Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Thursday that President Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine until it looked into the debunked conspiracy theory that Ukrainian nationals were in possession of a computer server belonging to the Democratic National Committee.
Asked why the administration had withheld $400 million in military aide allocated by Congress to help Ukraine defend itself from Russian aggression, Mulvaney first cited the president’s desire to make sure Kiev’s government was not corrupt. Then, confirming a quid pro quo laid out in the partial summary released by the White House of Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Mulvaney cited a conspiracy theory involving the DNC server that housed emails leaked during the 2016 campaign.
Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and some in the administration have been looking for evidence that the DNC hack was carried out by Ukrainian agents seeking to help the Clinton campaign, rather than Russians trying to help Trump — which was the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies.
“Did he also mention to me in the past the corruption related to the DNC server?” Mulvaney responded when asked about “Absolutely. Not question about that. But that’s it. That’s why we held up the money.”
In a tone as defiant as the one used by the president he works for, Mulvaney then asserted that there was nothing improper about placing such conditions on military aid.
“I have news for everybody: Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy. That is going to happen. Elections have consequences,” Mulvaney said.
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney
White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney announces that the G7 will be held at Trump National Doral, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 17: Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney answers questions during a briefing at the White House October 17, 2019 in Washington, DC. Mulvaney answered a range of questions relating to the issues surrounding the impeachment inquiry of U.S. President Donald Trump, and other issues during the briefing. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney arrives to answer questions from reporters during a news briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 17, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 08: White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney speaks to members of the media after a House Republican Conference meeting September 8, 2017 at the Capitol in Washington, DC. Mulvaney was on the Hill to push for the Trump Administration's Hurricane Harvey relief and debt limit package. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), holds up what he described as U.S. President Barack Obama regulations during a White House press briefing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, July 20, 2017. Mulvaney has called Trump's tax-cutting approach to the economy MAGAnomics, a spin on Trump's campaign slogan, 'Make America Great Again' and has repeatedly attacked the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for its estimates on the impact of Republicans' plans to repeal and replace Obamacare. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, speaks about 'MAGAnomics' during the daily press briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, DC, July 20, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 21: OMB Director Mick Mulvaney testifies during a Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee hearing on the budget for the Office of Management and Budget on Capitol Hill on June 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - Budget Director for President Donald Trump, Mick Mulvaney explains and defends the administration's 2018 budget to the House Budget Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC Wednesday May 24, 2017. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 24: OMB Director Mick Mulvaney testifies before a House Budget Committee hearing in Longworth Building titled 'The President's FY2018 Budget' on May 24, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Mick Mulvaney, director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB), listens during a House Budget Committee hearing on U.S. President Donald Trump's fiscal 2018 budget proposal in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, May 24, 2017. Trump would dramatically reduce the U.S. government's role in society with $3.6 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years in a budget plan that shrinks the safety net for the poor, recent college graduates and farmers. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 23: Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney holds a news conference to discuss the Trump Administration's proposed FY2017 federal budget in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House May 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. Calling it a 'New Foundation for American Greatness,' the $4.1 trillion budget for would cut programs for the poor, including health care, food stamps, student loans and disability payments while offering big tax cuts for the wealthy. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Mick Mulvaney, director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, center, holds a volume of the fiscal year 2018 budget while speaking with Davita Vance-Cooks, director of the Government Publishing Office (GPO), left, during a tour of the GPO production facility in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, May 19, 2017. Presidentï¿½Donald Trumpï¿½will send to Congress on Tuesday a proposal for balancing the federal budget within 10 years through deep cuts to discretionary and safety net spending, according to a U.S. official. Photographer: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 02: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer (R) walks into the briefing room with OMB Director Mick Mulvaney (L) and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly (C), to brief the media on President Trump's budget, at the White House (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), right, speaks as Gray Davis, former governor of California, listens during the Leaders In Global Healthcare and Technology (LIGHT) conference at Stanford University in Stanford, California, U.S., on Thursday, May 11, 2017. The LIGHT conference gathers leaders from a broad cross-section of executives and top policy makers in the health-care field to discuss the latest developments, challenges and opportunities shaping the healthcare industry. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 16: Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney arrives for a briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House March 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. Mulvaney took questions about President Donald Trump's federal budget blueprint which was released Thursday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 13: U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price (L) and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney talk to reporters following the release of the Congressional Budget Office report on the proposed American Health Care Act outside the White House West Wing March 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. Price said 'We disagree strenuously' with the findings of the CBO report about the Republican's attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
US Vice President Mike Pence (R) delivers remarks before swearing in Mick Mulvaney (L) as Director of the Office of Management and Budget in Washington, DC, on February 16, 2017. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 16: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (C) Mick Mulvaney (L), swears as new Office of Management and Budget Director, as his wife Pam Mulvaney holds a bible during a ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on February 16, 2017 in Washington, DC.
(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 4: Reps. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., left, and Randy Hultgren, R-Ill., attend a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Rayburn Building titled Semi-Annual Testimony on the Federal Reserves Supervision and Regulation of the Financial System,' November 4, 2015. Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen testified. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Discover More Like This
BACK TO SLIDE
When ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl pointed out that withholding aid to Ukraine until an investigation into the DNC server was launched was the very definition of a quid pro quo, Mulvaney responded, "We do that all the time with foreign policy."
Former Trump national security aide Thomas Bossert last month blasted the the president and his aides for pushing the “conspiracy theory” that the DNC server, which was hacked by Russian intelligence agents during the 2016 election, was now in Ukraine.
"It's not only a conspiracy theory, it is completely debunked," Bossert told ABC News.
During his July 25 call, Trump made clear that he placed stock in the story and wanted Kiev’s government to look into it.
“I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike,” Trump told Zelensky, referring to the computer-security company that investigated the hack for the DNC. “I guess you have one of your wealthy people... The server, they say Ukraine has it.”
Separately, Trump and Giuliani asked Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden regarding his son Hunter’s business dealings in Ukraine, now the focus of the impeachment investigation in the House. The administration has maintained that its intent was to root out corruption and that it was coincidental that the allegations it was probing involved a leading Democratic candidate to run against Trump in 2020.
Mulvaney insisted that withholding military aid had nothing to do with that investigation.
“The money held up had absolutely nothing to do with Biden,” Mulvaney said.