Mick Mulvaney tries to claw back his confirmation — made on live TV — that Trump threatened to withhold aid to Ukraine to secure political dirt on Democrats

Getty ImagesMick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff.
  • Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, on Thursday tried to walk back an earlier acknowledgment that President Donald Trump made aid to Ukraine conditional on the country investigating Democrats.
  • “I have news for everybody: Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy,” Mulvaney had told reporters at the White House.
  • It was widely understood as an admission of a direct exchange – a “quid pro quo” – that Trump has denied took place.
  • Later, Mulvaney said in a statement: “Once again, the media has decided to misconstrue my comments to advance a biased and political witch hunt against President Trump. Let me be clear, there was absolutely no quid pro quo.”
  • House Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry against the president seized on Mulvaney’s remarks to reporters.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, on Thursday attempted to walk back his confirmation that President Donald Trump made military aid to Ukraine conditional on the country investigating Democrats.

At a White House press conference on Thursday afternoon, Mulvaney was asked by reporters about claims that Trump attempted to trade $US400 million in military aid to Ukraine for political favours.

Despite a damning White House record of a July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump has maintained that the offer of aid was not directly tied to his request for action from Ukraine. “NO quid pro quo!” Trump had tweeted in his defence.

At the briefing, Mulvaney said: “The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation, and that is absolutely appropriate.”

Mulvaney was referring to Trump’s request in his call with Zelensky to investigate an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that Ukraine hacked the Democratic National Committee’s server before the 2016 election and pinned the blame on Russia to help Democrats.

The ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl told Mulvaney: “But to be clear, what you just described is a quid pro quo. It is: Funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happens as well.”

Mulvaney replied that “we do that all the time with foreign policy.”

He continued: “And I have news for everybody: Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.”

Immediately after the briefing, Trump’s legal team distanced itself from Mulvaney’s remarks.

“The President’s legal counsel was not involved in acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s press briefing,” his attorney Jay Sekulow said in a statement.

Mulvaney then issued a statement claiming that his earlier remarks had been twisted.

“Once again, the media has decided to misconstrue my comments to advance a biased and political witch hunt against President Trump,” he said. “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.”

Mulvaney’s remarks on Thursday were seized on by House Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry focusing on the president’s dealings with Ukraine – specifically, allegations that Trump made military aid to Ukraine conditional on agreeing to his investigation demands as part of a quid pro quo.

They ridiculed Mulvaney’s reversal.

“Mick Mulvaney was either lying then, or he’s lying now,” Rep. Ted Lieu, a California Democrat involved in the impeachment inquiry, told The New York Times. “I think he’s lying now.”

The inquiry was launched after a whistleblower alerted officials of concerns that Trump had improperly used his power to pressure Ukraine to investigate Democrats.

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