During the impeachment hearing Tuesday, Texas Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe addressed the elephant in the room, or more appropriately, the elephant conspicuously not in the room. The Democrats are accusing President Trump of “bribery,” yet, as Ratcliffe highlights emphatically, after six weeks of witness interviews in the Democrat-led inquiry, not one witness has even so much as uttered the word “bribery” or “bribe” in reference to Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine.
“At a press conference last Thursday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said that President Trump committed the impeachable offense of ‘bribery,’ evidenced in his July 25th call transcript with President Zelensky,” said Ratcliffe (video below). “In concert with that, multiple Democratic members of this committee gave TV and radio interviews over this past week discussing how the president’s conduct supported his impeachment for committing bribery — all of which struck me as very odd because for the longest time this was all about ‘quid pro quo,’ according to the whistleblower complaint.”
“But after witness after witness began saying there was no quid pro quo or even that quid pro quo was not even possible, we saw a shift from the Democrats, who briefly started to refer to the president’s conduct on the July 25 call as ‘extortion.’ And now it’s shifted again, last week, to ‘bribery,'” Ratcliffe said.
He then turned to the two witnesses the Democrats called Tuesday, State Department employee Jennifer Williams and high-ranking National Security Council official Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman.
“Ms. Williams, you used the word ‘unusual’ to describe the president’s call on July 25th. Lt. Colonel Vindman, you used the word ‘improper,'” Ratcliffe said. “I’ve word-searched each of your transcripts, and the word ‘bribery’ or ‘bribe’ doesn’t appear anywhere in that.”
“Ms. Williams, you’ve never used the word bribery or bribe to explain President Trump’s conduct, correct?” he asked Williams for confirmation.
“No sir,” she replied.
“Colonel Vindman, you haven’t either?” Ratcliffe asked the official.
“Correct,” Vindman answered.
Ratcliffe then broadened his point.
“The problem is, in an impeachment inquiry that the Speaker of the House says is all about bribery — bribery is the impeachable offense — no witness has used the term ‘bribery’ to describe the president’s conduct,” he said, picking up and stacking what he explained were ten of the released transcripts of witness interviews.
“Six weeks of witness interviews in this impeachment inquiry, hundreds of hours of testimony, thousands of questions asked, thousands of answers given,” Ratcliffe said. “The number of times that witnesses have been asked any questions about whether or not President Trump’s conduct constituted bribery — before Ambassador [Marie] Yovanovitch was asked by my colleague Congressman [Chris] Stewart last Thursday — is zero. Zero.”
“The number of times witnesses have used the word ‘bribery’ or ‘bribe’ to describe President Trump’s conduct in the last six weeks of this inquiry is zero,” the congressman stressed.
“In fact, in these 3,500 pages of sworn deposition testimony in just these ten transcripts released thus far, the word ‘bribery’ appears in these 3,500 pages exactly one time,” he continued. “And ironically, it appears not in a description of President Trump’s alleged conduct. It appears in the description of Vice President [Joe] Biden’s alleged conduct.”
“This is important because as early as next week, my Democratic colleagues are going to say, ‘We need to vote on the evidence from this impeachment inquiry on the impeachment of the president for bribery,'” Ratcliffe underscored. “They’re going to send a report to the Judiciary Committee. Because there’s more Democrats than Republicans, it’s likely going to pass. When that happens, the American people need to be clear that when the Democrats, what they are describing as bribery, not a single witness is describing as bribery.”
“We’ve heard many times in the course of these proceedings that the facts of the president are not in dispute, but the American people are asking: If the facts are the same, why do the crimes that the president is being accused of keep changing? Why do we go from ‘quid pro quo’ to ‘extortion’ now to ‘bribery’?”
After pointing to The Washington Post’s report revealing that the Democrats shifted their accusation from “quid pro quo” to “bribery” after polling 2020 battleground states, Ratcliffe turned to the constitutional issue of due process.
“It’s bad enough that the Democrats have forbidden White House lawyers from participating in this proceeding. It’s hard enough to defend yourself without your lawyers present,” said Ratcliffe. “But what’s even worse is to try to defend yourself against an accusation that keeps changing in the middle of the proceeding. If Democrats accuse the president of high crime or an impeachable offense, he ought to at least know which one it is. And when Speaker Pelosi says this is all about ‘bribery,’ she’s promised us evidence of bribery that would be compelling and overwhelming. And, instead, it’s invisible.”
Video below via Townhall: