There's "Quid Pro Quo," Then There's Political Corruption

A Fruitless Search for High Crimes and Misdemeanors

November 4, 2019


As Democrats continue to push for open borders while obsessing about globalism and multiculturalism, they seem to have discovered a new appreciation for multilingualism as well. Ever since that controversial phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky, Democrats across the country have been endlessly repeating one Latin phrase they believe will lead to President Trump’s downfall.

In fact, Democrat lawmakers are using it as an excuse to launch partisan, closed-door impeachment hearings against the president. As they explain it, it was during that June phone conversation, that the president repeatedly pressured Zelensky to “dig up dirt” on Joe Biden, his political rival, in exchange for foreign aid to Ukraine. It all sounds pretty incriminating, and Democrats now believe they’ve found what they’ve been looking for all these years – the Golden Fleece, a high crime and misdemeanor, a classic case of quid pro quo, "this for that."

But the published transcript of the conversation refutes their description, exposes it as a gross mischaracterization, bordering on a complete fabrication. In the nearly 2,000-word transcript, Biden’s name surfaced three times, all in one brief excerpt. Trump never requested Zelensky to dig up dirt, only to re-open a criminal investigation that then-Vice President Biden had quashed during the previous administration. It was an investigation that targeted an oil and gas company named Burisma, which was coincidentally fortunate enough to have Biden’s son, Hunter, on its board of directors.

Even though no exchange of favors was mentioned during Trump’s telephone conversation, such an offer, in and of itself, would not be illegal. In fact, all of us routinely offer this for that nearly every day of our lives. It was a concept we learned as kids. Most of us grew up with a common refrain at the dinner table: “If you don’t eat your dinner, then you don’t get any dessert.” Teachers, professors, and employers all offer incentives to get something done, 'this for that.'

There were countless examples of quid pro quo during the Democrats’ debate. Candidates are basing entire campaigns on 'this for that.' “Give me your vote, and I’ll give you free health care. Support me, and I’ll relieve you of your college debt.”

Quid pro quo” is meaningless, without considering the underlying exchange.  Often, it’s completely innocent. It can also be unethical, but still legal. And sometimes it can be completely self-serving and patently illegal.

Barack Obama campaigned on the vow that Iran would never acquire a nuclear weapon, but was never willing to back up that promise with military force. In the waning days of his presidency, he desperately wanted some kind of an agreement and knew that to get it, he’d have to offer something in exchange.

What he gave Iran was, among other things, immediate relief from sanctions, more than $100 billion in unfrozen assets, and release from an embargo on ballistic missile technology after eight short years. He capitulated to nearly all their demands.

What he got in return was a feckless agreement that essentially only delayed the Iranian nuclear program for ten years, subject to worthless inspections, inspections that were permitted only after advance notice.

He got his deal, his legacy. But his gain was America’s loss, because that particular quid pro quo did nothing to protect our country from a future nuclear-armed Iran. While Democrats are likely to see the Iran nuclear deal as brilliant, more objective viewers would call it at best incompetent, perhaps self-serving, cynical, or maybe even impeachable.

Bill and Hillary Clinton, the king and queen of quid pro quo, understood the concept probably better than anyone else in the country. From trading sleepovers in the Lincoln bedroom for campaign donations to much more lucrative endeavors, like Uranium One and the Clinton Foundation. Over their years as public servants, they somehow managed to rake in more than $100 million dollars - in exchange for either public speaking engagements or political favors, depending on one’s point of view - and gullibility.

And then there was Biden. We all saw that video recording of him crowing about forcing Ukraine to fire one of its prosecutors using a billion-dollar aid package as leverage. Ostensibly, it was an audacious act that successfully rid the country of a corrupt official. But Biden somehow never mentioned the fact that the prosecutor would have very likely been looking at his son, Hunter, during his investigation.

That was as clear a case of quid pro quo as ever, with deep, unquestionable ethical and possible legal ramifications. Where were the calls for impeachment then?

If President Trump had intentionally withheld foreign aid to Ukraine in exchange for something that could potentially hurt his political opponent, it would certainly be troubling, and perhaps unethical, but impeachable? It would have paled in comparison to the abuses of quid pro quo during the past Democratic administration.

So as those breathtakingly hypocritical Democrats press on with their impeachment folly, they might want to think about another Latin expression: Nemo sine vitio est – no one is without fault.

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Peter Lemiska has spent more than 28 years in government service. He is a former Senior Special Agent of the U.S. Secret Service and an Air Force veteran. His political commentaries have been widely published on line and in print.