Mitt Romney made the argument around which everyone else danced yesterday after the New York Times exposed the UraniumOne deal and its principals’ big cash avalanche to the Clinton Foundation. The State Department’s approval of the deal under Hillary Clinton wasn’t just “undue influence,” and not “a poor choice of timing,” either. “It looks like bribery,” Romney told Hugh Hewitt last night:

HH: Governor Romney, I know you’ve had a chance to read, I assume you’ve had a chance to read the Jo Becker/Mike McIntire New York Times piece today about the cash flowing into the Clinton Foundation from the Russians as they got control of Uranium One. What’s your reaction to this story?

MR: You know, I’ve got to tell you, I was stunned by it. I mean, it looks like bribery. I mean, there is every appearance that Hillary Clinton was bribed to grease the sale of, what, 20% of America’s uranium production to Russia, and then it was covered up by lying about a meeting at her home with the principals, and by erasing emails. And you know, I presume we might know for sure whether there was or was not bribery if she hadn’t wiped out thousands of emails. But this is a very, very serious series of facts, and it looks like bribery.

A few moments later, after the above excerpt, Romney argued that while some of the Clintons’ post-White House activities need scrutiny through the political process, this rises above that into something even more serious, emphasis mine:

HH: I just asked Senator Lindsey Graham last hour if they would hold hearings into the donors to the Clinton Family Foundation, because if the Russians can give them that much money, is it possible the Iranians have as well, Governor Romney?

MR: Well, we don’t know who gave money, and the IRS apparently is making it known that the filings of the Clinton Foundation did not include the fact that foreign governments were making contributions. And they had misstated their filings over the past several years. This is obviously a very troubling setting. But even what we do know, based on what was written by the New York Times, and is being reported by Fox and others, it has every earmark of bribery. And this is from the office of Secretary of State. This is a very troubling set of facts, and clearly, there’s got to be some kind of investigation to find out what the truth is here, because around the world, people are going to look at Hillary Clinton, a potential candidate for president, a former Secretary of State, and say gosh, is this a person who could be trusted? And I think the American people are asking that question as well.

HH: Now Governor Romney, Brian Fallon, a spokesperson for Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign, said, “No one has produced a shred of evidence supporting the theory that Hillary Clinton ever took action as Secretary of State to support the interests of donors to the Clinton Foundation. To suggest the State Department under then-Secretary Clinton exerted undue influence in the U.S. government’s review of the sale of Uranium One is utterly baseless.” Is that a sufficient response?

MR: Well, it’s blah, blah, blah. The story that came from the New York Times is pretty straightforward, which is that millions upon millions of dollars were given to the Clinton Foundation at the same time by a group of people who had uranium assets, and shortly thereafter, these people came to the State Department for approval to be able to sell these assets to Russia for a huge price tag. And those are the facts. And if those things are connected, as they certainly seem to be, it’s a form of bribery. And that’s what it appears to be, and that is of course what’s going to have to be delved into, and I’m afraid this is a, this is bigger than just her presidential campaign. I mean, this is a question about whether or not the United States Secretary of State was bribed to grease the sale of strategic assets to Russia.

The response from the Clinton camp is that no one can show an explicit quid pro quo, so it’s all just … a coincidence! Jennifer Rubin reminds them that it’s not really necessary to demonstrate an explicit quid pro quo, and points to the prosecution of Bob McDonnell as an example:

As a legal matter, it’s not necessary to find a quid pro quo. “The most significant and powerful forms of corruption today are precisely those that thrive without depending upon quid pro quos for their effectiveness.” That was Harvard professor Lawrence Lessing — talking about the Bob McDonnell case. Oh yes, that. Back then there was a similar false comfort in the lack of a quid pro quo. “Is there proof that [Jonnie] Williams, in giving those gifts, demanded reciprocation for his company? No. At least not yet. But that doesn’t mean that McDonnell and his family weren’t inclined to look at Williams and Star Scientific more favorably because of the financial assistance they were given.”

