Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney admitted Thursday that the Trump administration has blocked military aid to Ukraine, among other things, to force the country to investigate the Democrats, contradicting the president. American, but retracting in the evening.
Speaking at a press conference on the upcoming G7 summit, Mulvaney admitted that the Trump administration has frozen some $400 million worth of military aid to pressure Ukraine to conduct an investigation. about the origin of the Mueller inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Attempted by impeachment investigations, President Trump has been saying for weeks that his requests to his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, in a telephone conversation last July, were unrelated to the military aid.
“Donald Trump [me] said, “[…] everyone knows [Ukraine] is a corrupt place,” Mulvaney said, citing a conversation with the president.
“What happened in 2016 was certainly part of what worried him about corruption with this country. And that’s entirely appropriate,” Mulvaney said, referring to a conspiracy theory that President Trump adheres to that has been belied by the hard facts of the mainstream US media.
Did he mention to me the corruption related to the computer server of the National Democratic Committee? Absolutely. There is no doubt about it. But that’s it, and that’s why we withheld the money.
Mick Mulvaney, Acting White House Chief of Staff
Donald Trump is convinced that the Mueller investigation stemmed from the collusion between Ukrainian officials and the Democrats, and that the servers of the Democratic Party were not hacked by Russia, contrary to what the intelligence services concluded Americans, and that they would rather be in Ukraine.
“You have just described the requirement of a counterpart,” objected a journalist, a motive that would justify an impeachment of the president.
“We do it all the time with foreign policy. […] I have news for everyone: come back, there will be political influence in foreign policy,” replied Mr. Mulvaney.
The United States often presses for the defense of American interests, allege the opponents of the president, but not to advance their personal interests.
In a statement released later, Mick Mulvaney claimed he had never admitted a counterpart. The president never told me to hold back money until the Ukrainians do anything about the server , he said.
His remarks, however, gave ammunition to Democrats, chiefly the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, who is leading the impeachment investigation.
Mr. Mulvaney’s admission means that things went from very, very bad to much worse [for the President].
Adam Schiff, Chair of the House Intelligence Committee
According to CNN sources, White House lawyers were stunned by Mulvaney’s comments, saying they were not helping the president.
The press conference that put Mr. Mulvaney and his boss in the hot water was convened to announce that the next G7 Summit, scheduled for 2020 in the United States, would be held in one of Donald’s golf clubs. Trump in Florida. The decision has been criticized by both Democrats and organizations on political ethics.
The conversation between Presidents Trump and Zelensky was brought to public attention in the wake of a whistleblower’s complaint, which also revealed that the US president has asked his counterpart to investigate a case. political opponent he could face in 2020: former Vice President Joe Biden, Democratic nomination candidate. It is this exchange that has earned him an investigation into possible dismissal.
Mr. Mulvaney said, however, that military aid was not related to the Biden investigation.
Trump has imposed his lawyer in politics in Ukraine, says a diplomat
The controversy in which Mr Mulvaney plunged the President came shortly after the opening of the US Ambassador to the European Union (EU) Gordon Sondland’s in camera before the three committees of the House of Representatives who are conducting the investigation with a view to the eventual removal of the President.
Under the leadership of President Trump, Sondland has become an important player in US foreign policy in Ukraine, even though the country is not part of the EU. Perceived as an ally of the president, he seemed to distance himself, according to his opening statement, obtained by several American media.
His testimony, which the White House had at first prevented , cast a harsh light on Donald Trump’s choice to dispossess US diplomats in charge of Ukraine of some of their prerogatives, to the benefit of his personal lawyer. , Rudy Giuliani.
Mr. Sondland, who in May 2019 had attended the inauguration of President Zelensky with Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Kurt Volker, then United States Special Envoy to Ukraine , said the three men then tried to convince President Trump of the importance of having a telephone interview with his Ukrainian counterpart. Suspicious of Ukrainians, President Trump would have “ordered” them to talk to Rudy Giuliani.
The information was public and widely commented in the press since last spring, especially as Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York, did not hide in the media that he sought to convince the Ukrainian authorities to revive the business survey.
I did not understand until much later that one of Mr Giuliani’s objectives was perhaps to […] involve, directly or indirectly, Ukrainians in the president’s re-election campaign for 2020.
Gordon Sondland, US Ambassador to the European Union
He also said he regretted the departure of former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, recalled in Washington after a smear campaign led by Rudy Giuliani. Last week, she testified before the same committees, attributing her departure to pressure from the president on the State Department. Gordon Sondland also spoke out against the freeze on military aid, for whatever reason.
If Mr. Sondland appeared to be a diplomat concerned about the relationship between the United States and Ukraine and the fate of Russia vis-à-vis Russia, other US officials who appeared before committees during past days have presented it in a much less flattering light. One of them described Sondland as a potential risk to national security because of his diplomatic inexperience.
The former US envoy to Ukraine, for his part, provided the House committees with text messages in which Sondland claimed that the president had not demanded any compensation from Ukraine and seemed suspicious of the written records that could be left behind. exchanges between diplomats on this file.
Generous Republican donor, Mr. Sondland was appointed US Ambassador to the EU in 2018. If he was not an early ally of the President, he then paid a million dollars to its nomination committee.
Despite the White House’s efforts to block the Democratic inquiry, Sondland is the eighth witness heard by House committees.
Announced Resignation of Secretary of Energy
In addition, President Trump has confirmed the departure of Rick Perry “towards the end of the year”. In recent weeks, the latter had however denied the media articles announcing his resignation soon.
Last week, the Democrats urged him to produce evidence related to their investigation by Friday.
A few days ago, Donald Trump said during a conference call with Republican representatives that he did not want to call the Ukrainian president, but he did it at the request of Rick Perry.
The Associated Press reported recently that Perry, a former governor of Texas, had also sought to convince the Ukrainian president last spring to replace members of the board of directors of the Ukrainian state-owned Naftogaz. candidates he proposed to him.
Daniel Elton, senior editor at American Magazine writes about politics and policy with a focus on climate advocacy. Daniel previously at the New Republic and, and Self. Daniel can be reached by email.