In her first press conference since public impeachment hearings began, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday scolded reporters who used Republican talking points about the whistleblower — the anonymous intelligence official whose identity President Trump and his allies are insisting must be made public.
“When you talk about the whistleblower, you’re coming into my wheelhouse,” Pelosi said. “The whistleblower is there to speak truth to power and have protection for doing that. And any retribution or harm coming toward a whistleblower undermines our ability to hear truth about power. So I will defend the rights about the whistleblower vehemently.”
The House speaker also accused the president of “bribery” in his actions related to Ukraine.
Speaking to reporters after Wednesday’s hearings, Trump said, “I want to find out who is the whistleblower because the whistleblower gave a lot of very incorrect information, including my call with the president of Ukraine, which was a perfect call and highly appropriate.”
Pelosi said that Trump has every right to present “exculpatory” evidence to the House committees leading the impeachment inquiry.
“If the president has something that is exculpatory — Mr. President, that means you have anything that shows your innocence — then he should make that known,” Pelosi said. “So far we haven’t see that.”
“But nobody — nobody, the president is not above the law, the president will be held accountable — and nobody should have the right to endanger whistleblowers,” the speaker added.
Her comments came a day after two witnesses — Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, and State Department official George Kent — testified that they believed Trump would not grant Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky an Oval Office meeting or release $400 million in aid until Zelensky announced investigations of former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden, and a debunked conspiracy theory about alleged electoral interference by Ukraine in the 2016 election.
Pelosi said their testimony “corroborated evidence of bribery.”
“The president abused power and violated his oath by threatening to withhold military aid and a White House meeting in exchange for an investigation into his political rival — a clear attempt for the president to give himself an advantage in the 2020 election,” she said.
“The bribe is to grant or withhold military assistance [in exchange for] a public statement of a fake investigation into the elections,” Pelosi continued. “That’s bribery.”
“What the president has admitted to and says is ‘perfect’ is perfectly wrong,” she added. “It’s bribery.”
Trump and his Republican allies argued that both Taylor and Kent relied on second- and thirdhand information in their testimony. The House speaker warned Americans not to be distracted by that argument, noting that the White House has blocked current and former administration officials who do have firsthand knowledge — including acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton — from appearing before investigators.
“Don’t fall into the secondhand stuff,” Pelosi said. “That’s a fraudulent proposition put forth by the Republicans. They obstruct everyone who they would regard to have firsthand knowledge.”
Pelosi said she takes no joy in Trump’s possible impeachment, but that it is Congress’s duty to defend the Constitution against “all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
“This is something we do with a heavy heart. This is very prayerful,” she said. “But we must uphold our oath of office.”
Pelosi also compared the impeachment case against Trump to the case against President Richard Nixon, who ultimately resigned before the House could vote on the articles of impeachment.
“What President Trump has done on the record in terms of asking a foreign power to help him in his own election and the obstruction of information about that, the cover-up, makes what Nixon did look almost small,” she said.
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