Mulvaney 2nd Guessed on Trump Defense 10/21 06:08
WASHINGTON (AP) -- For Mick Mulvaney, the hits just keep on coming.
First, President Donald Trump's acting chief of staff stirred up a tempest
by acknowledging that the administration had held up aid to Ukraine in part to
prod that country to investigate Democrats and the 2016 elections. Then
Mulvaney went on television Sunday to defend his boss in effusive terms --- and
ended up making a new problematic comment.
Explaining why Trump had tried to steer an international summit to one of
the president's own properties before giving up on the idea, Mulvaney said
Trump "still considers himself to be in the hospitality business." That did
nothing to allay concerns that the Republican president has used his office to
enrich his business interests.
The bookended performances over the span of a few days were panned by the
president's allies and cast doubt on Mulvaney's job security at the White House.
Mulvaney denied on "Fox News Sunday" that there was any consideration of his
resignation, "Absolutely, positively not."
At a press conference Thursday, Mulvaney tried to put a positive spin on
Trump's selection of his Doral, Florida, golf resort to host next year's Group
of Seven world summit. It was also an opportunity for Mulvaney demonstrate his
ability to defend the president.
He struggled, in the process offering fresh fodder to critics of a president
already besieged by an impeachment inquiry. He asserted in the briefing that
military aid to Ukraine was delayed partly because Trump wanted officials there
to look into a security company hired by the Democratic National Committee that
discovered that Russian agents had broken into the committee's network in 2016.
"The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that
he was worried about in corruption with that nation," Mulvaney told reporters.
"Did he also mention to me in the past the corruption that related to the DNC
server? Absolutely, no question about that." Mulvaney continued: "That's why we
held up the money." Trump's personal lawyers quickly dissociated themselves
from the chief of staff's comments.
Mulvaney's description of the administration's handling of the Ukraine aid
amounted to a quid pro quo, though he later claimed his comments had been
"That's not what I said," Mulvaney told "Fox News Sunday" as host Chris
Wallace repeatedly confronted him with his own comments. "That's what people
said that I said."
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refused to defend the comments in an
interview Sunday with ABC's "This Week."
"I will leave to the chief of staff to explain what it is he said and what
he intended," Pompeo said.
Mulvaney is unaware of any effort to replace him, according to a person
close to him who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal
conversations. The president has also expressed his support for Mulvaney to the
acting chief of staff's team, the person said. Press secretary Stephanie
Grisham said Sunday afternoon that Mulvaney still has the confidence of the
The news conference on Thursday left aides in the West Wing dumbfounded at
the former South Carolina congressman's performance and some quarters of
Trump's orbit --- the Justice Department and Trump's personal attorney, among
them --- dissociating themselves from his account. The president himself,
already angry that Republicans were not defending him on Syria and Doral, was
also displeased that Mulvaney only made the headlines worse, according to three
White House officials and Republicans close to the White House not authorized
to speak publicly about private conversations.
Still, a swift dismissal doesn't appear on the horizon, according to nine
staffers and outside advisers, who noted the difficulties Trump has faced
attracting and retaining high quality White House staff even before the
impeachment episode. The shortage of viable replacements has kept other
officials in their posts months after he soured on them.
Even before Democrats launched the impeachment inquiry, Mulvaney was on thin
ice, with diminished status in the White House. Holding the job of acting chief
of staff since January, Mulvaney has frustrated aides who saw him as less
willing than his predecessors to challenge the president.
Once Democrats began investigations meant to remove Trump from office,
Mulvaney drew the brunt of criticism from presidential allies who felt the
White House wasn't prepared to fight back forcefully.
He has also clashed with White House counsel Pat Cipollone, sometimes
mentioned as a potential Mulvaney successor, over strategy and tactics in
response to impeachment. Mulvaney has complained that he had been iced out of
the process, which the lawyer was treating as a legal, not political, matter.
Trump's decision late Saturday to reverse course on his much-criticized plan
to host the G-7 at Doral was the latest move that called into question
Mulvaney's job security.
Mulvaney had insisted that White House staff concluded that Doral was "far
and away the best physical facility" and tried to push back at concerns raised
by Democrats and some Republicans that Trump was using the presidency to enrich
Mulvaney said Sunday that Trump was "honestly surprised at the level of
pushback" on his choice of Doral.
That notion struck some Trump allies as hollow, because the uproar was
resounding in August when the president first floated the idea of choosing
Doral. They argued that the president's aides, Mulvaney first among them,
either should have persuaded him not to hold it there or devised a better
"Could we have put on an excellent G-7 at Doral? Absolutely," Mulvaney
concluded on Fox. "Will we end up putting on an excellent G-7 someplace else?
Yes we will."