Fact Check: MSNBC’s Ari Melber Falsely Claims Vindman ‘Saw a Bribery Plot’

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 19: Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, National Security Council Director for European Affairs, departs after testifying before the House Intelligence Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill November 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony during the third day of open hearings …
Win McNamee/Getty Images

MSNBC’s Ari Melber described Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s testimony as “the most devastating we’ve seen in a public hearing to date” and falsely claimed that the witness “saw a bribery plot,” despite the fact that Vindman explicitly denied that during Tuesday’s public impeachment hearing.  

Melber spoke to MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace about Tuesday’s first round of impeachment hearings featuring Vindman and Vice President Mike Pence aide Jennifer Williams and stated, definitively, that Vindman “saw a bribery plot” that he knew was “political and wrong.”

Melber assessed:

He spoke very directly about why he phoned it in. He saw a bribery plot. He knew that it was political and wrong. He phoned it in through private channels and he went about his work. This is not someone who reads — in any way — as aggrandizing, looking for the spotlight.

He said under oath…that he phoned it in because he thought it was wrong, and he went on with his work and his duty through official channels. He did not think that he would be testifying before the cameras or to the American public.

Melber added that Vindman’s story is “devastating for the White House.”

However, both Vindman and Williams denied using the words “bribery” or “bribe” in relation to President Trump’s July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president.

“Miss Williams, you used the word ‘unusual’ to describe the president’s call last on July 25th,” Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) said. “Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, you used the word ‘inappropriate’ and’improper’.”

“I word searched each of your transcripts and the world bribery or bribe doesn’t appear anywhere,” he continued. “Miss Williams, you’ve never used the word bribery or bribe to discuss president Trump’s conduct, correct?”

“Correct,” Williams said.

“Colonel Vindman, you haven’t either?” Ratcliffe said.

“That’s correct,” Vindman said.

Ratcliffe continued:

The problem is in an impeachment inquiry that the speaker of the House says it is all about bribery, where bribery is the impeachable offense. No witness has used the word bribery to describe President Trump’s conduct. None of them.

The number of times any witness has been asked whether President Trump’s conduct constituted bribery before ambassador [Marie] Yovanovitch was asked by my colleague, Congressman Stewart, last Thursday, is 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,” he added, noting that the only mention appeared to relate to former Vice President Joe Biden’s (D) conduct – not Trump’s:

The Trump War Room highlighted that specific moment in response to Melber’s false claim:

As Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-CA) noted during Tuesday’s first impeachment hearing, Democrats have replaced accusations of “quid pro quo” with “bribery” because the former “wasn’t polling well.”

“After trying out several different accusations against President Trump, the Democrats have recently settled on ‘bribery’—according to widespread reports, they replaced their ‘quid pro quo’ allegation because it wasn’t polling well,” Nunes said.

“But if the Democrats and the media are suddenly so deeply concerned about bribery, you’d think they would take some interest in Burisma paying Hunter Biden $83,000 a month,” Nunes stated.

” And you’d think they would be interested in Joe Biden threatening to withhold U.S. loan guarantees unless the Ukrainians fired a prosecutor who was investigating Burisma,” he continued. “That would be a textbook example of bribery.”

Watch Nunes’ full opening statement below:

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