by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Andrew McCarthy of National Review Online urges politicians and pundits to stop saying there was no “quid pro quo” in President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
[T]he president’s backers are adamant that there was no quid pro quo. This refrain returns us to the argument I urged when this controversy emerged a few weeks back: It should have been taken as a given that there was a quid pro quo and that the president was squeezing Ukraine for accommodations, some of which were legitimate (even if unwise), and others harder to defend.
To repeat, quid pro quo just means “this for that.” It’s an exchange, and it is a feature of all commerce. The Latin term only sounds sinister because we most often hear it in connection with bribery and public-corruption prosecutions. But crooked transactions make up just a sliver of state, interstate, and international commerce; in such cases, the problem is not that there is an exchange, but that the exchange involves corruption — commonly, political influence being sold for favors, or used extortionately.
Foreign relations is categorically distinct from domestic law-enforcement. The imposition of quid pro quo demands and intense pressure (even to the point of what would be extortion in the domestic setting) are staples of negotiations between sovereigns. A quid pro quo is improper in foreign relations only when a government official is seeking something that is not arguably in the national interest, particularly if it involves self-dealing — e.g., using government power to further a personal or partisan political objective.
President Trump and his defenders have insisted that there was no quid pro quo. Since there is virtually always a quid pro quo, we must assume that, generally, they mean there was no improper quid pro quo.