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Democrats Sharpen Impeachment Case, Decrying "Bribery" as Another Potential Witness Emerges Linking Trump to Ukraine Scandal: WP

Democrats sharpened their case for impeachment Thursday, escalating their rhetoric against President Trump as additional evidence emerged potentially implicating him directly in the abuse-of-power controversy surrounding U.S. relations with Ukraine, The Washington Post reports.

Using her most aggressive language yet, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accused Trump of committing “bribery” by seeking to use U.S. military aid as leverage to pressure the Ukrainian government to conduct investigations that could politically benefit the president.

Pelosi’s move to cite a specific constitutional offense and move away from using the lawyerly Latin term “quid pro quo” to describe the president’s actions came as a second official from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv was revealed to have overheard Trump discussing political “investigations” in a July 26 phone call with Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union who served as a key liaison between the White House and Ukraine’s fledgling government.

That phone call, which Trump has said he doesn’t recall, is expected to play a pivotal role in upcoming impeachment proceedings, as Democrats seek to directly tie Trump to what they charge was a bribery scheme worthy of removal from office. David Holmes, an embassy staffer in Ukraine who allegedly overheard Trump discussing “investigations” with Sondland, is slated to testify behind closed doors in the House impeachment probe Friday.

Democrats have seized on Holmes’s allegation — which was revealed Wednesday during testimony by William B. Taylor Jr., the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine — as evidence of Trump’s culpability in impeachable offenses.

Pelosi said Thursday that testimony by Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent highlighted how Trump had abused his power. Both senior diplomats testified that it was inappropriate for Trump and his allies to push for investigations targeting former vice president Joe Biden, a 2020 presidential candidate, and a debunked theory about Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.

“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,” Pelosi said at her weekly news conference.

In response, the White House and congressional Republicans have emphasized the diplomats’ lack of firsthand knowledge of Trump’s actions on Ukraine.

GOP lawmakers argued that Kent and Taylor have never spoken directly to Trump — and therefore cannot say with confidence that he tried to strong-arm a U.S. ally into doing him political favors.

“Their understanding, which is the foundation of the case for the Democrats, was based on secondhand information,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters Thursday.


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