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Mulvaney said U.S. military aid for Ukraine was held up pending Ukraine’s investigation of Democrats.
Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, spoke to reporters during a press briefing Thursday at the White House.CreditLeigh Vogel for The New York Times
Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, told reporters that the release of military aid to Ukraine this summer was linked in part to White House demands that Ukraine’s government investigate what he called corruption by Democrats in the 2016 American presidential campaign.
It was the first time a White House official has publicly acknowledged what a parade of current and former administration officials have told impeachment investigators on Capitol Hill.
“The look-back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation,” Mr. Mulvaney told reporters, referring to Mr. Trump. “And that is absolutely appropriate.”
He said that the aid was initially withheld because, “Everybody knows this is a corrupt place,” and the president was demanding Ukraine clean up its own government. But Mr. Trump also told Mr. Mulvaney that he was concerned about what he thought was Ukraine’s role in the 2016 campaign.
“Did he also mention to me in passing the corruption related to the D.N.C. server? Absolutely. No question about that,” he said. “But that’s it, and that’s why we held up the money.”
Mr. Mulvaney was referring to Mr. Trump’s discredited idea that a server with Hillary Clinton’s missing emails was being held by a company based in Ukraine.
Mr. Mulvaney’s comments undercut the president’s repeated denials that there was a quid pro quo linking his demand for an investigation that could politically benefit him to the release of $391 million in military aid to Ukraine, which is battling Russian-backed separatists on its eastern border.
The death of an impeachment leader raises questions going forward.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi honored Representative Elijah E. Cummings, describing him as a “revered and respected” colleague. Mr. Cummings, one of the most powerful Democrats in Congress, died on Thursday.CreditCreditErin Schaff/The New York Times
The passing of Representative Elijah E. Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, cast a pall over the impeachment inquiry. Mr. Cummings’ signature was one of three on the letters seeking witnesses and information, along with the names of Adam B. Schiff, the Intelligence Committee chairman, and Eliot L. Engel, the Foreign Affairs Committee chairman.
Moreover, his commanding voice and moral authority gave the effort a clarity it might not otherwise have achieved.
His death left practical questions for House Democratic leaders that will have to be answered almost immediately. Will proceedings take a break for mourning? Who will take the gavel at the Oversight Committee? Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York is next in seniority, and has been named the acting chairwoman. But she has not played a large public role in the oversight of the Trump White House. After her is Eleanor Holmes Norton, the nonvoting delegate of the District of Columbia.
Not until No. 6 does a prominent public figure in the impeachment inquiry emerge, Representative Gerald E. Connolly of Virginia, chairman of the subcommittee on government operations. Ultimately, it will likely be Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s call.
Moreover, Ms. Pelosi still must decide what will happen to the Oversight Committee’s main threads of investigation, including the push for financial records of President Trump and the Trump Organization. Will such efforts become a facet of impeachment, or will she focus on Mr. Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival, more the purview of the Foreign Affairs and Intelligence panels?
For Thursday, mourning was the order of the day. Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader, wrote, “As a member of the House of Representatives, Elijah was a leader for both parties to emulate, and someone to share a laugh with even amongst the most contentious times. His presence will be deeply missed.”
Republicans called off a vote to censure one of Mr. Cummings’ allies, Mr. Schiff. It would have failed.
In a news conference later in the morning, Ms. Pelosi said of Mr. Cummings, “He lived the American dream and he wanted it for everyone else. He spoke with unsurpassed clarity and moral integrity when he spoke on the floor.”
Trump ally Sondland will say Giuliani’s goal was to involve Ukraine in the Trump re-election bid.
Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, will tell House impeachment investigators on Thursday that President Trump essentially delegated American foreign policy on Ukraine to his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani.
Mr. Sondland, a Trump campaign donor who has emerged as a central figure in the Ukraine scandal, will testify that he did not understand until later that Mr. Giuliani’s goal may have been an effort “to involve Ukrainians, directly or indirectly, in the president’s 2020 re-election campaign.”
According to a copy of his opening statement reviewed by The New York Times, Mr. Sondland will say that Mr. Trump refused to take the counsel of his top diplomats, who recommended to him that he meet with the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, without any preconditions. The president said that the diplomats needed to satisfy concerns both he and Mr. Giuliani had related to corruption in Ukraine, Mr. Sondland will say.
“We were also disappointed by the president’s direction that we involve Mr. Giuliani,” Mr. Sondland will say in an 18-page prepared statement. “Our view was that the men and women of the State Department, not the president’s personal lawyer, should take responsibility for all aspects of U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine.
President Trump still has friends on Capitol Hill.
At noon on Thursday, supporters of Mr. Trump gathered outside the Capitol to rally against Mr. Trump’s impeachment.
Some of headliners were to be expected: Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 Republican in the House, Representative John Rutherford, Republican of Florida, and Matt Schlapp, head of the American Conservative Union and one of the president’s most dogged defenders,
Others? Well, they certainly have been in Mr. Trump’s orbit. Highlighted for the rally was Jack Posobiec, one of the most prominent promulgators of “Pizzagate,” which held that Hillary Clinton ran a child trafficking operation out of the back of a Washington pizzeria. He also promoted the conspiracy that a young aide at the Democratic National Committee, was murdered for leaking Mrs. Clinton’s emails. In 2017, he disrupted a production of “Julius Caesar” in Central Park, insisting it was promoting Mr. Trump’s assassination.
Catch up on impeachment: What you need to know about the inquiry.
President Trump repeatedly pressured President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate people and issues of political concern to Mr. Trump, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Here’s a timeline of events since January.
A C.I.A. officer who was once detailed to the White House filed a whistle-blower complaint on Mr. Trump’s interactions with Mr. Zelensky. Read the complaint.
President Trump’s personal lawyer. The prosecutor general of Ukraine. Joe Biden’s son. These are just some of the names mentioned in the whistle-blower’s complaint. What were their roles? We break it down.CreditCreditIllustration by The New York Times
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