As Democrats continue to pursue an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump over allegations he abused power by pursuing a quid pro quo arrangement with Ukraine, several legal scholars have said it’s his duty to ensure that the country gets the most out of its foreign policy.
In fact, they said, bartering with foreign leaders is expected of presidents.
“All this discussion of quid pro quo is really a smokescreen,” Robert G. Natelson, a constitutional scholar with the Independence Institute, a libertarian-leaning think tank in Denver, told the Washington Times. “Even if it were a quid pro quo, I think it is rather clearly neither a felony nor a misdemeanor.
“It is not a breach of fiduciary duty for a president to make aid to another country conditional, and it is certainly not a breach of fiduciary duty for the president to ask the other country to investigate possible involvement in an American election,” he added.
Democrats have alleged that President Trump committed a breach of his office by allegedly threatening to withhold military assistance to the government of Ukraine unless it provided him with political dirt on former President Joe Biden.
The president has maintained that he did not threaten the Ukrainian government and never sought political information on Biden, and a transcript of a call between him and President Volodymyr Zelensky released by the White House released in September supports his contention.
Nevertheless, Democrats have provided testimony from some witnesses who claim they believe that a quid pro quo took place and that it was improper.
Other legal experts don’t agree, however.
Robert Ray, a former independent counsel who conducted the probe in the Whitewater scandal involving Bill and Hillary Clinton, said the quid pro quo — “something for something” in original Latin — doesn’t qualify as impeachable bribery.
“If what the Democrats are pointing to is bribery, it is a long way short of that. You have to have more than a quid pro quo,” he told Fox Business Network’s Neil Cavuto.
In order to qualify as bribery, the dealmaking would have to be blatantly illegal.
“It has to be corrupt, which is to say something that the law is prepared to recognize as clearly and unmistakably illegal,” he said.