Quid Pro Quo In Any Language

[ Posted Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019 – 16:33 UTC ]

The Latin phrase quid pro quo simply means "something for something." That's a literal translation, and the concept is much older than even the Roman Empire: I have something you value, you have something I value, so let's exchange the two. Whether it be a chicken, a bolt of cloth, a ferry ride across a river, some gold, or whatever else, the quid pro quo concept goes back even before money existed. You give me something, and I'll give you something, and we'll both walk away satisfied with the deal. It's really not hard to understand at all, because this basic system of bartering is the bedrock of all commerce today.

President Donald Trump, however, seems to have a rather thin grasp on the concept. In his mind, as long as nobody actually says the phrase, then no quid pro quo can ever have happened. This, of course, is not true in the real world. In the real world, deals get made all the time without anyone uttering any Latin. If I go down to the coffee shop and get a donut and a cup of Joe and exchange some legal tender for these things, the only Latin that will be involved is the Annuit Coeptis, the Novus Ordo Seclorum, and the good old E Pluribus Unum engraved on the dollar bills. But a quid pro quo will have taken place nonetheless. Even if I state loudly while passing the money over: "This is not a quid pro quo," it doesn't change the fact that it is indeed a quid pro quo.

All of this sounds pretty pedantic, but it goes to the heart of the revelations today from William Taylor, who laid out in great detail the quid pro quo that Trump offered the leader of Ukraine. At first, those involved thought that Trump was refusing to schedule a White House meeting (that Trump had earlier promised, in a letter) with Ukraine's new leader until this new leader explicitly gave a press conference to announce to the world that he was opening investigations into both the Ukraine's possible involvement with the 2016 U.S. presidential election and into Burisma and Hunter Biden's involvement with the Ukrainian company. No Ukrainian press conference announcing these two investigations, no White House meeting, period. If the press conference was held and the Ukrainian leader mouthed the words fed to him by the Trump administration, then a White House meeting would be scheduled. But the date would not be set until the presser was actually given.

That was what everyone believed at first. But then the military aid to Ukraine was mysteriously held up. If this aid was not paid to Ukraine by the end of the U.S. fiscal year, it would disappear entirely. The clock was ticking, in other words. But the diplomats involved didn't understand what was going on for awhile. Then it was made explicit: not only was the White House meeting contingent on the political investigations, but the aid would also be held up until this happened. Trump had upped the stakes enormously, which should be pretty obvious. A public relations coup like a personal visit to Trump in the White House is one thing, but military aid to fight Russia is a whole different ball of wax.

The story told today by Taylor is consistent with what we've already learned from the whistleblower, from the Trump call semi-transcript, and from the text messages already released. The quid pro quo could not be more obvious. It's as clear as day -- President Trump first used a White House meeting as a carrot he dangled in front of the Ukrainian leader, and then when that didn't work he decided to use hundreds of millions of dollars of military aid as a giant stick. There is just no other way to read the evidence we've already seen and heard.

Throughout this whole time, Trump lurks in the background occasionally interjecting "there's no quid pro quo" into the conversation. But it really doesn't matter if you yell: "I am not robbing this bank!" while you are in fact robbing a bank, because such a laughable denial isn't going to cut any mustard with the judge or jury. Or, at least, it shouldn't.

Any doubts that Trump did indeed pressure a foreign leader to dig up dirt on his political opponents simply vanish when you read the entire opening statement Bill Taylor made this morning to the House committee. He lays out in minute detail exactly what his role was, exactly when he learned the White House meeting was contingent on the demand for a press conference, and exactly when he learned that the military aid was being used as leverage for this demand as well. He is told that Trump says there is no quid pro quo in the same conversation where the quid pro quo is explicitly laid out -- there will be a "stalemate" on the White House meeting and the military aid, unless the press conference is given and Trump is happy with the words the Ukrainian leader parrots.

When the Ukraine story broke, the real impeachable (and illegal) offense was Trump even asking a foreign leader for dirt on his political opponents. No quid pro quo is necessary for that action to be both illegal and impeachable on its own. But Trump and his followers drew the focus instead to Trump's claim that "there was no quid pro quo," as if this were the heart of the matter. It wasn't then and it still isn't, but this "no quid pro quo" argument just entirely collapsed.

