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US House Speaker Pelosi says Trump’s actions on Ukraine amount to ‘bribery’

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi holds her weekly news conference in the House Visitors Center at the US Capitol November 14, 2019. (Getty Images)

The Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi says President Donald Trump has admitted to actions that amount to "bribery" in the Ukraine scandal, accusing the Republican leader of an impeachable offense under the US Constitution.

“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 on Thursday at the US Congress.

“What the president has admitted to and says it’s perfect, I say it’s perfectly wrong. It’s bribery,” she added.

The US Constitution states that impeachable offenses include "treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors". What exactly that means is unclear. Historically, it can encompass corruption and other abuses, including trying to obstruct judicial proceedings.

Only two American presidents have been impeached by the House, Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Neither Johnson nor Clinton was convicted by the Senate.

In 1974, then US President Richard Nixon resigned in the face of certain impeachment and removal from office over the Watergate scandal.

Democrats in the House launched an impeachment inquiry against Trump in September after a whistleblower alleged the Republican president pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who had served as a director for Ukrainian energy company Burisma.

Democrats are looking into whether Trump abused his power by withholding $391 million in US security aid to Ukraine as leverage to pressure Kiev to conduct an investigation that would benefit him politically.

The Democratic-led impeachment inquiry shifted to a public phase on Wednesday and revealed new evidence that Trump was willing to sacrifice America's interests for his own.

The public hearings were launched after weeks of closed-door interviews, marking a new phase of the impeachment probe that could determine the fate of Trump’s tumultuous presidency.

Republicans sought to undercut the public hearing by focusing on Hunter Biden's role on the Burisma board, pointing out that he was paid $50,000 a month and questioning his qualifications.

Two top US diplomats, William Taylor and George Kent, delivered damning testimony on the first day of the public hearings, describing Trump's efforts to pressure Ukraine.

Taylor, the US Ambassador to Ukraine, testified that he was told Trump “cared more about” investigating Biden and improving his reelection chances than caring about US interests.

Trump dismissed the probe again as a "witch hunt" and said he was "too busy" to watch the first public hearings, during which he received strong support from Republican lawmakers.

Asked about the new allegations, while hosting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House, Trump replied: "First time I've heard it."

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