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'Get Over It': Politics Is Part Of Foreign Policy, Mulvaney Says

White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney speaks to reporters in the White House press briefing room on Thursday. [Evan Vucci / AP]
White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney speaks to reporters in the White House press briefing room on Thursday.

Updated at 2:40 p.m. ET

White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney acknowledged on Thursday that President Trump expected concessions from Ukraine's president in exchange for engagement — but said that's just how business is done in diplomacy.

Mulvaney was asked whether it was a quid-pro-quo for the White House to condition a meeting between Trump and Ukraine's president on an agreement by Ukraine to launch an investigation that might help Trump politically.

"Get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy," he said, adding that "elections have consequences."

Mulvaney said that he wasn't involved with the other request that Trump made of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy — to investigate the family of former Vice President Joe Biden.

But in broad terms, Mulvaney further strengthened the accounts formed so far of the Ukraine affair, also including Trump's reliance on his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

Trump, as president, can give assignments to anyone he wants, Mulvaney said, and he faulted Democrats — who are conducting an impeachment inquiry into Trump in connection with the Ukraine scheme — for being disappointed there is no "cover-up."

A whistleblower complaint alleged that Trump pressured Zelenskiy to investigate Biden and his son Hunter. But as Mulvaney observed, the White House released a memorandum of a call Trump had with Zelenskiy on July 25 and has been open about its conduct.

"No one here had any problem with the call," Mulvaney said on Thursday.

Trump told one diplomat inside the administration, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, that there was no "quid-pro-quo" with Ukraine, which Sondland later related to counterparts in text messages that have since been released by Democrats.

But Sondland told House investigators on Thursday that he didn't know in real time about the broader scheme to try to extract the political investigations from Zelenskiy.

In his written opening statement, Sondland also said the account of Trump's call with Zelenskiy that he received included no mention of the Bidens — suggesting, if true, that the White House circulated a sanitized version of the conversation within the administration, and one different from the one it later issued publicly.

At the White House on Thursday, Mulvaney kept up the White House argument that withholding the aid to Ukraine was tied to "cleaning up corruption" in Ukraine — and not connected to the Bidens.

NPR's David Welna has reported that, in May, the Pentagon certified that Ukraine had "taken substantial actions" to curtail the country's corruption.

Mulvaney also announced Thursday that the 2020 Group of 7 conference will be held at President Trump's own resort, Trump Doral in Miami.

As NPR's Brett Neely reports, "The Trump administration's decision to host the high-profile international summit at Doral is sure to stoke the ongoing controversy about Trump's decision to maintain his ownership of his businesses while also serving as president."

NPR's Philip Ewing contributed to this report.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.