Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) called President Donald Trump‘s interactions with Ukraine “bribery” on Thursday, becoming the latest House Democrat to shift the language surrounding the impeachment inquiry.

“What the President has admitted to and says it’s perfect, I’ve said it’s perfectly wrong. It’s bribery,” Pelosi said at her weekly news conference.

Trump has consistently called his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “perfect.” The call is at the center of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.


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After the White House released a rough transcript of the call, Democrats pointed to a clear “quid pro quo” arrangement, but Trump has repeatedly denied any form of quid pro quo.

Since the impeachment hearings became public on Wednesday, there has been an increasing change in the language by Democrats, with many dropping the term quid pro quo and using “bribery” instead.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-California) said earlier this week that the House may consider adding bribery to its articles of impeachment.

“Bribery, first of all, as the Founders understood bribery, it was not as we understand it in law today. It was much broader,” Schiff told Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep. “It connoted the breach of the public trust in a way where you’re offering official acts for some personal or political reason, not in the nation’s interest.”

The bribery Schiff and Pelosi are pointing at is Trump’s hold on military aid to Ukraine and refusal to grant an Oval Office meeting to Zelensky.

Impeachment testimonies have corroborated what the July 25 phone call suggested: Trump tried to pressure the Ukrainian government to launch an investigation that would benefit him politically.

During the call, Trump asked Zelensky to “do us a favor” and look into the Crowdstrike server, referring to a discredited conspiracy theory which blames Ukraine, instead of Russia, for interfering in the 2016 election. He also mentioned investigating his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. During his Vice Presidency, Biden had strong-armed the removal of Ukraine’s former top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who was widely viewed as corrupt.

Trump alleged that Biden inappropriately used his power to remove Shokin, because he was investigating a gas company that Biden’s son worked for. However, by the time Biden called for Shokin’s firing, the investigation had already been dropped. There is no other evidence to suggest Biden was acting in the interest of his son.

Trump told Zelensky, “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that.”

Pelosi’s comments come the day after the first public impeachment hearing in which U.S. diplomats William Taylor and George Kent testified. She said their “devastating testimony corroborated evidence of bribery.”

Pelosi told reporters, “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.”

The Constitution specifically uses the term “bribery” as a justification for impeachment.

Section 4 of Article II of the Constitution reads, “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

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