And that is essentially what the jury found and why it convicted McDonnell, who was surrounded by a swirl of gifts, benefits, cash and favors — periodically punctuated by a phone call on Jonnie R. Williams Sr.’s behalf. …

As for the Clintons — who are not (yet) in a court of law — the lack of a quid pro quo is an especially poor defense. Hillary destroyed thousands of e-mails about her “private” dealings. Destruction of evidence — not to mention leaving foreign donations off the foundation’s tax returns (recall that McDonnell left the “loans” off bank documents) — tends to underscore that the couple was hiding something and that the evidence in those e-mails or the entities listed on the tax returns would have been incriminating. In the case of the e-mails there is a legal concept known as “spoliation of evidence.” In short, if a court finds that a party has destroyed evidence, it is permissible to assume that it would have proven guilt. (“[C]ourts have long employed the adverse inference jury instruction or ‘spoliation inference,’ to sanction spoliation of evidence. Under this inference, the jury is instructed that it may assume that the lost evidence, if available, would have been unfavorable to the spoliator.”) Again, we are not in court, but the common-sense inference that many voters and the media may make is that destroying the e-mails was in essence a cover-up.

Not just “in essence,” but obviously a cover-up. Why use a secret, private e-mail server at all if not to cover up Hillary’s activities? Jonathan Chait didn’t go quite this far yesterday, but he wrote that even the best-case scenario from the avalanche of scandal coming from the Clinton foundation looked pretty darned bad:

The qualities of an effective presidency do not seem to transfer onto a post-presidency. Jimmy Carter was an ineffective president who became an exemplary post-president. Bill Clinton appears to be the reverse. All sorts of unproven worst-case-scenario questions float around the web of connections between Bill’s private work, Hillary Clinton’s public role as secretary of State, the Clintons’ quasi-public charity, and Hillary’s noncompliant email system. But the best-case scenario is bad enough: The Clintons have been disorganized and greedy. …

The Clintons’ charitable initiatives were a kind of quasi-government run by themselves, which was staffed by their own loyalists and made up the rules as it went along. Their experience running the actual government, with its formal accountability and disclosure, went reasonably well. Their experience running their own privatized mini-state has been a fiasco.

National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar reminds Democrats that they went all in with Hillary and the Clinton baggage. How’s that bet looking now? Er …

Democrats didn’t fully appreciate the size of the gamble they’re taking on Hillary Clinton by assuming she’s their strongest 2016 candidate, but they’re sure finding out now.

Forget the email server. The latest revelation—that a Canadian mining company with close ties to the Clinton Foundation sold its uranium business to the Russians with approval from Clinton’s State Department—is more damaging than any of the previous controversies that have buffeted the campaign. …

This wasn’t part of the plan: Surely she knew that her approval ratings were never going to be as strong as they looked last year, but it’s unlikely she expected to be in a defensive crouch from the outset. The notion that she will be able to avoid the “distractions,” to borrow her characterization of the growing controversies, is delusional. If she continues to insist that these pay-to-play allegations are another “right-wing conspiracy” and not deserving of a substantive response, it could be fatal for her campaign. The dismissive response from her allies is doing her nearly as much damage as the allegations themselves. It guarantees the coverage will last much longer than the current news cycle.

Democrats are badly misreading the polls showing Clinton as a formidable Democratic force. Her strong numbers are as much a product of a lack of primary competition as a result of her political strength. She’s also benefiting from the country’s partisan polarization at a time when there aren’t many other Democrats offering themselves as an alternative and joining in on the criticism. But those benefits are looking awfully short-lived, as Clinton looks unprepared to tackle questions that undermine her credibility for higher office. The more Democrats bet on Clinton, the uglier the recriminations will get if things go wrong.

When the best rebuttal for Democrats on Hillary Clinton to allegations of bribery is, “She’s merely greedy and unprincipled,” then things are getting very, very bad.