WASHINGTON: House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday President Donald Trump already has admitted to bribery in the Ukraine scandal at the heart of a Democratic-led inquiry, accusing him of an impeachable offense under the US Constitution.
“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, the top Democrat in Congress, told a news conference the day after the first public hearing in the impeachment inquiry she announced in September.
“What the president has admitted to and says it’s ‘perfect,’ I say it’s perfectly wrong. It’s bribery,” Pelosi said. Democrats are looking into whether the Republican president abused his power by withholding $391 million in US security aid to Ukraine as leverage to pressure Kiev to conduct two investigations that would benefit him politically. The money, approved by Congress to help a US ally combat Russia-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country, was later provided to Ukraine.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing.
Another central figure former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is due to testify on Friday in the second public hearing in the inquiry.
White House budget official Mark Sandy will testify in the inquiry in a closed session on Saturday as scheduled if he is subpoenaed, his lawyer said on Thursday.
The inquiry threatens Trump’s presidency even as he seeks re-election in November 2020. If the House approves articles of impeachment formal charges against Trump, the Senate would then hold a trial on whether to convict him and remove him from office. Republicans control the Senate and have shown little support for Trump’s removal. Pelosi’s comments could offer a preview of articles of impeachment Democrats might put forward. At her news conference, she also said Trump’s administration had committed “obstruction of Congress” by blocking testimony of officials summoned to testify in the inquiry. The Constitution states that impeachable offenses include “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” –Agencies