After clearly acknowledging to reporters on Thursday that President Donald Trump had withheld military aid for Ukraine partly in hopes of spurring an investigation into a 2016 GOP election conspiracy theory, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney tried a few hours later to erase those comments, drawing fire from Democrats in Congress.
"That's why we held up the money," Mulvaney said in an afternoon briefing at the White House, telling reporters that President Trump had made clear he wanted Ukraine to find the DNC computer server - which had been hacked by Russian Intelligence in 2016 - as the President believes it was somehow moved and hidden in Ukraine.
"Did (Trump) also mention to me the corruption related to the DNC server?" Mulvaney asked. “Absolutely, no question about that.”
The remarks put Mulvaney fully on board with an evidence-free allegation pushed by some Republicans - and embraced by President Trump - which says the hacked DNC server was taken from Democratic Party headquarters in Washington, D.C., and hidden in Ukraine by the computer security firm CrowdStrike.
.@jonkarl: "So the demand for an investigation into the Democrats was part of the reason that [Trump] ordered to withhold funding to Ukraine?"— Evan McMurry (@evanmcmurry) October 17, 2019
Mulvaney: "The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about." https://t.co/41l7EnCEiH pic.twitter.com/6YKTgvu1M0
.@JonKarl: "Let's be clear what you described is a quid pro quo…"— CSPAN (@cspan) October 17, 2019
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney responds saying "We do that all the time with foreign policy." pic.twitter.com/jzKw1A7i31
A few hours later, Mulvaney put out a written statement in which he said the press was twisting his words, as he tried to back away from his statement that President Trump wanted aid to Ukraine linked to 2016 investigations by that country's government.
“There never was any condition on the flow of the aid related to the matter of the DNC server," Mulvaney said in a written statement issued by the White House, hours after the Mulvaney said the exact opposite about what the President wanted from Ukraine.
"Once again, the media has decided to misconstrue my comments to advance a biased and political witch hunt against President Trump," Mulvaney said - though Mulvaney's words were very clear in the White House Briefing Room about the President wanting Ukraine to investigate.
"The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that (the President) was worried about," Mulvaney said.
During his briefing, Mulvaney scoffed at reporters who questioned whether the President was trying to get something from the Ukrainian leader by withholding aid money.
"Get over it," Mulvaney said at one point.
After Mulvaney tried to take back his words - which were broadcast live on all the cable news networks - Democrats said it was obvious that the only mistake Mulvaney had made, was the mistake of telling the truth.
Today, the White House Chief of Staff said that nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine was blocked in part to force the government in Kyiv to investigate Trump's political rivals.— Congressmember Bass (@RepKarenBass) October 17, 2019
Then he said "get over it". Incredible. https://t.co/8RbncyR86Y
"Mulvaney you just outed the President of the United States"— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) October 17, 2019
Rep. Maxine Waters reacts to acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney admitting a quid pro quo over Ukraine aid https://t.co/boD60FyYKt pic.twitter.com/PAESP4BZxk
"Mick Mulvaney needs to testify," said Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI).
"Mick Mulvaney has confirmed what we knew all along," said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN).
"There is no doubt anymore," said Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA). "The President’s top advisor says withholding foreign aid in exchange for political favors is 'absolutely appropriate.'"
"We condition aid to advance the national interest," said Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ). "Never the partisan interest of the president."
In his July 25 phone call with the leader of Ukraine, the President clearly mentioned the DNC server and CrowdStrike.
"The server, they say Ukraine has it," Mr. Trump said, according to a document released by the White House.
Mulvaney's remarks came at a briefing where the White House announced that the U.S. would host the G7 summit at President Trump's Doral golf resort in Florida.
Democrats said both the G7 Summit decision and the Ukraine investigation could well become part of impeachment charges against Mr. Trump.