Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney at a White House press briefing in October 2019.Getty ImagesActing White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney on Thursday tried to walk back an earlier admission that US President Donald Trump made aid to Ukraine conditional on it probing his Democratic rivals. I have news for everybody. Get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy, Mulvaney had earlier told reporters in the White House situation room.It was widely understood as an admission of a direct exchange — a quid pro quo — which Trump had long denied took place.Later, Mulvaney in a statement said: 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 probing impeaching the president seized on Mulvaney's remarks to reporters in the press briefing. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney is walking back on an admission he made at a press conference Thursday, where he confirmed that President Trump made military aid to Ukraine conditional on the country probing his Democratic opponents.
At a White House press conference Thursday afternoon, Mulvaney was asked by reporters about claims that Trump attempted to trade $400 million in military aid to Ukraine in exchange for political favors.
Despite a damning White House record of a call with Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump had maintained that the offer of aid was not directly tied to his request for political action from Ukraine. No quid pro quo!, Trump had tweeted in his own defense.
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 the 25 July phonecall with Zelensky, where he asked him to probe an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that Ukraine hacked the 2016 election then pinned the blame on Russia to help Democrats.
In response, ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl said to 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 happened as well.
Mulvaney replied: We do — we do that all the time with foreign policy.
He continued: And I have news for everybody. Get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy.
Immediately after the briefing, President Trump's legal team distanced themselves from Mulvaney's remarks.
The President's legal counsel was not involved in acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney's press briefing, said White House counsel Jay Sekulow in a statement.
Shortly after, Mulvaney 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. 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 Thursday have been seized on by Democrats investigating impeaching the president over his dealings with Ukraine — who have focussed on claims Trump made military aid to Ukraine conditional on agreeing to his demands as part of a quid pro quo arrangement.
Later, 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 House probe was launched after a whistleblower alerted officials to concerns that Trump had used his power improperly in pressuring Ukraine to probe Democrats.