Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney held a press conference today. Mulvaney cited two reasons for the holding up of military aid to Ukraine: (1) lack of a contribution by European countries and (2) corruption in Ukraine. Then he added:
Did [Trump] also mention to me in passing the corruption related to the DNC server?” Absolutely, no question about that. But that’s it, and that’s why we held up the money.
It’s hard to read this as a clear statement that investigating the DNC server was a reason for holding up aid to Ukraine. However, asked if there was a quid pro quo, Mulvaney said, “We do that all the time with foreign policy.” Mulvaney then cited another instance in which the administration held up money in order to influence another country’s policies.
Mulvaney has since denied that there was a quid pro quo in this instance. In the end, the military aid to Ukraine was released.
Democrats and their media allies are treating Mulvaney’s statement as a concession that there was a corrupt quid pro quo. Adam Schiff said that, in light of the statement, things have gone from very bad to worse.
I don’t think so. I’ve been bothered by evidence that Trump may have conditioned aid to Ukraine, or threatened to condition it, on an investigation of the Bidens by that country. But that’s not what Mulvaney “confessed” to today. Mulvaney was talking about a link between aid and an investigation regarding foreign involvement in the 2016 election.
There’s a big difference. With the Bidens, we’re talking about possibly conditioning U.S. policy on a foreign government agreeing to investigate President Trump’s political rival. In that case, moreover, there was no active Justice Department investigation of the Bidens (to my knowledge, anyway).
Furthermore, the national interest in investigating corrupt conduct by Hunter Biden is basically nil. As to Joe Biden, he had already admitted to conditioning aid to Ukraine on firing a prosecutor who may have been about to investigate his son. There might be some dispute about Biden’s state of mind when he made the threat, but that’s not something Ukraine was in a good position to explore.
The 2016 election is a different matter. As I understand it, there is an active Justice Department investigation into possible Ukrainian interference in that event. And that investigation does not pertain to any political rival of the president.
The outcome of the investigation might redound to Trump’s benefit (or it might not). But the Mueller investigation might have redounded to the Democrats’ benefit. That was no reason not to investigate and not to pressure other countries to cooperate (as Democrats did with Ukraine in furtherance of Mueller’s investigation).
There is a clear national interest in investigating foreign interference in the 2016 election. If not, why did Mueller spend large amounts of time and money investigating that subject?
The Mueller investigation pertained to Russian interference. But interference in our election and political process by Ukraine, if it occurred, should also be a matter of concern, as the Democrats would be insisting if it served their interest to do.
Mulvaney has tried to walk back his remarks on this matter — understandably so, given the outcry by Democrats and their media pals. From Trump’s perspective, the statement was “unhelpful,” to say the least.
But even with no walk-back, and assuming the worst, we are left with Trump using military aid as a means of pressuring Ukraine to cooperate with an existing U.S. investigation (as I understand it) into a serious matter — foreign interference in our election. Moreover, the aid was not withheld.
I see little, if anything, wrong with that.