Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney undercut President Trump’s defense and admitted that the administration withheld military aid from Ukraine to force them to launch an investigation into Democrats.
Mulvaney insisted that the quid pro quo had nothing to do with former Vice President Joe Biden, but said that aid was blocked to pressure Ukraine into investigating Trump’s debunked conspiracy theory that a Ukrainian company is in possession of a Democratic National Committee server that Trump wrongly believes proves Russia did not hack the DNC despite findings from 19 US intelligence agencies that it did.
“Did he also mention to me in passing the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that,” Mulvaney said. “But that’s it, and that’s why we held up the money.”
"To be clear, what you described is a quid pro quo,” a reporter told Mulvaney.
“We do that all the time,” Mulvaney said. “You’re saying the president of the U.S. can’t ask someone to help with an ongoing public investigation?”
“I have news for everybody: Get over it," he added. “There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.”
Mulvaney walks back his admission:
Despite repeatedly admitting to quid pro quo, Mulvaney issued a statement hours later denying that he said exactly what he said.
Mulvaney blamed the media for “misconstruing” his comments.
“Let me be clear, there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election,” he said, contradicting his earlier statement entirely. “The president never told me to withhold any money until the Ukrainians did anything related to the server. The only reasons we were holding the money was because of concern about lack of support from other nations and concerns over corruption.”
Trump thought Mulvaney did great -- until he learned it was a disaster:
The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman reports that Mulvaney deviated from the script and “wasn’t supposed to suggest a quid pro quo.”
Despite making a stark admission, Trump was “happy with how Mulvaney did,” Haberman wrote.
“But the quid pro quo line richocheted around the White House,” she explained. “The counsel’s office wasn’t happy. Trump’s personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, made clear in a statement that he wasn’t pleased. Trump heard from advisers telling him this had created a new problem.”