Chuck Ross on November 8, 2019
Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, failed to comply with a congressional subpoena Friday that sought his testimony in the Democrat-led impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.
NBC News and other outlets reported that Mulvaney’s personal attorneys informed the House committees just one minute before his deposition was scheduled to start that the White House directed him now to show. Mulvaney asserted “absolute immunity,” according to NBC.
It was widely anticipated that Mulvaney would not show up for the deposition. White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said Wednesday that Mulvaney would not comply with Democrats’ request for his voluntary testimony. Early on Friday, the Democratic committees leading the impeachment push issued a subpoena compelling Mulvaney to appear.
Trump said during a press gaggle outside the White House that he wanted Mulvaney to speak to Congress, but that White House lawyers had advised against it.
“I don’t want to give credibility to a corrupt witch hunt. I’d love to have Mick go up, frankly,” he said.
Mulvaney is a key witness in the impeachment inquiry because of the insights he can provide about Trump’s decision to withhold military assistance to Ukraine over the summer.
Trump reportedly directly Mulvaney on July 17 to put a freeze on hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance to Ukraine in its fight against Russia. Democrats have alleged that Trump withheld the money in order to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open investigations into Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy firm that had ties to Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.
Trump asked Zelensky during a July 25 phone call to consider investigating the Biden-Burisma issue. He also asked his Ukrainian counterpart for a “favor” in getting to the bottom of Ukraine’s possible interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Multiple State Department and White House officials have testifies as part of the impeachment inquiry. Several of them have said they had concerns that Trump had a quid pro quo involving the military aid. But so far, none of the witnesses have provided direct evidence of Trump saying that Zelensky had to open the investigations in order to obtain the military assistance.
The White House unfroze the funds on Sept. 12.
Mulvaney stepped in controversy during a press conference on Oct. 17 when he linked the freeze on military aid to Trump’s concerns about a DNC computer server that Trump believes may be in the hands of Ukraine.
“Did he also mention to me in passing the corruption related to the D.N.C. server? Absolutely. No question about that,” said Mulvaney.
“But that’s it, and that’s why we held up the money.”
News outlets like CNN and The New York Times declared that Mulvaney admitted to a quid pro quo for U.S. aid to Ukraine. But Mulvaney issued a statement after the press briefing disputing how the press characterized his comments.
“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,” Mulvaney said.