Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney spoke during Thursday’s White House briefing about Donald Trump’s phone call to the Ukrainian president. Mulvaney made it clear that Donald Trump demanded information or an agreement to investigate the Biden’s, Hunter and Joe Biden, in exchange for the release of U.S. aid monies to the Ukrainian people. Mulvaney almost seemed defiant in the remarks stating “Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.” Mulvaney spoke better about Trump’s corruption and abuse of power than Richard Nixon did during Watergate.
Mulvaney confessed openly and proudly. I know an admission or confession from my days as a former prosecutor. And Mulvaney’s remarks amount to a confession of wrongdoing by Donald Trump. He stated Trump froze aid to the Ukrainian country in exchange for an investigation to find dirt on Hunter Biden and Joe Biden. The remark shows there was a quid pro quo by the Trump administration.
No matter how the Trump administration may spin it, a confession is a confession. Mulvaney stated that no cover-up exists. The lack of a cover-up does not show a lack of illegality. While Trump as president can set foreign policy, it doesn’t allow a president to extort or bribe individuals to assist his political gain.
Trump stated on multiple prior occasions there was no quid pro quo. By evening Mulvaney attempted to retract his earlier statement—more in align with Trump’s position. A retraction of a confession doesn’t retract the illegality of the actions or the earlier statements made. Defending our national security does not mean strong arming countries by holding up U.S. taxpayer aid in exchange for help on a political campaign.
While an impeachment inquiry is ongoing, it appears that Trump and his acting Chief of Staff do not fully have their game plan synchronized. As Mulvaney speaks for the president, his statements carry weight in corroborating the whistleblower’s complaint. That complaint, among others, is the basis of the impeachment inquiry. Conditioning approved Congressional appropriations to a suffering country in exchange for dirt on a political rival in an upcoming election is as much of a quid pro quo as any I’ve ever seen.
There is no need for a quid pro quo for an illegal act to occur. But here we have one. By all accounts, it appears that Mick Mulvaney did not read the Trump memo before speaking. By end of the same day, he attempted to retract and reflect his earlier statement. Too little, too late.
Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and former Baltimore prosecutor.