There's simply nothing else you can call it, other than a few perfectly synonymous English phrases ("tit for tat," "you scratch my back I'll scratch yours," etc.). In any language, it was basic bartering, as old as mankind: you give me this thing that I want and I will give you these things that you want. Something for something. Or, as Caligula would have called it: quid pro quo.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


37 Comments on “Quid Pro Quo In Any Language”

  1. [1] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    quid pro quo is so dated. how about pie for votes?

  2. [2] 
    Paula wrote:


    Brian Beutler had tweeted:

    Brian Beutler
    Trump should resign the presidency. But unless he does or is removed, it’s impossible to read Taylor's testimony and not demand a full audit of Trump’s diplomacy.

    What Taylor describes isn’t some slapdash, Improvised extortion. They got rid of and circumvented multiple inconvenient people, spent months getting ducks in a row.

    And it almost worked! We almost woke up one day to a CNN EXCLUSIVE that Zelensky had opened investigations of Biden and 2016.

    Now, just stop for a minute and think about how many other bad-acting countries Trump has established irregular foreign policies with: Turkey, UAE, Saudi Arabia, China, Russia, the list goes on.

    Limiting this inquiry to Ukraine is a bit like catching a murderer in the act of killing and charging him with one crime, ignoring the pile of bodies surrounding him.

    For instance: we know there's a secure server at the White House that reportedly contains improperly classified, politically scandalous call summaries. Either Trump goes, or the impeachment inquiry has to expand.

    As Mick Mulvaney said, "we do that all the time." Take him at his word, and investigate every shakedown.

    There's zero reason to assume Ukraine has been the sole recipient of a Blotus shakedown. And while Guiliani may appear almost comic in his villainy when he babbles on cablenews - just as Blotus may appear demented, the bottom line is they've done some seriously nasty stuff and they went to a lot of trouble - quite deliberately - to achieve their ends.

  3. [3] 
    dsws wrote:

    The practice of pretending that a quid pro quo isn't a quid pro quo also has a long history, stretching back into prehistory. Your army has shown up outside my city? Welcome, esteemed guests! You honor me by your presence. Let me show my appreciation with these gifts. They're definitely gifts. I'm not paying you off to go plunder someone else's city instead of mine.

  4. [4] 
    dsws wrote:

    a few perfectly synonymous English phrases ("tit for tat," ...)

    Not synonymous. "Tit for tat" refers to limited retaliation. It's not just that retaliation doesn't escalate, but also that the hostile action is limited to retaliation: in a tit-for-tat strategy, one does not take any hostile action preemptively.

  5. [5] 
    Paula wrote:

    Worth noting: I'm seeing a claim that NY Times misquoted HRC on Tulsi - that the actual quote was that "the Republicans" were grooming a 3rd-party spoiler, not "the Russians". He claims NYTimes corrected the article:

    I don't subscribe to NYT and can't see for myself - can anyone here?

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Actually, Paula … the actual quote is "they" not "the Russians" or "the Republicans" who are grooming a third party candidate.

    It's hard to tell who she was talking about because she was commenting about the Republicans just before she said and she was talking about the Russians during the comment about grooming a third party candidate.

    Did you listen to the actual podcast?

  8. [8] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    I think your 'town hall in Weigantia' is an idea worthy of discussion.

    But, not about OD. Instead, would you be okay with a more general topic like getting big and dark money out of the political process?

  9. [9] 
    dsws wrote:

    I subscribe to NYT. But all I see at the link is a bunch of tweets with images, no link to any Times item to check. It's probably there, and I'm just missing it. Give me a NY Times link and something to check whether it says, and I'll have a look. Or maybe I'll dig through tomorrow and find the article(s) myself.

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Here's the NYTimes piece you're after - the article does say that she said the Russians but when talking about the grooming of a third party candidate she actually said neither Russians nor Republicans … she said "they" after just speaking about the Republicans …

    Who knows, who cares …. I mean really.

