Trump tied Ukraine aid to US political investigation: W.House

Telegram från AFP / Omni
17 okt. 2019, 21.13

President Donald Trump's chief of staff said Thursday that the White House tied military aid to Ukraine investigating a theory that the country helped Democrats in the 2016 presidential election.

Mick Mulvaney told reporters there was nothing wrong with making the quid pro quo, previously denied by the White House.

He said the US Justice Department itself was probing the allegation -- widely viewed as a groundless conspiracy theory -- that the Democratic National Committee had hidden a computer server in Ukraine that would undermine claims that Russian meddling helped Trump to election victory three years ago.

Mulvaney said that the nearly $400 million in military support pledged to Ukraine was frozen in July because Trump did not want to send money into a corrupt country.

"Did he also mention to me in passing the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that," Mulvaney told reporters.

"That's it, and that's why we held up the money."

"We do that all the time with foreign policy," Mulvaney added. "Get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy."

The admission appeared to add support to the impeachment inquiry in Congress that Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open investigations that could benefit Trump's political standing.

Mulvaney placed the aid freeze in the context of the Justice Department probe into the origins of a prior investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, which Trump has repeatedly labelled a "witch hunt" targeting him.

And he dodged questions over whether the White House pressured Ukraine to investigate Trump's possible Democratic rival in the 2020 election, Joe Biden, or tying that to the aid -- the central focus of the impeachment inquiry.

In a July 25 call with Zelensky, Trump raised both the "server" issue and Biden, whose son Hunter had served on the board of directors of a powerful Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.

"There's a lot of talk about Biden's son," Trump said to Zelensky.

Asked if he personally played any role in pressing Kiev to investigate Biden, Mulvaney said "no."

"I was never in a conversation that had the word 'Burisma' in it," he said.