I am not asking for an opinion based answer, just factual.

This time last week, there was talk of three articles of impeachment.

Now, bribery has been dropped. Has any senior offical said why?

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    Comments deleted. Please don't use comments to answer the question. If you would like to answer, please post a real answer which adheres to our quality standards.
    – Philipp
    Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 14:33

8 Answers 8


Schiff himself thought that this was bribery

"I don't think there's any question that the uncontested facts show this president solicited a bribe," Schiff told NPR's Steve Inskeep in an interview in the congressman's office on Capitol Hill Tuesday.

"Bribery ... most importantly in terms of what the founders had in mind, that is conditioning an official act for something of value," Schiff said, adding, "I think this certainly meets that definition."

The best argument I've heard why the Judiciary Committee doesn't see it that way is this WaPo article which notes

The Democrats’ worry appears to be that it would then put them in the position of satisfying the statutory requirements of bribery, which is a valid concern.

Bribery is a very specific crime. Something of value is exchanged for some illegal act by an elected official. But what value did Trump get out of it (in a legal sense)? Another article fleshes that out a bit more

Frank O. Bowman, the author of a recent book on impeachment (titled, as it happens, “High Crimes and Misdemeanors”), said proving there was a “thing of value” could be tough. The Justice Department opted not to pursue an investigation of the whistleblower complaint because it determined the value of a government investigation could not be quantified. (That decision is not without controversy, though.)

“If we consider Trump as the recipient of a bribe, the ‘thing of value’ is presumably an investigation of Biden/CrowdStrike, or an announcement that such an investigation is being undertaken,” Bowman said. “Whether these are things of value is an interesting legal question. I can certainly make the argument that they are.”

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    While I mostly agree with this analysis, I suspect that the "intent" aspect of bribery plays a big role in this as well. Intent crimes are hard enough to prove without partisan politics entering into the equation. I think it's one of those "we all know it, but none of us can prove it" situations.
    – Michael W.
    Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 17:09
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    Bribery does not have to involve an illegal act. Paying an official to perform a legal act is also bribery. The statute says "to influence any official act."
    – phoog
    Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 20:34
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    Phoog, if that was the case then no politician could campaign, ask for funds for their campaign or recruit ever. Those actions are all “of value” with the expectation of returning something in as an “official act”. Commented Dec 14, 2019 at 12:54
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    @MatthewWhited Well the dictionary would disagree with you. Because the point made was and is true. Bribery does not have to involve anything illegal. The fact politicians the world over can get away with these things is unrelated to the definition of bribery. It's not a justice system that we all know of but a legal system.
    – Pryftan
    Commented Dec 14, 2019 at 20:28

The house heard no evidence that that the President explicitly solicited a bribe from Ukraine. The closest they got was Sondland's testimony that he assumed it was bribery based on information relayed to him. Furthermore an aide to Ukraine's President Zelensky refuted parts of Sondland's testimony relating to any quid pro quo or bribery. Abuse of power is a more general claim and doesn't require getting evidence that Trump himself was involved in soliciting a bribe from Ukraine to possibly convict on that charge. The abuse of power claim is also related to Ukraine so if evidence that the President did solicit a bribe he is still guilty, so nothing is really lost by not having a specific bribery article.

Support for impeachment is also dropping, and in key swing states Trump is polling better than Democrat candidates, so avoiding easily attacked articles based on essentially no good evidence is good strategy, because it avoids an easy way for the President to take control of the narrative. Taking time find more solid evidence to support a direct bribery article would risk impeachment support falling further, which would put Democrats in a tough spot of moving forward with an unpopular impeachment and loosing independents, or not impeaching at all and loosing their base.

