Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democrats’ lead impeachment manager, noted today that Trump’s own chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, acknowledged at an October press conference that Trump had linked Ukraine aid to Trump’s desire for Ukraine to conduct investigations into Democrats.
Patrick Philbin, deputy counsel to the President, responded: “It’s been clear in the record since that press conference that what he was saying was garbled and/or misunderstood, and he immediately clarified and said on that day, ‘The President never told me to withhold any money until the Ukrainians did anything related to the server.’”
Here’s what happened.
The press conference
At the press conference, Mulvaney said that Trump had expressed concerns about both how little help he thought European countries were providing to Ukraine and about corruption in Ukraine — including “the corruption related to the DNC server.” (This claim about the server is a debunked conspiracy theory.)
Mulvaney continued: “And that’s why we held up the money.” When a reporter asked him to confirm that Trump’s demand for an investigation into Democrats was part of the reason Trump withheld the funding, 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.”
Soon after, a reporter told Mulvaney that “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 responded that such trades are common, saying, “We do that all the time with foreign policy.”
Mulvaney’s comments generated headlines. Later in the day, Mulvaney issued a statement essentially taking back what he had said earlier.Criticizing the media and claiming his comments had been misconstrued, he said: “Let me be clear, there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election.” He also said what Philbin said he did: “The president never told me to withhold any money until the Ukrainians did anything related to the server.”
Mulvaney has issued a statement essentially blaming the media for reporting what he said.