Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters on Thursday that President Trump ordered the State Department and Pentagon to withhold military aid to Ukraine in part to pressure the country to investigate interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.
“The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about,” said Mulvaney during a press conference.
When a reporter pointed out that Mulvaney was describing a “quid pro quo” in withholding the military aid package, Mulvaney responded, “We do that all the time with foreign policy.”
“We were holding up money at the same for the Northern Triangle Countries [Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador]…so that they would change their policies on immigration,” Mulvaney continued.
However, Mulvaney denied that Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine specifically to pressure the country to conduct investigations into Joe Biden.
President Trump is currently the subject of an impeachment inquiry by House Democrats into whether he did in fact use military aid to pressure Ukraine to look into corruption allegations against Biden. In July, Trump urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden, over a week after he halted the transfer of $391 million earmarked by Congress for Ukraine’s military.
Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani allege that Biden was involved in a conflict of interest while heading Ukraine policy as vice president.
Biden’s son Hunter sat on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company which had been under investigation by then-Ukrainian prosecutor general Victor Shokin. In 2016, Joe Biden, at the behest of U.S. and European Union officials, pressured Ukraine to remove Shokin, who was himself accused of corruption.