Extraordinary events hallow names. Consider Lexington Green, the Statue of Liberty, or Ronald Reagan. But some falter, instead, in infamy or ignominy, such as The League of Nations or Watergate. And others are so distorted by their times and revisionism that they become something they are not. One such name is Teapot Dome.

In 1921, Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall made the case that naval oil reserve lands would be better administered by his department than by the Navy. Navy Secretary Edwin Denby agreed. President Warren G. Harding, who had campaigned on normalcy and government efficiency through a decision-making system wherein expertise and experience were prized, consented to the transfer of lands between the two departments.


All initially seemed fine. Oil reserves in California were leased through transparent competitive bidding. But as oil lands were leased near Wyoming’s Teapot Dome rock formation, rumors began circulating that there was something wrong. The leases were accomplished without competitive bidding — which was not then illegal — but the sudden wealth that Albert Fall came into, coupled with complaints by a member of the oil industry about how the leases were made, required answers.

Requests for further information were ignored, and precipitated an investigation. Hard facts revealed that, in exchange for a bribe in the form of “personal loans,” Fall had illegally extended favorable treatment and preferential leasing terms. A true scandal had been unmasked.

It is important to remember that the investigation into Teapot Dome was undertaken not because of presumed wrongdoing (few originally believed anything was actually amiss), but to settle rumors and find the facts. By contrast, today’s Democrats have already linked their Ukraine “investigation” and “hearings” with their intended guilty verdict for President Donald Trump: impeachment.

Unlike Teapot Dome, witnesses called this week over the assumed Trump-Ukraine deal expressed opinions based on feelings and impressions while freely admitting they do not have any actual evidence of wrongdoing. Some even contradicted the others.

Ambassador Gordon Sondland testified that Trump expressly told him he wanted nothing, that he wanted “no quid pro quos,” that he wanted Zelensky to do what was right; and Sondland does not recall Trump ever demanding preconditions for phone calls or meetings with Zelensky, either. Calls and meetings subsequently occurred without expressions or investigations.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly stated there was no quid pro quo. He said he did not know at the time he spoke with Trump that aid had already been held up and released.

Essentially, aid to Ukraine was delayed and released without Zelensky’s knowledge, consent, or involvement, while meetings and calls were made without requirements. Witnesses this week said they do not know why.

Quid pro quo deals cannot be struck if both parties are not mutually aware of the extents of their stakes, since a quid pro quo deal necessarily involves at least two informed, expecting, self-interested parties seeking an exchange of favors.

Democrats must be careful not to conflate honest requests or genuine transactions with bribery and illicit quid pro quos — such as with Albert Fall’s favoritism for payments. Honestly, why shouldn’t Trump want promises of anti-corruption efforts from a country fighting to overcome a history of corruption? Why would you lend your car to someone who wouldn’t promise to be a safe driver?

Democrats say that this was Trump wanting damaging information against candidate Joe Biden. But concerns over the Bidens and Burisma were first raised during the Obama years. And just because someone is running for office, doesn’t place him or her under genuine scrutiny, and it doesn’t mean such scrutiny is necessarily political in origin. Based on their reasoning, Democrats would have to concede their impeachment investigation is politically motivated because it is being wielded by Democratic candidates.

If Democrats are truly concerned about truth, then everything has to be investigated — including concerns over Hunter Biden serving on Burisma at the time his father influenced the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor looking into Burisma (and later bragging about getting him fired). Democrats simply can’t dismiss these things as conspiracies.

When oil lease rumors revealed real scandal, Democrats seized on the event to insist criminal behavior went all the way up to Harding. Isolated graft was portrayed as administration-wide corruption. Hearings were held and investigations undertaken. It was claimed that Harding and all his men were guilty.

They weren’t. Harding and his cabinet had nothing to do with the bribery of Fall. Harding passed away in office, at which point Vice President Calvin Coolidge took over as accusations of corruption intensified. The American people knew better. They made Coolidge president in his own right by electing him in 1924, and giving Coolidge a new Congress composed of realists rather than sensationalists.

The infamy of Teapot Dome rests not with Harding, but with Fall and political partisans. As of this writing, no hard evidence has been offered which demonstrates criminal, impeachable activity on the part of Trump. As with 1924, how will such reality impact Election 2020?


Of final note, witness Dr. Fiona Hill stated that Russians wanted to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2016 American election, no matter who won. It’s been the Left that has carried that doubt under the name of impeachment.

Joe Vigliotti, a contributor to The Flip Side and a Taneytown city councilman, writes from Taneytown. His column appears every other Friday. Email him through his website at www.jvigliotti.com.