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Trump aide confirms Ukraine aid withheld so Kiev would probe Dems

TRUMP IMPEACHMENT | 17 de octubre de 2019

Washington, Oct 17 (efe-epa).- Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney confirmed Thursday that President Donald Trump held up military aid to Ukraine in part because he wanted Kiev to investigate a conspiracy theory involving the 2016 US election, thus contradicting the president, who had said that there was absolutely no quid-pro-quo involved in withholding the aid.

Mulvaney's comments are the first official admission that Trump wanted to obtain something linked with the US election when he withheld almost $400 million in aid to Ukraine, a move that is the central element in Democratic lawmakers' impeachment investigation.

"Get over it," Mulvaney said in response to a reporter's question at a White House press conference. "There's going to be political influence in foreign policy."

"That is going to happen," he added. "Elections have consequences."

"Did he also mention to me in (the) past the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely," Mulvaney said regarding a conversation he had with the president. "No question about that. But that's it, and that's why we held up the money."

"I was involved with the process by which the money was held up temporarily, OK?" Mulvaney said. "Three issues for that. The corruption in (Ukraine), whether or not other countries were participating in the support of the Ukraine, and whether or not they were cooperating in an ongoing investigation with our Department of Justice. That's completely legitimate."

Mulvaney was referring to Trump's suspicion that a Democratic National Committee computer server is currently in Ukraine - a conspiracy theory that apparently has no basis in fact and has already been debunked but which the president is still pushing.

To date, the Democratic impeachment investigation has focused, however, on the possibility that Trump had put another precondition on his releasing the aid to Kiev: his demand that Ukrainian authorities investigate alleged corrupt activities in that country by former US Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

Trump has admitted that he pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the Bidens, but he has denied that he held up the release of the aid to achieve that.

Mulvaney insisted that holding up the hundreds of millions in already-approved aid had "absolutely nothing to do with Biden."

Nevertheless, Mulvaney's admission that Trump wanted to obtain details about the DNC is sure to provide new reasons for the Democrats to pursue their impeachment activities even more tenaciously because this is a clear statement that the president asked a foreign power to involve itself in a US electoral matter.

Mulvaney argued that what Trump did is not illegal because conditioning economic aid is done all the time in foreign policy.

He cited as an example the suspension of US aid to the countries of the Northern Triangle in Central America until they agreed to cooperate with Washington to restrict illegal migration to the US.

Hours earlier, the US ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, told Congress that he was disappointed with Trump's decision to involve his personal attorney - Rudy Giuliani - in the relationship with the Ukrainian government.

Sondland testified in a closed-door session to the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday as part of the impeachment investigation on Thursday.

"We were also disappointed by the president's direction that we involve Mr. Giuliani," Sondland told lawmakers, according to the written version of his statement, published by The New York Times.

"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 US foreign policy toward Ukraine," he added.

Trump had denied that his administration pressured Ukraine to get prejudicial information on Biden and, after calling the congressional investigation of him and the Ukraine matter "unconstitutional," he refused to hand over the documents pertaining to the issue that legislators had demanded.

According to his written testimony, Sondland did not initially understand that Giuliani's aim may have been an effort "to involve Ukrainians, directly or indirectly, in the president's 2020 re-election campaign," the Times reported.

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