White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. | Evan Vucci/AP Photo
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney acknowledged Thursday that U.S. military funds to Ukraine were previously withheld at least in part because of a desire to have the Eastern European nation investigate unfounded allegations that foreign countries may have aided Democrats in the 2016 election.
“Did he also mention to me in [the] past the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely,” Mulvaney said of a conversation he had with President Donald Trump. “No question about that. But that’s it, and that’s why we held up the money.”
Mulvaney added: “The look-back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation.”
Pressed on whether he was describing a quid pro quo with Ukraine, Mulvaney responded that “we do that all the time with foreign policy,” and cited the holding back of aid to Northern Triangle countries in an attempt to affect their immigration policies.
“I have news for everybody: Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy,” he said. “That is going to happen. Elections have consequences, and foreign policy is going to change from the Obama administration to the Trump administration.”
The explosive remarks from the top White House aide seem to confirm that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s receipt of the American funds was presented as contingent upon him launching an investigation into the unfounded allegations of corruption in the 2016 election.
Trump had referenced the conspiratorial charges of Ukrainian interference — as well as unsubstantiated accusations of corruption by former Vice President Joe Biden and his son — during a July phone call with Zelensky that now lies at the heart of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.