There is something interesting in all the discussions of “Quid Pro Quo” I haven’t really seen addressed, something which I think has people confused. It isn’t excessively subtle, but it’s a stupid point.
So quid pro quo means (Google defines it) as “a favor or advantage granted or expected in return for something.”
And yes, Mulvaney was technically not wrong that the United States used quid pro quo “all the time.” It isn’t all the time, but it is really frequent. Here are some examples (both good and bad) that I know of:
- We will not give aid to Nepal if their doctors talk to women about abortions
- We will lift sanctions on Iran if they allow nuclear inspectors in
- Remove a corrupt pro-Russian prosecutor from office and we’ll give you military aid.
I didn’t want to make a massive list, we do use quid pro quo regularly in our foreign affairs. Hell, Congress (well, they used to) trade votes. Bob might vote for a bill supporting funding for roads in Iowa for Jane, in turn Jane supported Bob’s bill on funding research on cancer. Both of them get to go back to their constituents and say, “Look, I did my job!”
The Difference Today
Ok, so why is what Trump did a problem? Well, he did it for personal political advantage, not the good of the United States. There is no national advantage to an investigation into Job Biden. There is still corruption in Ukraine. It is better than it was, but that’s like saying the person who didn’t have a heartbeat and now does is better. I mean yeah, but they ain’t doing good yet. Now, I am not a Ukrainian expert – I don’t know how bad the corruption still is, but the experts say it still struggles with corruption and I will believe the people who DO study and work with this.
For President Trump to attempt to withhold U.S. aid (which Congress said to give to Ukraine) for Trump-and-Trump-alone’s benefit… that is wrong. That is NOT him working on behalf of the United States citizens. That’s him using us (U.S.?) as his personal tool.
When Biden withheld aid until Ukraine removed a corrupt prosecutor (Shokin), a prosecutor who had stories like this: ” In one high-profile example, known in Ukraine as the case of the “diamond prosecutors,” troves of diamonds, cash and other valuables were found in the homes of two of Mr. Shokin’s subordinates, suggesting that they had been taking bribes. ” (NYT)
The only benefit this provided Biden was being able to tell the U.S. public, “Look, I did my job!” (made the world a little less corrupt). If anything, Shokin was (is?) the kind of corrupt guy who would stroke his beard and go, “hmmm, Hunter Biden is his son, if we give him good job with lots of money maybe daddy will overlook my super-corrupt bullshit.”
So yes, technically, using quid pro quo is a common tool in our politics. No, what Trump did does not fall into the same basket of U.S. good.