It’s No Accident That Democrats Keep Accusing Trump Of ‘Bribery’

UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 18: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., make their way to the floor for the last House votes of the week on Friday, October 18, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 18: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., make their way to the floor for the last House votes of the week on Friday, October 18, ... UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 18: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., make their way to the floor for the last House votes of the week on Friday, October 18, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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November 14, 2019 12:07 p.m.
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“Bribery” is the new “quid pro quo,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) made clear during her weekly press conference Thursday.

“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, noting that the term is “in the Constitution attached to impeachment proceedings.”

Pelosi is carrying out a new tactic also seen in the phrasing of House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) and committee member Jackie Spier (D-CA) this week. 

Their word choice is no coincidence. 

Article II of the Constitution reads: “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.” 

Democrats appear to be recalibrating their messaging to tie President Donald Trump’s actions directly to impeachment. And the switch-up likely has other benefits as well. 

Before this point, most Democrats were running with “quid pro quo” as shorthand for Trump and his lackeys withholding military aid and a White House meeting in exchange for the Ukrainians announcing sham investigations into a 2016 conspiracy theory and Hunter Biden. 

Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA), who sits on the Oversight Committee, expressed his concern last week that the Latin term meaning “something for something” might alienate and confuse average Americans who are trying to understand what happened and why it was wrong.

“I think that we have to make the case to the American people, you know, fact by fact, and lay it out in a coherent way so that people actually understand what the Articles of Impeachment might pursue,” Lynch said on CNN’s “New Day.” “So we’ve got to make that case to the American people. And I think that if we did it poorly, if we did not persuade them, if there were some obfuscation on the part of the Republicans to take down the hearing … and people saw it as a partisan adventure rather than a legitimate proceeding, it might help the President.”

The vocabulary change may also help Democrats puncture a Republican talking point. Republicans have, by and large, been successful at getting their preferred names for recent political situations to stick — think “no collusion” during the Mueller investigation, or “read the transcript” for the edited White House memo of the Trump-Zelensky call. Now, it’s “no quid pro quo.” 

Their messaging, while lacking any nuance and usually at least stretching the truth, sticks. Now Democrats will see if “bribery” strikes the American people as more egregious than “quid pro quo” — despite the fact that both terms are catchalls for the same behavior.

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