Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney is defending an infamous press conference performance in which he acknowledged a quid pro quo between President Donald Trump and Ukraine and claimed that the U.S. does that “all the time.”
On Tuesday, Mulvaney attempted to shift his past remarks at a Wall Street Journal event, stating that he meant politics and foreign policy are intertwined.
“Politics can and should influence foreign policy,” he told associate editor John Bussey. “You may have one foreign policy you’re running on, I may have a different one. Whoever wins gets to set that foreign policy.”
Only that’s not the extent of what was conveyed during Mulvaney’s October briefing. While addressing reporters, he said that American military aid to Ukraine was held up over the summer because Trump was concerned about whether it would be properly spent, and “corruption that related to the [Democratic National Committee] server.” The latter point references a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine perpetrated the 2016 hacking of Democratic Party emails. The U.S. intelligence community has made clear that it believes Russia was responsible.
When ABC News’ Jonathan Karl noted that he had described a quid pro quo, Mulvaney said, “We do that all the time with foreign policy.”
“Get over it,” he added. “There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy. ... That is going to happen. Elections have consequences.”
Mulvaney walked back the remarks in a subsequent statement, asserting, “There was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election.”
The matter has become the focal point of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry of Trump, which was spurred by a whistleblower complaint about his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. A rough transcript of the discussion shows Trump pressed Zelensky repeatedly to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son based on unsubstantiated corruption allegations while the nearly $400 million in funds was being temporarily withheld.
On Tuesday, Judiciary Committee chair Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) announced articles of impeachment against Trump for abuse of power in soliciting a probe of his political rival, and for obstructing Congress’ investigation of the matter.