Fifty years ago, the Ford Motor Company started producing the Pinto, a car that was billed as the be-all and end-all for the automotive industry. The only problem was that the car went up in flames when it encountered a medium to large squirrel. The flammability of the Pinto did not prevent its proponents from advancing its use until it was finally pulled off the streets.
The pinto came to mind this week when a poorly designed legal product reappeared: the Trump bribery theory. Various legal experts have insisted that President Trump may be prosecuted or charged under bribery laws, including because of his dealings with Ukraine. I have repeatedly written that this theory has been discredited by judicial review, and I have testified against its use as an article in the House impeachment hearing last year. As Ralph Nader once said about the Chevrolet Corvair, this theory on Capitol Hill is "unsafe at any speed". The decision to bring out this discredited bribery theory is just the most recent example of the choice of flammability versus credibility in legal analysis. The difference is that unstable automotive products are taken off the road when they are exposed. Unstable legal products just keep rolling.
Despite the support of the other three witnesses at the hearing, the House Judiciary Committee cautiously refused to charge this face-invalid theory. Some of us thought that bribery theory was discarded at the bad ideas junkyard. However, it was all back at the end of this week: after hearing the testimony of former U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman, House Justice Justice Jerrold Nadler (DN.Y.) said his committee would investigate Attorney General William Barr's corruption is guilty. for the offer to move Berman from his New York post to the Civil Department of the Department of Justice.
The reappearance of the theory followed the implosion of an alternative criminal theory.
A week ago, Barr was accused of criminally handicapped having Berman as a US attorney in southern New York to influence investigations into Trump friends from Rudy Giuliani to the late Jeffrey Epstein. It was not important that these investigations be followed aggressively during Barr's tenure.
The problem is that when he released his written statement to Congress, Berman did not claim that this change was an attempt to hinder an investigation. (In particular, on a committee known to lose information from a closed hearing, no such allegation was leaked, and no member indicated that it was made.) Instead, Berman said he told Barr he wanted the southern district did not leave New York because he wanted to see "important investigations … until completion" and "lead the office through the COVID crisis and normalize the office again" function. "
B.Erman said Barr wanted to move the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Jay Clayton, to the southern district position to accommodate Clayton's desire to return to New York. Barr found that he offered Berman other positions that would have been effective promotions.
There is still no evidence of efforts to hinder the southern district investigation. On the contrary, the Epstein investigation continued with the extraordinary arrest of Epstein's close associate Ghislaine Maxwell, and Barr has urged British Prince Andrew to testify in this case. Barr's DOJ has urged to imprison Trump's close friend Roger Stone, and Barr is said to have spoken out against Trump's decision to grant Stonein the president's grace in the form of a commutation. And Barr specifically asked the DOJ Inspector General to monitor the southern district office to prevent any interference in his investigation.
At that point, the theory of bribery came back on the streets. Nader announced: "We don't yet know if the attorney general's behavior is criminal, but this kind of consideration is terribly close to bribery." It is not terribly close. Just awful.
The proposal is so absurd that it contradicts belief – unless you've followed the legal analysis of the past three years. A leading advocate was former Washington Post prosecutor and columnist Randall D. Eliason, who insisted that "allegations of ineligible consideration are really just another way of saying that there was a bribe … it's bribery when looking for something in return." becomes a corrupt intention if the president does not pursue a legitimate US policy, but wrongly calls on Ukraine to take measures that would benefit him personally. “Eliason also endorsed the House report and assured that" the legal and factual analysis of bribery and fraud in honest services in the House report is accurate "and" contains convincing evidence of federal crime violations ".
The theory was never "exact" or even nearly right, as the decision shows not to use it as the basis for impeachment. And yet it is back.