“I have news for everybody: Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy,” the acting White House chief of staff told reporters.
Donald Trump’s top aide on Thursday acknowledged that the administration held up military aid Ukraine aid over the president’s desire for a political probe, undermining past denials of any quid pro quo and blowing up weeks of White House messaging amid an escalating impeachment inquiry.
In a whirlwind 40-minute news conference, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters the U.S. funds were withheld at least in part because of a request to have Ukraine investigate unfounded allegations that foreign countries assisted 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 Trump. “No question about that. But that’s it, and that’s why we held up the money.”
He 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.”
The explosive remarks from the West Wing’s senior staffer appeared to equally alarm congressional lawmakers and Trump’s allies.
“I’m starting to get worried for POTUS now,” a person close to the Trump campaign said in a text message following Mulvaney’s briefing. “Total disaster unless there’s some strategy I’m not seeing.”
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), one of the leaders of the Democratic impeachment probe, also had a dour assessment.
“I think Mr. Mulvaney’s acknowledgment means that things have gone from very, very bad to much, much worse,” Schiff said.
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