Democrats are shifting their rhetoric ahead of public impeachment hearings, from accusing President Trump of a “quid pro quo” to “bribery” or “extortion,” believing that the stronger and simpler words will play better.
The messaging was unveiled during Sunday morning shows, ahead of the first hearing on Wednesday.
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, accused Trump of an “extortion scheme.”
“We have enough evidence from the depositions that we’ve done to warrant bringing this forward, evidence of an extortion scheme, using taxpayer dollars to ask a foreign government to investigate the president’s opponent,” he said on CBS News’s Face the Nation.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, accused Trump of “bribery or treason.”
“Because you have an elected official, the president, demanding action of a foreign country in this case, and providing something of value, which is the investigation, and he is withholding aid, which is that official act,” she said on ABC News’s This Week.
“And the Constitution is very clear: treason, bribery, or acts of omission. In this case, it’s clearly one of those,” she said.
Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) explained that “quid pro quo” is too complicated a concept.
“I have two problems with quid pro quo,” he said on NBC News’s Meet the Press. “Number one, 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.”
He said the distinction between “quid pro quo” and a word like “extortion” will be critical during the public hearings.
He said, “What they’re going to hear is they are going to hear immensely patriotic, beautifully articulate people telling a story of a president who — let’s forget quid pro quo, quid pro quo is one of these things to muddy the works — who extorted a vulnerable country by holding up a military aid.”
A notable shift in Dem messaging—from “quid pro quo” to criminal violations. https://t.co/B4nEPBvdjF
— Richard Escobedo (@RichardEscobedo) November 10, 2019
Some mainstream media columnists have been arguing that Democrats should drop the term “quid pro quo.”
Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson wrote on November 7, “Enough with all the Latin. ‘Quid pro quo’ is a namby-pamby, wishy-washy way to describe the crime President Trump clearly committed in his dealings with Ukraine. The correct term is bribery, and the punishment under federal law is up to 15 years in prison.”
The impeachment inquiry will hold its first public hearings this Wednesday, with Ukraine Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Bill Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent, and then Friday with former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) chose them to testify first because each has “unimpeachable character” and are “apolitical career officials,” an aide told Axios.
“You’ve got to have a blockbuster opener and closer. That’s why we went with Taylor and Kent,” a second aide told Axios.
Democrats believe that Yovanovitch, who Trump removed from her posting in May, will engender sympathy from the public.
“Yovanovitch was the first victim of the president’s scheme with Giuliani,” the second aide said. That draws the “sympathy of the audience.”
Democrats will reportedly have National Security Council (NSC) official Alexander Vindman, an Army lieutenant colonel, testify next week as a “closer.”
“He’d come in his dress blues — how powerful would that be?” the aide told Axios.
Republicans on Saturday submitted to Schiff their list of witnesses they are requesting to testify. The list included Hunter Biden, Biden’s business partner Devon Archer, the “whistleblower,” anyone else the “whistleblower” spoke to to write his complaint, Democratic National Committee contractor Alexandra Chalupa, Fusion GPS researcher Nellie Ohr, former Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, former NSC official Tim Morrison, and State Department official David Hale.
House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-CA) has requested that Schiff testify since he is the only member of Congress whose staff has interacted with the “whistleblower.”
Schiff has said he would not approve witnesses that would turn the impeachment inquiry into a “sham” — borrowing Republicans’ description of the impeachment inquiry.
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