WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday that President Donald Trump had admitted to bribery in the Ukraine scandal, accusing the Republican leader of an impeachable offense under the U.S. Constitution.
Pelosi, who launched the Democratic-led House impeachment inquiry on Sept. 24, spoke a day after the first public hearing in the investigation of Trump, who solicited foreign interference in a U.S. election during a July 25 phone call with Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Democrats also say the Trump administration withheld $391 million in U.S. aid as leverage for an investigation into former former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democratic candidate in the race to replace Trump in 2020.
“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 at a news conference. “What the president has admitted to and says it’s perfect, I say it’s perfectly wrong. It’s bribery.”
Trump says he did nothing wrong and has called his phone conversation with Zelenskiy “perfect.”
The U.S. Constitution states that impeachable offenses include “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors” and Democrats have begun to use the words bribery or attempted bribery in discussing Trump’s actions.
In his opening statement on Wednesday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said the House may find Trump sought to “bribe an ally” into conducting investigations to aid his re-election campaign by withholding a White House meeting or military aid.
Reporting by Richard Cowan and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Tom Brown