The lone Republican witness at the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment hearing Wednesday said there is no clear evidence that President Trump pressing the Ukraine government to investigate political rival Joseph R. Biden amounts to a bribe.
Democrats are considering bribery as one of the potential articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump.
Jonathan Turley, a respected law professor at George Washington University, said that under Supreme Court precedent, a bribery charge must show an explicit agreement linking a campaign donation or gift to a contract, grant or vote.
“These crimes have meaning,” Mr. Turley said.
“You can’t accuse the president of bribery and then say, ‘Well it’s just impeachment, we don’t have to prove the offense,’” Mr. Turley continued. “This isn’t improvisational jazz. Close enough isn’t good enough. If you are going to accuse the president of bribery you need to make it stick because you are trying to remove a duly elected president of the United States.”
The report from the Democrats on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released Tuesday concluded that Mr. Trump used the promise of a prized White House visit and $391 million of military aid to coerce the Ukrainian president to investigate political rival Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter.
The White House released the aid without Ukrainian officials conducting an investigation or announcing an investigation of the Bidens.
Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan, a witness called by the Democrats, disagreed with Mr. Turley, saying Mr. Trump’s actions with Ukraine meet the constitutional definition of bribery.
Ms. Karlan said if lawmakers conclude the president sought an investigation into Mr. Biden and Hunter for political gain, “then yes, you have bribery here.”
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