KU Law Professor: Bribery is ‘whatever Congress thinks that it is’

A University of Kansas law professor tells us that when talking about impeachment, the definition of bribery is not necessarily the same as it would be in a normal trial.

“Because this is a Constitutional word and not a statutory word, the particular statutory definitions of bribery do not necessarily control,” said Lumen ‘Lou’ Mulligan. Mulligan is the Earl B. Shurtz Research Professor at the University of Kansas Law School. “Black’s Law Dictionary defines bribery as the corrupt solicitation of a private favor for official action.”

The functions of the different chambers of Congress are worth restating, in that the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives is functionally acting as a grand jury to bring articles of impeachment, equivalent to charges.

“At the end of the day, bribery, however, will be whatever Congress thinks that it is,” said Mulligan.

The jury in an impeachment trial is the United States Senate, currently a Republican-controlled chamber.

“The Senate, in effect, acts as a jury, but it’s a very unusual jury, insofar as it is going to decide factual matters,” said Mulligan. “The Senators can also decide questions of law. If the Senate is unhappy with a particular ruling that the Chief Justice makes during that trial, the Senate itself could overturn it, could vote against it. If the Senate wanted to define bribery, it can.”

It’s important to note that it just takes a simple majority to pass impeachment articles in the House, but it takes a two-thirds majority in the Senate to remove a President from office. That has never happened.