Latin American
November 18, 2019

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made a linguistic shift from "quid pro quo" to "bribery" last week. She explained at a press conference Friday that when discussing the possible impeachment of President Trump, often "we're talking Latin around here," from "'E Pluribus Unum,' from many one," to "quid pro quo," but "bribery" is actually "in the Constitution attached to the impeachment proceedings." It is also English, which is helpful for explaining things to an English-speaking electorate. But in the same press conference, Pelosi dipped into Latin derivatives — and then explained what she meant to an audience of one.

"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 and that's part of the inquiry. And so far, we haven't seen that, but we welcome it."

Pelosi, like any Catholic who grew up before Vatican II, could probably figure out what "exculpatory" means without having to consult a dictionary, but she is likely right to assume that Trump, raised in the Presbyterian tradition, has never uttered the phrase mea maxima culpa. So in an interview with CBS's Margaret Brennan for Sunday's Face the Nation, she broke down "exculpatory" into its Latin roots for any president who might be watching. If Trump "has information that is exculpatory — that means ex, taking away, culpable, blame — then we look forward to seeing it," Pelosi explained.

In both interviews, Pelosi also argued that Trump has already admitted to offenses worse than those that drove Richard Nixon to resign. So perhaps she is hoping that Trump, confronted with the prima facie evidence of his actus reus, will reflect on his culpability ex post facto, when he is president emeritus. Peter Weber

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