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Donald Trump has admitted to ‘bribery’ in Ukraine scandal: Nancy Pelosi

Erin Scott  Reuters

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., talks to reporters on the morning after the first public hearing in the impeachment probe of President Donald Trump on his effort to tie USA aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019.

Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) acknowledged that the House Democrats' relentless impeachment probe - mainly based on the July 25 call for now - deems Zelensky a liar by default because the Ukrainian president has repeatedly denied that Trump did anything wrong or illegal.

Bribery is both easier for the public to understand and specifically named in the Constitution as one of the crimes that merit impeachment.

Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch appeared at Democrats' second open impeachment hearing to discuss her career and the circumstances under which her posting to Kyiv was prematurely halted earlier this year.

The focus of the inquiry is on the July 25 telephone call in which Mr Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open a corruption investigation into Mr Biden and his son Hunter, and into a discredited theory that Ukraine, not Russian Federation, meddled in the 2016 United States presidential election.

Following the call, the staff member asked Mr Sondland, the US Ambassador to the European Union, what Mr Trump thought about Ukraine, said Mr Taylor, who is the top US diplomat in Ukraine.

"You're going to think that I'm incredibly naive", Yovanovitch told House impeachment investigators at a marathon, closed-door deposition hearing in October.

The diplomatic community has rallied behind Yovanovitch in the weeks since the contents of Trump's call were disclosed, and some former diplomats have also called for the State Department and Pompeo to lend their public support to the career foreign service officer. In May, she was recalled from her position as ambassador to Ukraine, which she had held since August 2016.

Unabashed, Trump said when asked about it later: "I have the right to speak".

It's unclear what he meant, but he says that call was "perfect".

In Trump's phone call with Zelenskiy the previous day, he asked for a "favor", according to an account provided by the White House.

Republicans emphasize Yovanovitch's tangential involvement in the central narrative and repeat that Trump has broad powers to replace any ambassador - and many other officials - within the administration.

"When you're trying to persuade the American people of something that is really pretty simple, which is that the president acted criminally and extorted in the way a mob boss would extort somebody, a vulnerable foreign country, it's probably best not to use Latin words to explain it", Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., a House Intelligence Committee member, said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press". He said that one of his staff members had "overheard" Sondland talking from his cell phone to President Trump about the 'investigations'.

Democrat Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Trump's attacks were intimidation, "part of a pattern to obstruct justice".

White House budget official Mark Sandy will testify in the inquiry in a closed session on Saturday as scheduled if he is subpoenaed, his lawyer said on Thursday. In it, Trump mentioned his experience with the Miss Universe pageant in Ukraine and invited Zelenskiy to the White House.

Plus these impeachment proceedings are about pure political animus toward Trump, they argue.

Sondland testified that he "presumed" the frozen aid was linked to investigations Trump wanted, and so he told the Ukrainians as much. Yovanovitch will also be able to attest to Trump's and Giuliani's personal interest in the plot to investigate the president's political enemies as early as November 2018, when she first became aware of the lawyer's meddling in Kiev.

The public hearings are expected to last at least another week.

Trump told reporters after the hearing that he knew "nothing" about the call with Sondland.