Mick Mulvaney, Donald Trump‘s acting chief of staff, confirmed that part of the reason the president withheld aide from Ukraine was to force the country to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden. The statement confirms the quid pro quo during a press conference on Thursday while arguing that politicians engage in this type of foreign policy negotiations “all the time.”
According to Mother Jones, Mulvaney told reporters that the funding to Ukraine was withheld until the country agreed to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. While speaking about a conversation that he had with President Donald Trump, Mulvaney said that the president was worried that the country was a “corrupt” place and didn’t want to send money there unless they could determine what happened in 2016.
“Did he also mention to me in [the] past the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely,” Mulvaney said. “No question about that. But that’s it, and that’s why we held up the money.”
After a reporter followed up with a question to confirm that “the demand for an investigation into the Democrats was part of the reason to withhold funding to Ukraine,” Mulvaney clarified that the investigation into Trump’s political rival was a factor in deciding to administer aid.
“The look-back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation.”
The remarks are a shocking admission that seems to confirm that Trump’s July conversation with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky was using the prospect of aid to pressure the Eastern European leader into launching an investigation into the unfounded allegations of corruption in the 2016 election.
After @jonkarl points out the White House's explanation for its dealings with Ukraine was quid-pro-quo, the chief of staff replies: "We do that all that time with foreign policy."— Josh Campbell (@joshscampbell) October 17, 2019
To those concerned about political influence in foreign policy, he says, "Get over it." pic.twitter.com/AYoTajGLTL
Essentially, Mulvaney was arguing that the White House’s request was a normal political maneuver. But while presidents do make political calculations based on what the fallout could be for releasing aid to different countries, the Trump situation is different. As Mother Jones points out, deciding not to lift an embargo on Cuba because it could hurt them politically in Florida is a reasonable policy decision. But asking a foreign leader to investigate a political opponent for personal gain is an entirely different matter.
As Business Insider reports, it’s the first public admission from the White House that withholding aid from Ukraine was, in part, done to benefit Trump.
The conversation between Trump and Zelensky and Trump’s reported motivation for pressuring the country to investigate the Bidens is the focus of the House impeachment inquiry into the president’s behavior. The president has denied any wrongdoing and has pushed back against House Democrats’ attempts to investigate him.