The latest on the Trump impeachment inquiry
A source familiar with discussions inside President Trump's legal team was baffled by acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney's performance today in the briefing room.
"It was not helpful," the source said.
The source questioned what Mulvaney was talking about when he tied the aid being held up for Ukraine to investigating the Democratic National Committee hack and the 2016 election.
Trump's attorney Jay Sekulow said the President's "legal team was not involved in the acting chief of staff's press briefing."
A source familiar with the reaction inside the President's legal team added: "I think people are a bit stunned."
A senior DOJ official, reacting to Mulvaney appearing to lump in the investigation by US Attorney John Durham into the origins of the Russia investigation with what Rudy Giuliani was doing in Ukraine, tells CNN, “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.”
Justice officials were confused and angry at the White House comments linking the Ukraine aid delay with Durham’s work.
Durham was spotted at the Justice Department headquarters today; he’s frequently in the building since Attorney General William Barr appointed him to review the 2016 election interference investigation.
Rep. Eric Swalwell, a Democrat on the Intelligence and Judiciary committees, reacted to acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney's remarks that aid to Ukraine was in fact tied to President Trump’s wish for an investigation into the 2016 election.
"He co-signed the President's confession, I guess," he told reporters as he left the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility at Capitol Hill.
Swalwell reiterated that Trump still deserves a fair process even though he believes the President has confessed.
"We have a confession from the President," Swalwell said. "When a suspect confesses you can reduce the number of witnesses you need to call, still give them a fair process, but you know, kind of circling in on the timeline and who did what when."
Earlier today, Rep. Adam Schiff told CNN that Mulvaney’s "acknowledgement means that things have gone from very, very bad to much, much worse.”
House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff said acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s comments today mean things are now "much, much worse."
“I think Mr. Mulvaney’s acknowledgement means that things have gone from very, very bad to much, much worse," he told CNN while leaving the Capitol Hill Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility.
Earlier today, Mulvaney told reporters that aid to Ukraine was in fact tied to President Trump’s wish for an investigation into the 2016 election.
Schiff declined to answer further questions including whether he wants to speak to Mulvaney.
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney confirmed that President Trump asked Energy Secretary Rick Perry to work with Rudy Giuliani on policies related to Ukraine, but he denied doing so constituted a “shadow foreign policy,” as multiple witnesses have said Giuliani conducted.
Mulvaney said this took place during a May meeting at the White House that was attended by Perry, Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine.
“The President asked Rick Perry to work with Giuliani,” Mulvaney told reporters at the White House.
Mulvaney added he "wasn’t asked” to work with the President’s personal lawyer.
Mulvaney said the administration was “very interested in trying to get Ukraine as an energy partner,” and said that is why Perry was involved.
He characterized the President’s instruction as: "Yeah, go ahead and talk to Rudy."
Asked about witness testimony about Giuliani’s “shadow foreign policy,” Mulvaney argued that is a “pejorative” term.
“There’s not a shadow policy here. The President is entitled to have whoever he wants to work,” he argued.
Mulvaney argued it was fine for the President to have made the request of Perry because Sondland, who is testifying today on Capitol Hill, and Volker were in the room. However, Ukraine is not a member of the EU and so Sondland’s outsize role, as ambassador to the EU, has come into question during the impeachment proceedings.
Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters today that aid to Ukraine was in fact tied to President Trump’s wish for an investigation into the 2016 election.
When asked about the decision to withhold aid from Ukraine, Mulvaney told reporters that President Trump told him at the time, "This is a corrupt place. Everyone knows this is a corrupt place…Plus, I'm not sure that the other European countries are helping them out either.”
Mulvaney also added, “Did he also mention me in the past that the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that."
When questioned on Mulvaney saying that the White House held up security money from Ukraine until the president got assurances, Mulvaney told reporters to “get over it” saying there are going to be political impacts on foreign policy.
"The corruption of the country, whether or not other countries participating in support of Ukraine, and whether or not cooperating in an ongoing investigation with the department of justice. That is completely legitimate, yes"
A reporter then questioned Mulvaney on his explanation saying it sounds like a quid-pro-quo to which Mulvaney said: “We do that all the time with foreign policy.”
Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney appeared to confirm that the White House was conducting a review of the call between the Ukrainian president and President Trump, which was flagged in an intelligence community whistleblower report.
“If you’re having the House do what they’re going to do, doesn’t it simply make sense for us to sort of try and find out what happened?” Mulvaney asked during a White House news briefing today.
Mulvaney also said there is not an impeachment “war room” at the White House.
However, Mulvaney added, “Yes, we’re having lawyers look at it. Yes, we’re having our PR people looking at it. If we … weren’t doing that, we’d be committing malpractice. But I don’t think there’s anything extraordinary that we’re doing.”
Mulvaney also said the review was not part of an attempt to uncover the whistleblower.
He later added that “no one here had any difficulty with the call. We do think the call is perfect.”
“No one raised any difficulty with me on the call at all,” he continued.
"If we wanted to cover this up, would we have called the Department of Justice almost immediately and have them look at the transcript of the tape? Which we did, by the way," Mulvaney asked. "If we wanted to cover this up, would we have released it to the public?"
Remember: The White House transcript is a rough long of the call and not a verbatim transcript.
Mulvaney continued: "Everybody wants to believe there's a coverup. You don't give it to the public and say, 'Here it is,' if you're trying to cover something up."
"You can stop asking the questions in there because there's no coverup and I can prove it to you by our actions."
Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said it is President Trump's decision whether he keeps Rudy Giuliani as his personal lawyer.
"In light of the depositions that we've heard, do you believe that Rudy Giuliani's role as an outside adviser to the President is problematic?" a reporter asked at a news briefing.
"That's the President's call," Mulvaney said.
Some context: US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland today testified that he was directed by Trump to work with Giuliani on Ukraine and was left with a choice: abandon efforts to bolster a key strategic alliance or work to satisfy the demands of the President's personal lawyer.
Mulvaney said Giuliani's involvement is not illegal.
"You may not like the fact that Giuliani was involved. That's great, that's fine. It's not illegal, it's not impeachable, the President gets to use who he wants to use," he said.
Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, speaking to reporters today, said part of the reason why President Trump withheld money to Ukraine was "the corruption related to the DNC server."
"The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation. And that is absolutely appropriate," he said.
Mulvaney said the Trump administration does "that all the time with foreign policy."
He said Trump also dislikes sending money overseas.
"President Trump is not a big fan of foreign aid. Never has been, still isn't. He doesn't like spending money overseas, especially when it's poorly spent. And that is exactly what drove this decision," Mulvaney said.