This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi is claiming that President Donald Trump has already admitted to “bribery” in the Ukraine scandal, redefining allegations by use of a more-distinct crime term than the Latin “quid pro quo” used by many so far.
“It’s bribery,” the top Democrat in the House told a news conference on November 14 about Trump’s July 25 phone call in which he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for a favor.
“What the president has admitted to and says it’s ‘perfect,’ I say it’s perfectly wrong. It’s bribery,” Pelosi said, referring to the phone call, which Trump has said was “perfect” and did not indicate any wrongdoing.
“The bribe is to grant or withhold military assistance in return for a public statement of a fake investigation into the elections. That’s bribery,” Pelosi said.
The Constitution includes “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors” as impeachable offenses. Many critics have been using the phrase “quid pro quo” but are now using words more understandable to Americans, such as “bribery” or “extortion.”
Critics accuse Trump of abusing his power by pressuring Zelenskiy to conduct an investigation into his political rivals while holding up badly needed military aid and dangling a possible high-profile visit to the White House for the new Ukrainian leader.
The remarks come on the eve of a second day of public hearings in the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry of Trump that have focused on his dealings with Kyiv.
A central figure in Washington’s interactions with Kyiv, former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, is scheduled to testify on November 15 starting at 9 a.m. local time.
Yovanovitch was abruptly recalled as ambassador in May in a move she has described to three House investigative committees as politically motivated and based on false accusations.
The Democratic-led inquiry — which could lead to impeachment proceedings and a trial in the Senate — is probing whether the president has abused his office for personal and political gain by prodding a foreign government to investigate his foes and if those actions constitute impeachable offenses.
In particular, whether Trump, while withholding $390 million of military aid for Kyiv, had asked Zelenskiy to conduct investigations into Democrats in the 2016 presidential election and his potential 2020 opponent, Biden, and his son, Hunter.
Critics say the president left Ukraine at the mercy of Russia, which in 2014 seized and annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region and has supported separatists fighting government forces in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has killed more than 13,000 people.
The White House and supporters of the president have denied that any actions were impeachable offenses, although some have said Trump’s remarks to Zelenskiy were inappropriate.