House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff said in an interview Tuesday that President Trump’s actions vis-a-vis Ukraine meet the constitutional definition of bribery — but that it’s the Judiciary Committee that must decide whether to recommend impeaching him on those grounds.
“This is certainly, I think, what the founders had in mind when they used that word in the Constitution,” Schiff (D-Calif.) said, defining “bribery” as “the offer of or performance of official acts, in exchange for something of value; the betrayal of a public trust to get something of personal or political value.
“That’s exactly what’s gone on here.”
Schiff spoke with The Washington Post after releasing a lengthy report summarizing committee Democrats’ findings from their weeks-long impeachment inquiry.
The document concluded that Trump and his subordinates “conditioned official acts on a public announcement by the new Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, on politically-motivated investigations, including one into President Trump’s domestic political opponent.” But it stopped short of recommending that Trump be impeached for what Schiff said those words constitute: bribery, which is one of the premises upon which the Constitution says Congress may remove a president from office.
Other Democratic leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), have suggested that Trump engaged in bribery. But Schiff’s comments defining the House Democrats’ official findings as such appear to put a marker down for the Judiciary Committee, which is scheduled to draft articles of impeachment in the next week.
“The fact that the founders provided a remedy didn’t mean that the founders had to use it,” Schiff said. “And so we will have to decide whether to use that remedy and if so, in what way to frame those articles.”
It also accuses Trump of having “placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States, sought to undermine the integrity of the U.S. presidential election process, and endangered U.S. national security.” But when asked whether Democrats also believed Trump’s actions meet the constitutional standard for the impeachable offense of treason, Schiff said he had not considered that.
He said he does believe, however, that Trump’s actions represent high crimes and misdemeanors.
Though the Intelligence Committee hands off its work this week, Schiff has committed to continue the investigation “to know the full extent of other people’s involvement in the Ukraine scheme.” He added that the panel will look back to determine whether Trump and his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani sought to pressure Ukraine’s previous president as well.
Giuliani is one of several people close to the president who defied congressional subpoenas and suffered no immediate consequences. Trump “fully believes that justice delayed is justice denied,” Schiff said, adding that Democrats were “not willing to be played that way.”
But with the Judiciary Committee inheriting the impeachment process, the intelligence panel is free to pursue those subpoenas and recommend changes to prevent future presidents from stonewalling Congress.
“We are already writing our post-Watergate reforms,” Schiff said. “And I think at the top of the list will be expedited court process for the enforcement of congressional subpoenas.”
This piece was originally published in the Washington Post.