    I just hope this was her last such contribution to 2020.

  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:
  12. [12] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:


    Let’s have a look at the transcripts between Trump and the Saudi’s, there is plenty of dirty deals that went down with them!

    Just look at how well his failing to properly fill diplomatic positions has allowed him to create a government that can be corrupt out in the open with little to no consequences— until a whistleblower screwed it all up for him!

  13. [13] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    If you haven’t read Bill Taylor’s opening statement, I would highly recommend doing so! He lays out the events so well that it is crystal clear that Trump went to a lot of trouble to move good people around so he could send his goons in to do his bidding. We have already lost so many great people at the State Department due to this administration, and after reading Taylor’s account, I am shocked that we haven’t lost a lot more of them!

  14. [14] 
    dsws wrote:

    If the Rs (either branch) were trying to get someone to run a third-party campaign, that would be something that they're doing, not something that the candidate is doing.

    The one Liz linked is an AP item in the NYT. Here's an NYT item covering pretty much the same thing:

  15. [15] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Yeah, that wasn't lost on me, Don.

  16. [16] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Getting back to Trump and quid pro quo - this looks to be the moment when the intellect of the WH staff has finally been dumbed down to the level of Boss Trump or lower. A Presidency doing the Limbo. The dance, not Rush.

  17. [17] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    You people are all nuts. OF COURSE therE was a Q-P-Q, OF COURSE he colluded with Russians, OF COURSE he sought dirt on his opponent(s). WTF, that's what politics is all about!!

    This is a "political blog" ain't it, and you nut jobs act like you don't understand even the basics of politics!!

  18. [18] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Of course you know the constitution expressly forbids our executive from seeking or obtaining personal material benefit from foreign governments. Now he's done it twice in full public view. The QPQ isn't so much a crime in and of itself, but it does assign value to the dirt requested, which makes the crime clearer.

  19. [19] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    Yeah, I fully understand what you're saying. Gawd only know, I heard it enough from the girls here for 3 yrs, right up to the moment when the Mueller Report fizzled. But it's NOT nearly as clear-cut constitution-wise as you guys wish it were.

    I'm betting that not a damn one of those constitutional "sins" would turn out to be against the law in a court ruling. Scandal info, dirt, etc. might be interpreted to be a "thing of value" to you guys, mainly because it's the orange moron whom you hate doing it, but I'm betting "thing of value" means more like "money" kinda stuff, NOT information.

  20. [20] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    regarding the mueller report, i agree with you that no "thing of value" was proven to exist, much less that the president himself solicited it or received it. therefore there were no grounds for impeachment. what's a bit different in this case is that a monetary value WAS attached, by the president himself - specifically, 391 million dollars in military aid. that's why QPQ matters - not that it's a crime, but that it factually establishes the monetary value of the dirt solicited to the individuals soliciting it.
    whether all that constitutes an "impeachable offense" is up for debate. however, based on the statute, it's definitely a crime.

  21. [21] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    OK, I think that's a real stretch, but we'll just have to wait and see.

  22. [22] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    BTW, howcum your posts never rhyme??

    Maybe on the order of,

    "We heard it from the poet, but he doesn't know it!

  23. [23] 
    Paula wrote:

    [10] EM: the problem is that by misquoting her initially the NYTimes piece set off a wave of responses aimed at HRC AND, for that matter, Gabbard, that were based on incorrect info. NY Times then corrected the piece without fanfare, without announcing to the world "Gee, we blew it" or anything else. So the damage was done and the repair, just like the fact that HRC was found not-guilty by the State Dept. is too little too late with no real mea culpa by the offenders.

