faced was there was no evidence of bribery. Many of the Democrats’ own witnesses in the House Intelligence Committee’s hearings last month also testified they had personally seen no evidence of bribery.
Yet Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), who had participated in those hearings, attempted to sneak in the accusation during the Judiciary Committee’s markup of the articles, after Republicans pointed out that the articles did not accuse the president of breaking any laws.
“Since my colleagues keep bringing up what potential crimes you could charge a president with, let’s go through some of them, because President Trump’s conduct overlaps with criminal acts,” Swalwell said.
“Let’s start with criminal bribery,” he added, proceeding to lay out the elements of the crime as defined by federal law.
Later, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) echoed Swalwell’s point about “bribery.”
But Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) wasn’t having it.
“So many people here have been screaming about the president’s crimes, and we’re even hearing today — like we just did — ‘Oh, yes, there were crimes.’ Then why aren’t they in this impeachment document?” It’s because they don’t exist.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) likewise called out Swalwell’s effort to allege crimes that were not, in fact, in the articles.
“I heard earlier, my friend from California, Mr. Swalwell, list out all these crimes. If i’m watching at home i’m thinking, well, where are they in the impeachment? That is just a Democrat ‘drive-by,’ to go and list crimes that you don’t allege and that you don’t have evidence for.”
He added: “[T]hey’re naming crimes in debate that they don’t even have in their impeachment resolution because they can’t prove them, because there are no underlying facts.” He accused Democrats of playing “pin the tail on your favorite impeachment theory,” because none of their allegations could be proven on its own.
Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, a reported asked Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) why she had not included “bribery” in the articles of impeachment after accusing the president of bribery for weeks.
Her answer: “I’m not a lawyer.”
Republicans argued Thursday that Democrats’ attempt to shoehorn “bribery” into the articles of impeachment proved their earlier arguments that “abuse of power” was an impossibly broad standard.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.