Mul­vaney re­marks irk GOP

Chief of staff es­sen­tially ac­knowl­edged a quid pro quo with Ukraine


WASH­ING­TON — The shift­ing White House ex­pla­na­tion for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s de­ci­sion to with­hold mil­i­tary aid from Ukraine drew alarm Fri­day from Repub­li­cans as the im­peach­ment in­quiry brought a new test of their al­liance.

Trump, in re­marks at the White House, stood by his act­ing chief of staff, Mick Mul­vaney, whose ear­lier com­ments un­der­mined the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­fence in the im­peach­ment probe. Speak­ing Thurs­day at a news con­fer­ence, Mul­vaney es­sen­tially ac­knowl­edged a quid pro quo with Ukraine that Trump has long de­nied, say­ing U.S. aid was with­held from Kyiv to push for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee and the 2016 elec­tion. He later clar­i­fied his re­marks.

Trump ap­peared sat­is­fied with Mul­vaney’s clar­i­fi­ca­tion and the pres­i­dent dis­missed the en­tire House in­quiry as “a ter­ri­ble witch hunt. This is so bad for our coun­try.”

But for­mer Ohio Gov. John Ka­sich, who ran against Trump in the 2016 Repub­li­can pri­mary, said he now sup­ports im­peach­ing the pres­i­dent. Mul­vaney’s ad­mis­sion, he said, was the “fi­nal straw.” “The last 24 hours has re­ally forced me to re­view all of this,” Ka­sich said on CNN.

In Congress, at least one Repub­li­can, Rep. Fran­cis Rooney of Florida, spoke out pub­licly, telling re­porters that he and oth­ers were con­cerned by Mul­vaney’s re­marks. Rooney said he’s open to con­sid­er­ing all sides in the im­peach­ment in­quiry. He also said Mul­vaney’s com­ments can­not sim­ply be un­done by a fol­lowup state­ment.

“It’s not an Etch-a-Sketch,” said Rooney, a for­mer am­bas­sador to the Holy See un­der pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush.

“The only thing I can as­sume is, he meant what he had to say — that there was a quid pro quo on this stuff,” he said.

The tu­mult over Mul­vaney’s re­marks capped a mo­men­tous week in the im­peach­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion as the ad­mis­sion, from the high­est lev­els of the ad­min­is­tra­tion, un­der­cut the White House de­fence and pushed more ev­i­dence into the in­quiry.

GOP lead­ers tried to con­tain the fall­out. But four weeks into the in­quiry, the events around Trump’s in­ter­ac­tion with the Ukraine pres­i­dent, which are at the heart of im­peach­ment, have up­ended Wash­ing­ton.

The En­ergy Sec­re­tary, Rick Perry, who has been caught up in the probe, an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion. A beloved House chair, Rep. Eli­jah Cum­mings, D-Md., a lead­ing fig­ure in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, died amid on­go­ing health chal­lenges.

The march to­ward an im­peach­ment vote now seems all but in­evitable, so much so that the high­est-rank­ing Repub­li­can, Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, pri­vately told his GOP col­leagues this week to ex­pect ac­tion in the House by Thanks­giv­ing with a Se­nate trial by Christ­mas.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has given no time­line for con­clu­sion but wants the in­quiry com­pleted “ex­pe­di­tiously.”

She said Thurs­day that facts of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion will de­ter­mine the next steps. “The time­line will de­pend on the truth line,” she told re­porters.

This week’s hours of back-to­back closed-door hear­ings from diplo­mats and for­mer top aides ap­peared to be pro­vid­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tors with a re­mark­ably con­sis­tent ac­count of the run-up and af­ter­math of Trump’s call with Ukraine Pres­i­dent Volodymy Ze­len­skiy.

In that July call, Trump asked the newly elected Ze­len­skiy for a “favour” in in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee’s email sit­u­a­tion, which was cen­tral to the 2016 elec­tion, as well as a Ukraine gas com­pany, Burisma, linked to the fam­ily of Trump’s 2020 Demo­cratic ri­val, Joe Bi­den, ac­cord­ing to a rough tran­script of the phone con­ver­sa­tion re­leased by the White House.


For­mer Ohio gover­nor John Ka­sich, who ran against Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in the 2016 Repub­li­can pri­mary, says he sup­ports im­peach­ment.

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