Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney admitted on Thursday that withholding promised U.S. military aid to Ukraine — and subsequently releasing it — was linked in part to a demand that the Ukrainian government investigate supposed corruption by Democrats in the 2016 election campaign.
“It was,” reports the New York Times, “the first time a White House official has publicly acknowledged what a parade of current and former administration officials have told impeachment investigators on Capitol Hill.”
In response to reporters’ questions about the Trump White House seeking information on Democrats from a foreign government, Mulvaney was blunt:
“Get over it,” he said. “There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.”
Reacting to Mulvaney’s comment, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the House Intelligence Committee chairman who is leading the impeachment inquiry, said that the situation has “gone from very, very bad to much, much worse,” reports NBC News.
One of Trump’s personal lawyers said the legal team “was not involved” in Mulvaney’s briefing.
In a July phone call, Trump asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky for a “favor” after Zelensky mentioned the prospective $391 million in U.S. aid.
“That favor included asking Zelensky to probe a baseless conspiracy theory about a Democratic National Committee email server being in Ukraine as well as former Vice President Joe Biden and son Hunter Biden,” says the Washington Post.
The server Mulvaney mentioned referred to Trump’s “discredited idea that a server with Hillary Clinton’s missing emails” — a twist on the Clinton email story that Republicans refuse to let die — was being held by a Ukrainian company.
“The assertion that the DNC’s hacked server is in Ukraine is part of an easily debunked right-wing conspiracy theory that alleges that CrowdStrike, the first firm to publicly release evidence that Russia perpetrated the hack, made up information to fuel the Russia investigation,” reports Axios.
Unsettling as the Ukraine revelations were, Mulvaney’s news briefing Thursday contained another startling announcement. In a decision the Post says is “without precedent in modern American history,” Trump intends to host the 2020 Group of Seven summit at his own Doral golf resort near Miami, thus using his presidential power to enrich himself.