“The bribe is to grant or withhold military assistance in return for a public statement of a fake investigation into the elections. That’s bribery,” she said.
Getting technical, bribery is just an example of “high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” But it’s one of only two specific examples the Constitution lays out.
Article II, Section 4:
“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
What can’t Gordon Sondland remember?
Friday will see testimony behind closed doors from a US Embassy official who says he heard European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland talk to Trump the day after the July 25 call.
Sondland is at the heart of everything
It’s an unfortunate development for Republicans, since it ties Trump in a more direct way to the specific request for investigations. And it shows the level to which he was invested in pushing Ukraine. He didn’t just call Zelensky and move on. He followed up.
Now Sondland appears to be the link between Trump and all the things Republicans have argued the President isn’t linked to. Trump, recall, was confused when he was asked about that particular call.
Sondland’s phone calls tie Trump directly to the fact pattern
We already knew Sondland had spoken with Trump right before Trump spoke with Zelensky, since Sondland talked about it on Ukrainian TV on July 26.
“I actually spoke with President Trump just a few minutes before he placed the call,” Sondland said.
Hardly knew the gentleman
Regardless of exactly how many phone conversations it was, it seems like a lot for somebody who Trump had dismissed last Friday. “Let me just tell you: I hardly know the gentleman,” the President told reporters.
New facts actually complicate the Democrats’ case
This week’s revelation of Trump’s direct conversation with Sondland after the July 25 Zelensky call suggests a couple of things that might give Democrats pause.
There are clearly facts not in evidence
First, they haven’t conducted that thorough an investigation, even though they’ve already begun public impeachment hearings. They’re rushing to impeach when they are still uncovering new elements of the story. Do they know enough?
There is a very real question about whether they should slow down and do the most thorough job possible, or carry on and try to get this done on their accelerated timetable. Why the rush? So they can move on to the kitchen table issues they hope will win them the White House and the Senate in 2020.
What does the public think?
The value of righteous futility
There probably aren’t many — or maybe even any — Democrats who will say there isn’t enough evidence to impeach Trump.
People either see the need to impeach or they don’t. As a result of that, or maybe directly because of it, the public hearings have not been framed as a vehicle for changing the dominant political calculus — that Trump will be impeached by the House and let off by the Senate to face voters in 2020.
Democrats almost surely won’t be able to remove Trump from office. But they can’t make a compelling case to voters unless they try.
Talking to the one guy who can relate
On the podcast
Coming up Friday
Private hearing — The committee will also take closed-door testimony from David Holmes, the State Department employee who overheard Trump’s call with Sondland on July 26.
Unknown — Let’s assume Trump is impeached. What would a Senate trial look like and when would it happen? Nobody yet knows, according to CNN’s Phil Mattingly. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., are going to meet soon and start hashing it out.
What are we doing here?
The President has invited foreign powers to interfere in the US presidential election.
Democrats want to impeach him for it.
It is a crossroads for the American system of government as the President tries to change what’s acceptable for US politicians. This newsletter will focus on this consequential moment in US history.