Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney revealed Thursday that President Trump withheld millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine over the summer due in part to request for a probe of 2016 corruption by Democrats.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Mick Mulvaney described conversations with President Trump, paraphrasing him as saying, “Look, this is a corrupt place. I don’t want to send them a bunch of money, and have them waste it, have them spend it, have them use it to line their own pockets. Plus, I’m not sure that the other European countries are helping them out either.”
“Did he also mention to me in the past, the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that,” Mulvaney said, referencing a conspiracy theory that Ukraine framed Russia for the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) server. “But that’s it. That’s why we held up the money.”
Mulvaney later added: “I was involved with the process by which the money was held up temporarily, OK? Three issues for that: the corruption in the country, whether or not other countries were participating in support of the Ukraine and whether or not they were cooperating in an ongoing investigation with our Department of Justice. That’s completely legitimate.”
When asked if what he described — withheld funding unless there was an investigation into the Democratic National Committee server — was a quid pro quo, Mulvaney responded, “We do that all the time with foreign policy.”
“I have news for everybody. Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy … that’s going to happen. Elections have consequences,” Mulvaney said.
.@jonkarl: "So the demand for an investigation into the Democrats was part of the reason that [Trump] wanted to withhold funding to Ukraine?"
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) October 17, 2019
Several members of the president’s staff have attempted to convince him that the DNC server conspiracy theory was “debunked” and had “no validity.”
“It’s not only a conspiracy theory, it is completely debunked,” former homeland security adviser Tom Bossert told ABC News last month.
He said he was “deeply frustrated with what he and legal team are doing in repeating that debunked theory to the president. It sticks in his mind when he hears it over and over again.”
The U.S. ambassador to the European Union told lawmakers on Thursday that he was “disappointed” that Trump directed him and other diplomats managing U.S. policy toward Ukraine to work with Rudy Giuliani, his personal attorney.
“Please know that I would not have recommended that Mr. Giuliani or any private citizen be involved in these foreign policy matters,” Sondland said in a statement prepared for his congressional testimony Thursday. “However, given the President’s explicit direction, as well as the importance we attached to arranging a White House meeting between Presidents Trump and Zelensky, we agreed to do as President Trump directed.”