Make no mistake about it. Mick Mulvaney stood in front of a group of reporters in the White House press briefing room and admitted that, yes, the President of the United States held up almost $900 million in military aid to Ukraine in order to coerce that country into helping him politically.
“We do that all the time with foreign policy,” Mulvaney said with a straight face.“I have news for everybody: Get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy.”
You heard right. Trump’s acting chief of staff not only confirmed that there was indeed a quid pro quo with the phone call to Ukrainian president Zelensky, he then tried to rationalize it by insisting everybody does it. To quote the late comedic actor Leslie Neilson, “Nothing to see here.”
It’s as if the bank robbers, having been caught with the loot in their hands, are now claiming that everyone robs banks. If I didn’t hear it with my own ears, I would never have believed it. It was a stunning admission that in any other administration would’ve meant game, set and match.
Welcome to the age of Trump, where up is down, where everyone is corrupt, and where truth and morality are not absolutes. This is relativism gone amok. Of course, there’s just one problem with Mulvaney’s outlandish statement: it isn’t true; not by a long shot.
Yes, political influence does play a role in both domestic AND foreign policy, and, yes, past presidents have exerted pressure on foreign governments to get them to play ball. But the difference between what Trump did and what his predecessors did is that Trump wasn’t advancing the national interests like past presidents have done; he was advancing his own. And that’s called selling your oath of office. Another term would be pay for play.
Of course, several hours after Mulvaney’s shocking presser, he backtracked by issuing a statement denying ostensibly what he had said earlier. In other words, Trump didn’t like how his chief of staff’s bullshit was being portrayed in the media, so he commanded him to clear it up.
Except there’s nothing to clear up. In an uncharacteristic moment of candor, Mulvaney accidentally let the cat out of the bag. And while he was doing that, across town, Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, was also throwing Trump under the bus. In a statement he prepared for the House Intelligence Committee, Sondland said in pertinent part,
“I did not understand, until much later, that Mr. Giuliani’s agenda might have also included an effort to prompt the Ukrainians to investigate Vice President Biden or his son or to involve Ukrainians, directly or indirectly, in the President’s 2020 reelection campaign.”
As if all that wasn’t incriminating enough, Trump went above and beyond by awarding next year’s G-7 Summit to his Doral golf resort in Florida. Wow, an admission of a quid pro quo and a violation of the Emoluments Clause, both in the same day. That’s what I call killing two birds with one stone, and I didn’t even mention the disaster unfolding in Northern Syria.
No, Mr. Mulvaney, we’re not getting over it. In fact, we’re just getting started.