It is no surprise House and Senate Republicans are finding it difficult to defend President Trump’s mixing political business with official business in his dealings with Ukraine. From the day they are elected, members are warned to keep the two separate lest they run afoul of the federal bribery law. Nor should it be a surprise that President Trump would mix the two, for by his own admission, as a New York City real estate developer he frequently did.
House and Senate Ethics Committee Manuals both tell members “the federal bribery statute makes it a crime for a public official . . . to ask for . . . gifts, money, or other things of value in connection with the performance of official duties.” The “connection” between the request and the duty performed need not be an explicit quid pro quo — contrary to what some Trump defenders say. Were that the standard, as Justice Kennedy explained in a landmark case, an official could easily escape sanction by resort to “knowing winks and nods.” Continue reading