For weeks, Donald Trump and his team tried to pretend the White House didn’t orchestrate a quid pro quo with Ukraine. Those rhetorical efforts were belied by overwhelming evidence, but that was the message and the president and his aides tried to stick to it.
That is, until yesterday, when acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, in a stunning display, effectively confessed, acknowledging the quid pro quo in no uncertain terms.
And while that was certainly unexpected, observers were equally surprised when the South Carolina Republican reversed course a few hours later, issuing a statement that said the opposite of what Mulvaney had said on camera earlier that afternoon.
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on Thursday walked back comments he made earlier in the day suggesting that President Donald Trump held up military aid to Ukraine until it moved to investigate a conspiracy involving the 2016 U.S. election.
“There was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election,” he said in a statement contradicting remarks he made during an earlier press briefing.
The need for the humiliating “clarification,” for lack of a better word, was obvious. Mulvaney announced that the White House deliberately crafted a scheme in which it delayed military aid to a vulnerable ally in order to force the foreign country to participate in a political scheme for Donald Trump. The president’s chief of staff not only confessed, Mulvaney insisted the White House’s misdeeds were unimportant.
“Get over it,” he said.
A congressional Republican told the Washington Post that Mulvaney’s comments were “totally inexplicable,” adding, “He literally said the thing the president and everyone else said did not happen.”
The use of the word “literally” is relevant. Political figures often use vague rhetoric, giving themselves some wiggle room in the event of a controversy. Mulvaney, however, was candid and explicit yesterday.
His exact words were, “That’s why we held up the money.” In context, Mulvaney was explaining the details of the president’s scheme in which the White House delayed military aid in order to pressure Ukraine into pursuing a political goal for Trump.
A reporter told Mulvaney he was explicitly describing a quid pro quo, and the White House chief of staff made no effort to deny it. On the contrary, he confirmed it, to the amazement of everyone involved:
QUESTION: But to be clear, what you just described is a quid pro quo. It is, funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happened as well.
MULVANEY: We do – we do that all the time with foreign policy.
The corruption has been made plain. It’s far too late to try to walk to it back.