FILE – In this Nov. 21, 2013 file photo reviewed by the U.S. military, dawn arrives at the now closed Camp X-Ray, which was used as the first detention facility for al-Qaida and Taliban militants who were captured after the Sept. 11 attacks, at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. The Pentagon announced Monday, Aug. 15, 2016, that fifteen prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention center were released to the United Arab Emirates in the single largest transfer of detainees during the Obama administration. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
The House Judiciary Committee released a 658-page report overnight which will accompany the Articles of Impeachment against President Trump. The committee alleges that Trump has committed “multiple federal crimes” including criminal bribery and wire fraud. The full document can be viewed here.
The report begins by stating that “The House of Representatives conducted a fair, thorough, and transparent impeachment inquiry under extraordinary circumstances. For the first time in modern history, committees of the House acted as original factfinders in a Presidential impeachment.” Is it me or does that say something about the basis of this whole affair?
It goes on to say that “the first article charges that the President used the powers of his office to solicit and pressure a foreign government, Ukraine, to investigate his domestic political rival and interfere in the upcoming United States Presidential elections.” The President “crossed the threshold into criminal behavior” during his July 25th telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
He did so by “soliciting the Government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations that would benefit his reelection, harm the election prospects of a political opponent, and influence the 2020 United States Presidential election to his advantage,” which constitutes criminal bribery.
The second article “charges that the President categorically obstructed the Congressional impeachment inquiry into his conduct. Taken together, the articles charge that President Trump has placed his personal, political interests above our national security, our free and fair elections, and our system of checks and balances. He has engaged in a pattern of misconduct that will continue if left unchecked. Accordingly, President Trump should be impeached and removed from office.”
The most notable, and unexpected, feature of the document is the addition of a federal wire fraud charge. They make sure to point out that this charge “imposes up to 20 years’ imprisonment.’
The President is accused of violating the honest services wire fraud statute during the Zelensky call, “as well as during a separate phone call a day later with Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. Those “foreign wire communications” were done “in furtherance of an ongoing bribery scheme.”
Here is the relevant section from the report (pages 126-127).
c. Honest Services Fraud, 18 U.S.C § 1346
In addition to committing the crime of bribery, President Trump knowingly and willfully orchestrated a scheme to defraud the American people of his honest services as President of the United States. In doing so, he betrayed his position of trust and the duty he owed the citizenry to be an honest fiduciary of their trust. That offense is codified in the federal criminal code, which imposes up to twenty years’ imprisonment for public officials who (by mail or wire fraud) breach the public trust by participating in a bribery scheme.733 In Skilling v. United States, the Supreme Court confirmed that the statute governing “honest services fraud” applies to “bribes and kickbacks,” and noted that this concept “draws content from” the federal anti-bribery statute.734 As such, public officials who engage in bribery may also be charged with honest services fraud.
Fundamentally, the President has deprived the American people of the honorable stewardship that the Nation expects and demands of its chief executive. Since Skilling, federal courts have looked to federal bribery statutes, paying particular attention to Section 201, to assess what constitutes willful participation in a scheme to defraud in the provision of “honest services.”736 As described above, President Trump engaged in conduct that constitutes a violation of Section 201. President Trump conditioned specific “official acts”—the provision of military and security assistance and a White House meeting—on President Zelensky announcing investigations that benefitted him personally, while harming national interests. In doing so, President Trump willfully set out to defraud the American people, through bribery, of his “honest services.”
The underlying wire fraud statute, upon which the “honest services” crime is based, requires a transmission by “wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce any writings . . . for the purpose of executing [a] . . . scheme or artifice.” President Trump’s July 25 call to President Zelensky, as well as his July 26 call to Ambassador Gordon Sondland both were foreign wire communications made in furtherance of an ongoing bribery scheme. Thus, the President’s telephone calls on July 25th and July 26th lay bare the final element to find him criminally liable for his failure to provide “honest services” to the American people.
The Democrats appear to be unraveling by the day. Rather than making a series of deliberate, rational decisions, they seem to be making this up as they go along. Their decisions appear to be based more on emotion than on strategy. That’s what this level of hatred does to people.
I get the sense that they know they’ve made a colossally stupid mistake and they may wish they could find an out.
The House is set to vote on H.R. 755 on Wednesday. That is still the plan, however, there’s been a new twist.
It’s possible House leaders may decide not to pass it along to the Senate as expected.
My colleague, Streiff, tells the must-read story here.