Quid pro quo, “this for that.” While the phrase covers enough different types of proposals for deals to include what Donald Trump did to the president of Ukraine, we should stop using it because the Latin phrase hides his illegal and gangster-style action which threatened two nations – Ukraine and the United States of America.
If you and I both have children who play soccer, and I call you to suggest that I’ll drive your child to the practice tomorrow evening if you will drive mine home afterwards, that’s a quid pro quo that would merely give each of us some free time that evening. Such a deal bears no resemblance to what Donald Trump did. I have not threatened to hurt your child or burn down your house if you refuse.
Trump made the president of Ukraine “an offer he couldn’t refuse” (from the book and movie, The Godfather) and withdrew that “offer” only after learning he had been caught making it. Call it a shakedown or an attempt at extortion, not an offer of quid pro quo. It was extortion. Call it what it was.
What President Trump demanded was an illicit advantage, not for the United States, but for Donald J. Trump. He wanted the president of Ukraine to announce that his nation was initiating an investigation into alleged corruption involving Joe and Hunter Biden so the Trump campaign could gain phony dirt on his expected opponent in his upcoming race for a second term. Ukraine didn’t need to find anything or even fabricate something corrupt but only to announce the investigation including the Biden name and keep it going. Trump was after another Benghazi: no need to find anything, just keep investigating and chanting the name.
How was this shakedown an offer Ukraine couldn’t refuse? The military aid had been appropriated by our Congress to protect Ukraine and keep Russia from pushing further in and slaughtering Ukraine’s people. Congress was protecting an ally and so looking out for our national interest and security. For Trump, the stake in the deal was political advantage for himself; for Ukraine it was a matter of life and death.
Trump further dangled a White House visit, a sinister offer that would have corrupted the Ukrainian president himself by showing the world he did the dirty deal for his own political advantage, also. The White House visit would have enhanced the Ukrainian president’s standing at home, and so his hands would have seemed as dirty as Trump’s.
“Do as we tell you, and take the money we’re offering you or something might happen to that lovely daughter of yours, and it would be a shame if her face weren’t so pretty any more.” If the official takes the mob’s money, he does so to protect his daughter but also thereby becomes corrupt himself. He cannot protest later without incriminating himself. That’s how mobsters take control of officials. That’s the nature of this Trump deal.
The president had no right or authority to withhold the military aid Congress had appropriated. His doing so violated the law. His making the offer the president of Ukraine “couldn’t refuse” violated the law and was an abuse of his office.
Was the offer for a quid pro quo? Yes, the Latin phrase covers it but vaguely and not helpfully. It certainly wasn’t anything like parents helping each other navigate an evening that included their children’s soccer practice. It wasn’t just a deal. It was a dirty deal that would have ensnared an ally’s leader and made him a puppet, not of the United States, but of Donald Trump.