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    +1 for Zelensky denying any knowledge of bribery. Seems like a critical component to bribery is for the recipient of the bribe to know they're being bribed and what they're not getting if they don't go along with it. Through this whole impeachment saga, I've never been able to get past that fact.
    – bvoyelr
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 16:56
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    @bvoyelr Zelensky denying it was bribery doesn't mean that it wasn't bribery, or that he didn't know that it was. Trump is still president and has enormous power to affect the course of the real, live war that Zelensky is fighting against Russia right now. Zelensky can't admit that it was bribery without enraging Trump, which would cost him millions of dollars in aid if Trump repeated his past behavior of delaying those payments.
    – Dan C
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 18:06
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    @DanC Your right, but if he did come out and say it was Bribery and could prove it, what do you think would happen? Right now independents and moderates against impeachment think that because there is little proof beyond partisan word of mouth and coincidence, so what would happen if they were given actual undeniable non partisan proof. Now consider that Trump is accused of being very anti Ukraine by way of "Russian Asset", and the only reason Ukraine wouldn't try to remove him is because they can't, not enough evidence, or they won't, because he didn't do it. Neither bode well for Democrats.
    – Ryan
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 21:20
  • @DanC Quite right to highlight the risk of delaying future aid but, last I read, tens of millions in the 'present' aid (the aid that was the subject of the impeachment investigation) still hasn't arrived in Ukraine.
    – Lag
    Commented Dec 14, 2019 at 9:31
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    @Ryan "Right now independents and moderates against impeachment think that because there is little proof beyond partisan word of mouth and coincidence" - And the same people that label witness testimony by multiple non partisan witnesses and a transcript "partisan word of mouth" will label anything Zelensky says "partisan word of mouth". Zelensky couldn't do more than repeat what multiple credible witnesses already stated, and he would risk both his country and his career with no possible upside for doing so.
    – Peter
    Commented Dec 14, 2019 at 22:11

As demonstrated in other answers, most people have preconceived and incorrect notions of what constitutes bribery, in general, and there could be further misconceptions that what constitutes bribery in a criminal context also defines and limits the broader term.

Given the well-coordinated propaganda machinery that includes members of the potential "jury" collaborating with the accused on the best strategy for acquittal, the strategy by the Democrats has been to stick to simple, clear-cut concepts that are less likely to get muddied or bogged down in minutia and arguments over "what is is." That's why some pretty damning evidence on charges, like emoluments, has not been persued, at all, and the specific evidence in the carefully worded Mueller Report have also not been used.


The most logical explanation would be: the House has no evidence of bribery.

While impeachment doesn't exactly follow the rules of jurisprudence, there should be some basis for the charges preferred, lest those making them end up looking rather foolish.

Remember that the entire House is re-elected every two years, so voter reaction to House activities can be swift.

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    Do you have any evidence for this answer, or is it just personal speculation?
    – divibisan
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 4:51
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    The first article (titled "Abuse of power") lays out pretty much exactly the elements of the federal bribery statute, even partially quoting it. It just wasn't titled "Bribery" for reasons only the committee knows, but it IS bribery beyond question. Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 17:18
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    See is there any legal proof of (attempted) by bribery of Ukraine by Trump on our Law site
    – Mawg
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 17:27
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    As Mawg stated, there is evidence of bribery, which makes this answer wrong.
    – Peter
    Commented Dec 14, 2019 at 22:16
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    @Peter-UnbanRobertHarvey Witnesses have stated that they presumed that there was a quid-pro-quo. All of them testified that they never heard Trump making the connection.
    – Sjoerd
    Commented Dec 15, 2019 at 0:28

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 and it's baffling to see that answer receive any up-votes at all. If the evidence did exist, it would be a slam dunk for Democrats and a major blow to Donald Trump's future as president.

We can talk all day about how shady or unethical the president's behavior was but none of that changes the legality of it.

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    This probably isn't wrong per se, but it's pretty circular logic and ignores the fact that the legal definition of bribery doesn't matter for Impeachment, as it's a political, not a legal process
    – divibisan
    Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 23:31
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    Downvoting, because the clear wording of the bribery statute fits the facts perfectly as interpreted by any competent court following decades of precedent. It's the public that likely doesn't fully understand this, but public opinion and misunderstanding wouldn't be relevant in any normal court case. Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 1:02
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    A reference or link to a (or, the) legal definition - especially since the answers talks about how a legal definition differs from what Schiff is saying - would be helpful in assessing this answer. For instance, it is my suspicion that you are referring to the criminal standard for bribery, which is neither the only legal nor general definition of the term. But my suspicion could be completely wrong, I have no way to tell. Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 15:18
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    There is evidence ( law.stackexchange.com/a/47428/1278 ), which makes this answer wrong. In addition, it is quite normal for cases to be dropped even if there is evidence, so the claim about "the only logical reason" would need something more to back it up. One way to improve this answer would be to replace "no evidence" wich "insufficient evidence", and an analysis that elaborates why the existing evidence is insufficient, ideally backed up by sources.
    – Peter
    Commented Dec 14, 2019 at 22:20
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    @Peter-UnbanRobertHarvey Witnesses have stated that they presumed that there was a quid-pro-quo. All of them testified that they never heard Trump making the connection.
    – Sjoerd
    Commented Dec 15, 2019 at 0:30

