Ocasio-Cortez: Trump was 'clearly engaged in extortion and bribery'

Hunter Walker
White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who began calling for President Trump to be impeached earlier this year, believes we have now reached “the point of no return” where it is inarguably clear that he has committed criminal acts. Ocasio-Cortez discussed the issue with Yahoo News on Capitol Hill on Tuesday as the third day of public hearings was being conducted in the Democrats’ ongoing impeachment inquiry.

“We’re kind of knee-deep here in impeachment inquiry and so at this point, I think we’re beyond the question as to whether Trump has committed a crime or whether he’s violated the Constitution,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “He’s clearly engaged in extortion and bribery.”

When Ocasio-Cortez began calling for impeachment, she said the president had done “so many things ... that are impeachable,” including violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution by receiving payments from foreign countries while in office and engaging in possible tax fraud. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was initially reluctant to impeach Trump, launched a formal inquiry in September following revelations of a complaint from an intelligence community whistleblower who alleged that military assistance to Ukraine was withheld as Trump pushed that country to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a political rival. 

On Tuesday, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who worked on the White House National Security Council, testified that he had raised concerns internally about U.S. officials who pushed for an investigation into Biden. Vindman also said he warned Ukraine’s newly elected president that it would be improper for him to get involved with political matters in this country. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Ocasio-Cortez said the testimony from witnesses so far has made it abundantly clear that Trump engaged in criminal conduct with respect to Ukraine. At this point, she said, the only remaining question is how many illegal acts were committed and who else was involved. 

“It’s not just Trump, but who else is going to be implicated in this,” Ocasio-Cortez said, adding, “I think, when it comes to what we’ve discovered, we’re at the point of no return, and it’s just a question of how many crimes have been potentially committed and who else has committed them.”

Trump has repeatedly insisted that his interest in investigations into business dealings Biden’s son had in Ukraine was part of a desire to root out corruption in that country. He has characterized the impeachment inquiry as a partisan effort by Democrats to oust him.

Ocasio-Cortez has become one of the more prominent progressives in Congress since she was elected in a surprising upset last year. Some Republican allies of the president have tried to cast her as a major driver of the impeachment push. Ed Cox, who is President Richard Nixon’s son-in-law and a former chairman of the New York Republican Party, appeared on Fox News on Monday and said the “AOC effect” was “driving” impeachment. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., who has emerged as a prominent impeachment opponent on Capitol Hill, has boasted that she is “proudly the opposite of AOC.” 

Trump has regularly singled out Ocasio-Cortez for criticism on his Twitter feed. He has also sent tweets suggesting the whistleblower who sparked the impeachment inquiry should be outed, and mocking Democrats who have backed the investigation. On Nov. 15, as Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, testified in an impeachment hearing, Trump sent a tweet criticizing her job performance. Democrats have suggested that tweet was potential witness tampering. Trump responded by arguing it was “free speech.”

For her part, Ocasio-Cortez said Trump’s tweets singling out impeachment critics constitute a “very disturbing pattern.” 

“Of course he’s trying to undermine the process. He’s clearly engaged in witness intimidation,” she said. 

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