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 U.S. Constitution, Reuters reports.
“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 U.S. 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 U.S. ally combat Russia-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country, was later provided to Ukraine.
Another central figure – former U.S. 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, Reuters added.
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.