These are the articles of impeachment that the House is going to give to the Senate, and the House would really, really like the Senate to actually deliberate them on their merits instead of dismissing them outright on a partisan basis. You'll note that 'High Crimes and Misdemeanors' isn't the actual charge either, it's Abuse of Power. This is because the terms 'Bribery' and 'High Crimes' have very different definitions when it comes to public opinion, current US law, and impeachment procedure.

In the last couple of weeks, Mitch McConnell has shown a willingness to consider charges based on the definition most favorable to the President, not the definition as stated in our Constitution, and it appears that the correspondents on Fox News have decided to spread the popular opinion version: that attempting a crime and failing shouldn't be a crime, and that if we can't put a specific price tag on the value of the information that could have been provided, we can't prove it was a tradeoff between two physical things: Monetary aid and valuable information.

So while Bribery is very much a valid and frankly, open-and-shut charge on the proper merits, the Democrats are realizing that McConnell will dismiss it outright based on the popular opinion definition. As such, they've stuck to the two charges that will be the most difficult for McConnell to deny: That the president told his staff not to answer a lawful subpoena (visible, understandable to anyone, and very impeachable), and that it is wrong to use everyone's tax dollars for an individual's personal gain, especially the individual who is in control of those tax dollars.

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    But of course, they will pretend to deliberate on the merits and then dismiss outright on a partisan basis.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 18:30
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    @WGroleau There's no helping that. All that can be done is to make it as difficult as possible for them to do so.
    – Carduus
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 19:03
  • President doesn’t control the purse strings of the United States. That is a duty of the House of Representatives. Anything related to taxation is decided by the house. (And the last thing Democratics in the house want to do is reduce taxes.) Commented Dec 14, 2019 at 13:06
  • @MatthewWhited The House appropriates, the Executive spends. If he refuses to spend, that's allocated funds that sit in reserve.
    – Carduus
    Commented Dec 16, 2019 at 15:02

It's not uncommon for the articles of impeachment that pass to be focused on the most-serious crimes. It was pretty clear that Nixon committed tax fraud, but the house decided to focus on the bigger issues and didn't include that in the articles of impeachment.

You also have to realize that these are the articles which will be voted on in the Senate, which has a small Republican majority. Just listen to what Republican leader Mitch McConnell says he plans to have those Republican senators do (you've probably already heard it by this point, but here's one source for the clip).

There will be no difference between the president's position and our position as to how to handle this to the extent that we can.


We have no choice but to take it up, but we'll be working through this process hopefully in a fairly short period of time in total coordination with the White House counsel's office and the people who are representing the president.

That's right, a man who is to serve as a jurer in the Senate trial has openly admitted to colluding with the defense. So much for that oath he will have to take.

I solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of ____, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God.

Therefore in order to give justice the best chance of being served, it is best to focus on the most-irrefutable charges available.

  • It's very customary for the Senate members and the President of the same party to confer during their impeachment trials. It happened both with Nixon and Clinton
    – user9790
    Commented Dec 16, 2019 at 20:55

Republicans have been accused of basing the Impeachment defense on distractions and false narratives (1)(2)(3)(4)(5).

If we assume that the Democrats' decision-makers believe this to be true, fewer articles of impeachment reduces the number of available distractions and false narratives. Which would give these decision-makers a reason to drop the bribery article, even if they believe the article is supported by the evidence.

Specific concerns that allow distractions in the context of an explicit bribery allegation:

If we go into speculation mode, that last point about witness availability also preserves the option for Democrats to reintroduce Impeachment for bribery if the witnesses become available in June 2020.

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