On Thursday, a top White House official admitted that President Donald Trump had tied military support for Ukraine to Kiev undertaking an investigation that would help Trump politically.
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney’s stunning admission supports a key allegation in the House impeachment effort, that the president illegally sought foreign political help as he seeks re-election next year.
The fact has been called as true by Mulvaney that Trump used the aid to poke Kiev to investigate the allegation, widely viewed as groundless, that the Democratic National Committee had hidden a computer server in Ukraine that would undermine claims that Trump’s 2016 election victory was helped by Russian meddling.
As Ukraine was deeply corrupt, Mulvaney said, Trump wants not to spend nearly $400 million in military aid to the country. Mulvaney told reporters, “Did he also mention to me in passing the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that.”
“That’s it, and that’s why we held up the money.”
Mulvaney suddenly canceled hours after saying “Let me be clear, there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election,” in a statement.
“The president never told me to withhold any money until the Ukrainians did anything related to the server.”
His initial admission appeared to support Democrats’ charges that Trump abused his power and violated election laws. Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman who is leading the impeachment inquiry, tweeted, “Mulvaney just said that US military aid for Ukraine was held up pending Ukraine’s investigation of Democrats.”
“Things just went from very, very bad to much, much worse,” he added.
Mulvaney has supported Trump saying he had done nothing wrong as he acted in support of a Justice Department probe into the origins of 2016 Russian meddling allegations.
He also denied that the fact that Trump tied the aid to Ukraine probing a top Democratic rival, Joe Biden, ahead of the 2020 vote. The allegation of Biden is another important point of Democrat’s charges against Trump. “The money held up had absolutely nothing to do with Biden,” he said.
In written testimony, Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union said that Trump ordered diplomats in May to involve Giuliani in talks with new Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“Mr. Giuliani specifically mentioned the 2016 election (including the DNC server) and Burisma as two anti-corruption investigatory topics of importance for the president,” said Sondland, a businessman who was appointed ambassador after donating $1 million to Trump’s inauguration festivities.
“I did not understand, until much later, that Mr. Giuliani’s agenda might have also included an effort to prompt the Ukrainians to investigate Vice President Biden or his son or to involve Ukrainians, directly or indirectly, in the president’s 2020 re-election campaign,” he said.