Shifting explanations from White House alarm some in GOP

Nellie Chapman
October 19, 2019

Also: The White House acknowledged Thursday that President Donald Trump's decision to hold up military aid to Ukraine was linked to his demand that Kyiv investigate the Democratic National Committee and the 2016 USA presidential campaign, a shifting new explanation about events at the heart of the impeachment inquiry. Critics argued earlier during the Biarritz summit that the selection would be a clear violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, prohibiting presidents from accepting payments from foreign countries, USA states or the federal government.

In his news conference on Thursday, Mulvaney insisted that he never held up U.S. aid to get Ukraine's president to investigate Biden.

Mulvaney later denied that he had admitted to the quid pro quo in a written statement.

"There never was any condition on the flow of the aid related to the matter of the DNC server", he said. Mulvaney stated, "Did [Trump] also mention to me in the past the corruption related to the DNC server?"

"Let me be clear, there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election", Mulvaney said. Mulvaney's initial remarks, made during a rare appearance by an administration official in the White House briefing room, spun open a new phase of the impeachment inquiry.

Mr Trump and administration officials had denied for weeks that they had demanded a "quid pro quo" for delivering the U.S. aid, a key part of a controversy that has triggered an impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives against the Republican President.

"If the White House was withholding aid in regards to the cooperation of any investigation at the Department of Justice, that is news to us", a senior DOJ official said, according to The Hill.

In his later statement, Mr Mulvaney offered a different account, saying: "There was absolutely no quid pro quo". Mulvaney then criticized some of the career officials who had been testifying before the House impeachment inquiry.

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Early on Thursday, the focus had been on the upcoming closed-door testimony of Gordon Sondland, the president's ambassador to the European Union, who would be appearing before House committees as part of their impeachment inquiry that had been prompted by Trump's July 25 phone conversation with the president of Ukraine. Ukraine wanted the aid, which the White House ultimately released, as it fends off continued Russian aggression following the invasion and annexation of Crimea.

No sooner had the briefing ended than attorneys - both in the White House counsel's office and on the President's legal team - privately expressed concerns about Mulvaney's performance.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said Mulvaney "co-signed the president's confession".

"The fact that he said that openly is either a brazen admission or they just don't know the law", said Democratic Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi.

Mick Mulvaney went on to continue to defend the administration's actions.

The president said he had confidence in his acting chief of staff.

But former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who ran against Trump in the 2016 Republican primary, said he now supports impeaching the president. I will say it was like you had the Nixon tapes played out in front of the press for everyone to see because this was the smoking gun, ' Scarborough added.

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