House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is singing a different tune on impeachment these days.
Speaking to reporters during her weekly press briefing on Thursday, Pelosi was unsparing in her characterization of the dealings with Ukraine that have landed President Donald Trump in hot water. Following the commencement of a House-led impeachment hearing this week, Pelosi accused Trump of a new illegal action to tack on to his laundry list: bribery.
“The devastating testimony corroborated evidence of bribery uncovered in the inquiry and that the president abused power and violated his oath,” Pelosi said in the briefing.
She went on to compare the President’s actions to one of the greatest scandals in American history, Watergate. According to Pelosi, Trump’s record of infractions “makes what Nixon did look almost small.” Although Nixon stepped down before a formal impeachment following the Watergate scandal, it remains the bar that so many political faux pas are measured to.
Her comments follow public testimonies by U.S. diplomat William Taylor and deputy assistant secretary of state George Kent on Wednesday. Both congressional aides told the House Intelligence Committee in no uncertain terms that Trump leveraged U.S. security assistance to Ukraine as he sought potential dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in the infamous call that lead to the current impeachment inquiry.
But Pelosi’s remarks also follow months of heel-dragging to begin formal impeachment proceedings against Trump — even as a pressure campaign mounted from her own Democratic constituents. Particularly, in the wake of the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, Pelosi remained fairly impartial about a formal impeachment trial.
When asked about the potential of impeachment proceedings in June, Pelosi responded that “Nothing is as divisive in our country — in my view — than impeachment.” And, during Thursday’s press conference, Pelosi seemed to underscore her initial hesitation with the political division wrought by impeachment proceedings.
“This is something we do with a heavy heart,” she said of the inquiry process currently underway. “This is prayerful. Because impeaching is a divisive thing in our country.”
After the House Intelligence Committee concludes its public hearings, it will prepare a report and give recommendations to the House Judiciary Committee, which will then call upon the president and his lawyers to provide any exculpatory evidence and question witnesses before a formal vote hits the House floor. Until then, Pelosi has planted the Watergate seed that many have thought (but few said out loud).
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