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Why Nancy Pelosi is now calling Trump’s Ukraine actions ‘bribery’

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi says President Trump committed bribery by conditioning military aid to Ukraine upon the Ukrainian government granting Trump “a favor” by investigating former Vice President Joe Biden. Pelosi's words are significant because the Constitution explicitly mentions bribery as grounds for impeachment. Yamiche Alcindor joins Judy Woodruff to discuss this language shift.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives is flatly accusing President Trump of bribery a day before the second public hearing on impeachment is scheduled.

    Nancy Pelosi pointed today to what Mr. Trump called a favor, asking the president of Ukraine to investigate Democrats, the 2016 election and the Bidens.

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.:

    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.

    I am saying that what is — the president has admitted to and says it's perfect, I say it's perfectly wrong. It's bribery.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Pelosi's word choice is significant because the Constitution explicitly mentions bribery as grounds for impeachment.

    Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that a second U.S. Embassy staffer in Kiev overheard President Trump discussing Ukraine and the investigations he wanted in a cell phone call. That call first came to light at yesterday's impeachment hearings.

    We turn now to our Yamiche Alcindor, who was at the White House today.

    Yamiche, pretty strong words from the speaker of the House. How does this fit in to the Democrats' strategy at this point? And what is the White House saying?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Speaker Nancy Pelosi is trying to put in the simplest terms possible what she describes as President Trump's trying to bribe or extort Ukraine in exchange for an investigation into Joe Biden and Hunter Biden.

    So Democrats want to make that point simply because they think that Americans who are just tuning in might not understand the Latin term quid pro quo, which is what a lot of people in Washington, D.C., including some Democrats, have been saying in describing President Trump's alleged actions.

    So she's really trying to get Democrats, as well as the American public, to use start using the term bribery, because she wants that to be what people think of as they think about the impeachment inquiries and what President Trump is being accused of.

    The White House is pushing back on that. The president didn't speak out publicly about this, but he was tweeting. And, essentially, he was saying that Democrats are going down this unfair path — going down this unfair path of impeachment, of this impeachment inquiry.

    He also tweeted something that was very interesting. He said: "Where is the fake whistle-blower?"

    That's important, because the whistle-blower's attorneys have sent a letter to the White House saying that he needs to cease and desist, talking about the president — the whistle-blower's anonymity, talking about the president — the whistle-blower's identity.

    And, essentially, the president is saying, I'm not going to stop doing this. I want to know who this whistle-blower is.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just quickly, Yamiche, what do we look for from tomorrow's impeachment hearing?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Tomorrow, we're going to have a second public hearing.

    We're going to be hearing from the former Ukrainian ambassador. She was the ambassador to the Ukraine for the U.S. Her name is Marie Yovanovitch.

    I want to walk through some of who she is.

    She has 33 years of service as a Foreign Service officer. She has also been nominated by both the Republican and Democratic administrations. Democrats are going to be making the case that she was the first casualty when it comes to President Trump's alleged scheme to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.

    So they're going to be making the case that she's not a victim, per se — they have stopped using that term — but that she is someone that should be sympathetic to the American people.

    I have heard and aides have told me that she cried during her deposition, so tomorrow might be an emotional day.

    We should also be looking forward to the deposition of David Holmes. He is the supposed — he is reportedly the aide who overheard Gordon Sondland, the E.U. ambassador, the European Union ambassador, speaking to President Trump about wanting an investigation into the Bidens.

    So it's going to be really interesting to watch what comes out of the deposition, but also what comes out of the public hearings.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Serious business.

    Yamiche Alcindor, reporting from the White House, thank you.

    And please join us tomorrow morning starting at 9:00 a.m. Eastern for our live special coverage of that second public impeachment hearing.

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