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The acting chief of staff for President Donald Trump appeared to have made statements on Thursday that confirmed the United States withheld military aid to Ukraine in order to influence that nation to investigate political matters meant to benefit the president directly.
Mick Mulvaney, while speaking to reporters, not only seemed to confirm that a quid pro quo existed, but that it was a perfectly harmless thing to push forward.
“Did [Trump] also mention to me in [the] past the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that,” Mulvaney said, referencing the allegation that Trump wanted Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate. “But that’s it, and that’s why we held up the money.”
Mulvaney said it wasn’t uncommon to withhold aid to affect change in other nations’ policies, citing Central American nations that the administration influenced regarding immigration. “[W]e do that all the time with foreign policy,” Mulvaney said, per reporting from Politico.
Aaaand here's the moment Mick Mulvaney admitted that there was a quid-pro-quo involved in withholding Ukraine aid. He says they held up military aid because Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate the "DNC server." pic.twitter.com/JYvFbPCsil
— Caroline Orr (@RVAwonk) October 17, 2019
But Mulvaney’s comparisons aren’t exactly apples-to-apples: in the Ukraine matter, many have suggested that Trump’s attempts to influence that nation’s leader were to benefit him in the upcoming presidential election, rather than to promote a preferred policy in the government’s interests.
Mulvaney battled back-and-forth with reporters on the matter before saying that this behavior was justified due to Trump’s electoral win in 2016.
“I have news for everybody: Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy,” Mulvaney 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 issue of influencing Ukraine to investigate a political foe, as well as to do so using military aid promised to that country, is what triggered an impeachment inquiry into Trump late last month. “The actions of the Trump presidency revealed the dishonorable fact of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said in announcing the start of the inquiry.
We want to hear directly from you, the readers: should Mulvaney’s statements be taken seriously? Do they indicate the president engaged in potentially illegal actions? Or were Mulvaney’s words a slip-up?