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Pelosi: Impeachment Inquiry Has Yielded Evidence That Trump Engaged In Bribery

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., talks to reporters after the first public hearing in the impeachment probe of President Trump. The House is looking into his effort to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents.
J. Scott Applewhite

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi believes that the impeachment inquiry underway has uncovered evidence that President Trump's actions amounted to bribery.

Multiple witnesses have alleged that the president leveraged U.S. foreign policy — a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart and security assistance funds appropriated by Congress — for investigations that could benefit him politically.

Her comments come the day after U.S. diplomats William Taylor and George Kent testified in the first public impeachment hearing conducted by the House Intelligence Committee. Pelosi argued that their "devastating testimony corroborated evidence of bribery."

Pressed by reporters on her use of that term, Pelosi cited the Constitution.

"Bribery ... that is in the Constitution, attached to the impeachment proceedings. 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."

The Constitution says that the president can be impeached or removed for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."

Earlier this week, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told NPR that bribery was among the possible articles of impeachment that the House may consider.

"Bribery, first of all, as the Founders understood bribery, it was not as we understand it in law today. It was much broader," Schiff said. "It connoted the breach of the public trust in a way where you're offering official acts for some personal or political reason, not in the nation's interest."

Pelosi asserted that Democrats had not yet committed to moving forward with articles of impeachment.

"We haven't even made a decision to impeach. That's what the inquiry is about. ... What I am saying [is] that what the president has admitted to, and says is 'perfect' — I say it's perfectly wrong. It's bribery."

And she also said that the process allows for the president to make a case in his defense.

"If the president has anything that is exculpatory — Mr. President, that means you have anything that shows you are innocent — then he should make that known. And that's part of the inquiry. So far we haven't seen that. But that's what an inquiry is all about," Pelosi told reporters Thursday morning.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tim Mak is NPR's Washington Investigative Correspondent, focused on political enterprise journalism.