Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was doing damage control again on Sunday to downplay his comment from days earlier in which he acknowledged that the White House withheld $400 million in aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate the 2016 presidential election.
Mulvaney first shocked reporters at a White House press conference on Thursday when he said Trump dangled hundreds of millions of military aid dollars on the condition that Ukraine would investigate Democrats.
However on Sunday, Mulvaney told "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace that he never used the language "qui pro quo," which is a Latin phrase used as shorthand for a favor granted for a return of something.
"That's not what I said," Mulvaney said. "That's what people said that I said. Can I see how people took that the wrong way? Absolutely. But I never said there was a quid pro quo, because there isn't."
Mulvaney then said the money was withheld from Ukraine because Trump had concerns about corruption in the country and wanted to make sure that European allies were also delivering aid. Wallace pushed back on that point, saying that "anyone listening to what you said in that briefing could only come to one conclusion."
Mulvaney said he could see how people took his comments "the wrong way" but said again that was incorrect because he never used the words "quid pro quo."
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Wallace pointed out in the press conference, Mulvaney said the aid was withheld for three reasons, not the two he listed on Sunday.
"You were asked specifically by Jonathan Karl if investigating Democrats was one of the conditions for holding up the aid, was part of the quid pro quo, and you said 'it happens all the time,'" Wallace said, referring to the ABC reporter who had asked the question in the press conference.
Mulvaney said Thursday that the third issue in the aid money was whether Ukraine was cooperating with an ongoing investigation by the US Justice of Department, which Wallace pointed out, department officials later said was "news to us."
Mulvaney said Trump had previously mentioned the investigations, but ultimately corruption and securing other sources of aid for Ukraine were the two primary factors in the decision.
He also said that the fact that the aid to Ukraine was eventually sent should "put the matter to bed" and he had no intention of resigning over the comment.
"Did I have the perfect press conference, no, but again the facts are on our side," Mulvaney concluded.
In a Sunday appearance on ABC's "This Week," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joined Mulvaney's defense, telling host George Stephanopoulos that he "never saw [mention of quid pro quo] in the decision-making process."
Mulvaney's shock comment Thursday ignited House Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry who are focused on Trump's dealings with Ukraine and are reportedly planning to call two more diplomats for testimony this week.