Former White House communications director Jen Psaki criticized White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney for admitting to a “quid pro quo” — and then almost immediately conceded that such arrangements were common practice.
Psaki joined Sunday’s panel discussion on CNN’s “State of the Union” discussing Mulvaney’s Friday press conference. (RELATED: CNN Panelist Blasts Racism, Says Chaos In Virginia ‘Has Nothing To Do With Trump’)
Tapper turned the question to Psaki directly, saying that the White House had admitted that there was a quid pro quo: “Ukrainian aid in exchange for an investigation into the 2016 election of DNC server.”
Tapper then shared video of the press briefing, during which Mulvaney claimed, “We do that all of the time” with regard to foreign policy and getting other nations to cooperate in large-scale operations. “And he talked about how aid to the northern triangle, Central American countries came in exchange for them doing something about illegal immigration,” Tapper continued.
“Well, first of all, it was complete malpractice to put Mick Mulvaney in that briefing and in the White House you discuss those decisions over and over again when you decide to put a Chief of Staff out,” Psaki began.
Psaki then argued that Mulvaney had been trying to write off a quid pro quo with regard to demanding an investigation into Biden by suggesting that it was normal diplomacy — in spite of the fact that Mulvaney had directly referenced the 2016 election, not the Bidens. “But I will say, there is a very dangerous kind of combination argument being made, I should say, by people like Mulvaney that the quid pro quo is a normal part of diplomacy and suggesting that looking for political dirt on your opponent like Joe Biden or anyone else and doing that through diplomacy is normal. It is not normal,” she said.
Psaki concluded by conceding that the concept “quid pro quo” — although not always in those words — was, in fact, business as usual when it came to diplomacy. “How it works, you use levers like if you do more work on human rights and you’re better on that, then we may unleash some more military assistance for you. That is in the national interest of the United States. Using it in a political — as a political cudgel is not normal and shouldn’t be send and — shouldn’t be accepted and I’m surprised that Republicans are agreeing to this.”
Mulvaney released a statement after the briefing, saying that his comments had been taken out of context and that the withholding of aid had never been tied to any investigation, whether into the Bidens or the 2016 election. “Let me be clear, there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election. The president never told me to withhold any money until the Ukrainians did anything related to the server,” he said.