WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that the testimony presented by two career U.S. diplomats at the first House impeachment hearing a day earlier had presented evidence of bribery committed by President Donald Trump.
"The devastating testimony corroborated evidence of bribery uncovered in the inquiry and that the president abused power and violated his oath by threatening to withhold military aid and a White House meeting in exchange for an investigation into a political rival," Pelosi told reporters.
Pelosi’s comments come amid a Democratic shift in the language used to describe Trump's actions with regard to Ukraine that lie at the heart of the current impeachment inquiry. Lawmakers had called the president's moves a "quid pro quo," but have recently appeared to shift to a focus on more widely used terms that Democrats believe may resonate more deeply with voters.
Asked to further elaborate on her statement regarding bribery, Pelosi said, "Well, you know we’re talking Latin around here — e pluribus unum, from anyone, quid pro quo, bribery, and that is in the Constitution, attached to the impeachment proceeding."
"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," she said.
Pelosi continued to assert that Democrats still have not made a decision about whether to pursue articles of impeachment against the president.
The speaker also said that what Trump had done in the Ukraine case "make[s] what Nixon did look almost small," referring to the Watergate-related charges that led to the effort to impeach the 37th president.
Under section 4, Article II of the Constitution, "The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."
In his testimony Wednesday, acting Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor testified that a White House meeting between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and the release of U.S. aid to Ukraine were conditioned on Ukraine announcing investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, as well as the 2016 presidential election.
George Kent, a senior State Department official, also testified about those investigations and the efforts by Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, to smear former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, and pressure Ukraine to launch those probes.
Pelosi was also asked Thursday about the whistleblower, whom Hill Republicans and Trump have called on to offer formal testimony.
"Nobody should have the right to endanger whistleblowers, and that is a right that I will defend," she said. "Any retribution or harm coming to the whistleblower undermines our ability to have truth about power."