    At balloon-juice:

    We are currently living in the fifth or sixth year, depending on when you want to date its start, of an unconventional Russian war against the US that uses information warfare to influence Americans to destroy ourselves. The US is not doing a particularly good job of fighting Russia as the US government and most Americans don’t seem to have figured out that we are at war. One of the major effects the Russians are trying to achieve is to influence Americans through the weaponization of information, misinformation, disinformation, and information for provocation in order to enflame American political; ethnic, racial, and religious; rural, urban, and suburban; sexuality/gender; and economic differences so that Americans destroy ourselves. In order to do this they have to use weaponized information for effect. And the effect they are trying to achieve is to make it impossible for Americans to both agree on what is true, factual, and accurate and, in many cases, even know what is true, factual, and accurate. The objective is to make it so that for Americans nothing is true and, therefore, anything and everything is possible. The New York Times needs to stop doing this. Not least of which because they do it over and over and over again and that pattern leads to an ugly conclusion: that as an organization they’re doing it on purpose. But even if they aren’t doing it on purpose, what they’re doing only assists the Russian’s information war against the US.

    Both you and CW nearly always LEAP to the worst conclusion about anything HRC says/does - you are always primed for that. You then discount her information which is a mistake. A third-party spoiler from the left offers the GOP an undeserved lifeline and they will do what they can to foster one. And the only people foolish and ignorant enough to vote 3rd party, especially now, are foolish and ignorant enough to fall for misinformation.

    NY Times relentless coverage of HER EMAILS played a key role in the campaign. They need to take great care not to replay that role in 2020 and need to be hammered when they blow it.

  24. [24] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    i write free verse
    it doesn't rhyme
    the meter is not fixed
    well, sometimes it is
    and it does,
    but here we are.


  25. [25] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    here's something that actually is mine:

  26. [26] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    That is a very nice poem, Joshua.

    Somehow, I think it should be tied in with action on climate change.

  27. [27] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    Your 'weather' poem is fine reading, but I'm uncertain why it's a "poem"? To my admittedly insensitive eyes, it's more of a ordinary dissertation or a composition and I don't see the point of printing it in stanzas, or whatever you poets call that form. What does that gain over simply composing a paragraph and printing it like this one I'm writing?

    And for Gawdsake, ignore Liz's cockamamie "climate change" idea. I'm betting she thinks cookie recipes should be related to climate change!

  28. [28] 
    Paula wrote:

    Good tweet thread about the security breach caused by the thug-repubs storming the SCIF today to disrupt testimony:

    "Summary: To disrupt testimony from a DOD official on how the President endangered national security for both the US and Ukraine by withholding military aid, the President's allies further endangered national security by storming the SCIF with their electronic devices."

  29. [29] 
    Paula wrote:

    NYTimes issues a correction statement:

    "NYT Politics
    We’ve corrected this article and deleted an earlier tweet that incorrectly described Hillary Clinton’s recent comments from a podcast interview."

  30. [30] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    So, what did she actually say, Paula? What did she mean by 'they' when she said "they are grooming …"? And, why does it matter?

    Are we piling on the NYTimes, now?

  31. [31] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Heard someone on TV make the following point and I thought it was worth repeating:

    Maybe it’s time to quit referring to this as quid pro quo and call it by its true name —extortion!

  32. [32] 
    Kick wrote:



    It is a federal crime to enter a SCIF without authorization.

  33. [33] 
    Kick wrote:


    Maybe it’s time to quit referring to this as quid pro quo and call it by its true name —extortion!

    It's bribery... and infinitely impeachable as outlined in the United States Constitution.

  34. [34] 
    Paula wrote:

    [31] EM: she said Republicans are grooming Gabbard and they are. FOX & a several units in the GOP-media-machine are openly pushing Gabbard and Gabbard openly uses rightwing talking points to slur Democrats.

    [32] Listen: EXTORTION: Exactly.

    [33] Kick: Yep. And Repub thugs do it all while still having the nerve to complain about HER EMAILS and pretend they gave a damn about national security, etc.

  35. [35] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Paula, why don't you just read the damned podcast and then you will clearly hear what she said instead of relying on press reports and corrections?

    In any event, Gabbard is a non-issue. But, if she does end up as a third party candidate in 2020, then that won't matter either because your country will be doomed.

  36. [36] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Of course, Paula, you'll have to actually LISTEN to the podcast. Ahem.

  37. [37] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Oh, there's a new column up ...

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