3. Bribery and extortion only sound good.
Democrats should keep the story they’re telling to the public as simple as possible and avoid playing into Trump’s argument that they are throwing the kitchen sink at him. In my experience as a former federal prosecutor and as a trial lawyer in private practice, a key to winning any trial is to tell the simple story and force the other side to tell a more complicated one.
To that end, House Democrats—including Speaker Nancy Pelosi—have begun calling Trump’s conduct “bribery.” I can see why that is an attractive label for Trump’s misconduct. The average American knows what bribery is but has never heard of “abuse of power.”
But Democrats should be careful about doing so, because while Trump’s conduct resembles bribery, as a technical legal matter it doesn’t quite fit. It’s true that demanding a thing of value in exchange for an official act (like aid to Ukraine) is solicitation of a bribe, but Trump’s allies would have a reasonable argument to make that an announcement of an investigation is not itself a “thing of value.” Similar concerns were one reason Mueller declined to charge participants in the infamous Trump Tower meeting with a campaign finance violation for seeking intangible information on Hillary Clinton.
As it stands now, Trump has no defense whatsoever on the merits to an abuse of power charge. Calling his conduct “bribery” would give Trump legal arguments like the one outlined above. Why give him a leg to stand on?