Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney attempted to clarify comments made during a Thursday press briefing in which he suggested that the White House actively withheld Ukrainian military aid in exchange for pressure on Ukraine to look into its involvement in corruption during the 2016 election.
Mulvaney released a statement saying, “Let me be clear, there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election. The president never told me to withhold any money until the Ukrainians did anything related to the server.”
“Did he also mention to me in the pass that the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that. But that’s it, that’s why we held up the money,” Mulvaney had said in the initial exchange earlier on Thursday. When ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl pressed Mulvaney on whether he was confirming that there had been a quid pro quo related to the Ukraine aid, Mulvaney stated, “The look-back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that [Trump] was worried about, and that is absolutely appropriate.”
In the midst of impeachment fervor over the Trump’s handling of aid during discussions with the new Ukrainian administration under President Volodymyr Zelensky, Mulvaney’s comments left the president’s legal counsel “a bit stunned.” Trump’s defense has centered around the argument that there was no quid pro quo planned or discussed between the White House and Kyiv.
Democrats on Capitol Hill said in the aftermath of the press conference that Mulvaney has only further incriminated Trump.
“The fact that [acting] chief of staff Mulvaney, with his acknowledgement now that military aid to a vital ally, an ally battling Russia as we speak, was withheld in part out of desire by the president to have Ukraine investigate the DNC server or Democrats or 2016, things have just gone from very, very bad to much, much worse,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) said.
“I guess having failed at discrediting the facts of this case, they’ve decided on a new tactic, which is to admit them and basically say, ‘So what?’ And the answer to that is, ‘Well, the “so what” is you’re going to be impeached,’” House Oversight Committee member Gerry Connolly (D., Va.) commented.