WASHINGTON (CN) – Recapping the dramatic first day of open hearings in the impeachment inquiry, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused President Donald Trump of “bribery” Thursday, a deliberate reference to conduct held up in the Constitution as an impeachable offense.
“Yesterday, you heard an appointment of the president speak in very unambiguous terms, a courageous public servant,” Pelosi declared, referring to career diplomat George Kent whom Trump tapped for a State Department post last year.
“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 his political rival — a clear attempt by the president to give himself the advantage in the 2020 election,” the speaker added.
Following similar remarks by Representative Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Pelosi’s move to jazz up the more technical “quid pro quo” language marks a notable shift in messaging by the Democrats now that the House inquiry has gone public.
Indeed, “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” are the key terms enumerated in the U.S. Constitution to cross the impeachment threshold.
Pelosi summarized Wednesday’s hearing as “a successful day for truth, truth coming from the president’s men, people he appointed.”
In addition to Kent, the public heard Wednesday from ex-Ambassador William Taylor. In the president’s eyes and rhetoric, the witnesses shifted from his trusted men in Ukraine to hardened “Never Trumpers” the moment they agreed to appear before the committee.
Both delivered damaging testimony against the president. Taylor quoted U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland as saying that Trump “cared more about investigations into Biden and Burisma” than he did about preserving Ukraine’s national security or sovereignty.
“It’s hard to understand, but there was a feeling by President Trump — and this came out in the discussion with the inaugural delegation when they came back on May 23 — he had a feeling of being wronged by the Ukrainians,” Taylor said.
Pelosi emphasized that those revelations brought her no joy.
“We go forward sadly, prayerfully and came with a heavy heart,” she added.
The somber tone did not stop her from taking a sprightly dig at a Trump-aligned media conglomerate.
A reporter from Sinclair Broadcast Group, the umbrella company known for swallowing nearly 200 local news channels across the country and forcing them to air pro-Trump talking points known as “must-runs,” kicked off the question-and-answer session with an attack on the whistleblower’s anonymity.
After the outlet asked whether legal confidentiality protections were compatible with Trump’s right to confront his accuser, Pelosi snapped, “I say to you, Mr. Republican Talking Point, what I said to the President of the United States.
“When you talk about the whistleblower, you’re coming into my wheelhouse,” Pelosi continued, speaking of her role in crafting the legislation designed to protect those who “speak truth to power.”
The speaker had a similarly feisty response to a reporter who asked about complaints from House Republicans accusing Democrats of relying upon “secondhand information.”
Blasting the line as a “fraudulent proposition put forth by the Republicans,” Pelosi noted: “They obstruct everyone who they would regard as having firsthand knowledge.”
Just as open impeachment proceedings began in Congress, the D.C. Circuit handed House Democrats a victory rejecting Trump’s request to block their subpoenas into his accounting firm, Mazars.
For Pelosi, the ruling marked a resounding affirmation of separation of powers.
“As custodians of our Constitution, we must be defenders of our democracy because our democracy depends on that republic — and not a monarchy,” she proclaimed.
Trump’s relentless opposition to House Democrats investigating his tax returns has prompted multiple federal judges to remind the president that the U.S. Constitution does not envision executive power to that of an autocrat or royal.
“Shunning the concept of the inviolability of the person of the King of England and the bounds of the monarch’s protective screen covering the Crown’s actions from legal scrutiny, the Founders disclaimed any notion that the Constitution generally conferred similarly all-encompassing powers on the president,” U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero wrote in a ruling last month, which also refused to quash a subpoena into the same tax returns.
On Friday, Americans will hear from former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, the career foreign service officer abruptly ousted from her post in Ukraine following what her colleague called a “campaign of slander” against her by Rudy Giuliani, the president’s attorney and fixer.