'Confused and angry': Mick Mulvaney's wild admission reportedly caught the DOJ and Trump's own lawyers off guard

'Confused and angry': Mick Mulvaney's wild admission reportedly caught the DOJ and Trump's own lawyers off guard
ABC News
News & Politics

When acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney took to the briefing room and delivered what I've called an "avalanche of confessions," it seems key people were left out of the loop.

One central admission Mulvaney let slip is that when President Donald Trump withheld congressionally approved military aid from Ukraine over the summer, he was intentionally setting up a quid pro quo arrangement to induce the country to investigate the 2016 U.S. election and the Democratic National Committee. (Mulvaney refused to confirm, as is clear from the evidence, that an investigation of Trump's political rival Joe Biden was also on the line.)

Denying the quid pro quo has been an essential part of Trump's defense against the push for impeachment, so this little bombshell seems like something his team would want to know ahead of time.

But CNN's Jim Acosta reported that Trump's personal lawyer Jay Sekulow wasn't a part of making this key revelation.

"The legal team was not involved in the acting chief of staff's press briefing," Sekulow told the network.

Previously, Sekulow has denied the existence of a quid pro quo, saying: "I think it is important to understand we do not have a quid pro quo. In other words, I will do this, you do this. That is absent." Trump, too, has denied a quid pro quo.

Mulvaney defended the quid pro quo by arguing that U.S. Attorney John Durham is himself investigating the origins of the Russia investigation, so, the story goes, Trump was only helping out one of his own departments with the request for a favor from Ukraine. This would, in fact, still be inappropriate, because the president should not make outcomes of investigations dependent on military aid, he shouldn't be involved in specific Justice Department investigations at all, and he definitely shouldn't be involved in investigations that involve him personally.

But it seems Mulvaney's claim even surprised the Justice Department itself.

According to CNN's Evan Perez, "Justice officials were confused and angry at the White House comments linking the Ukraine aid delay with Durham’s work."

“If the White House was withholding aid in regards to the cooperation of any investigation at the Department of Justice, that is news to us.” a DOJ official told ABC News.

"For the DOJ to speak out against the White House -- that is big," said CNN's Shimon Prokupecz. "It doesn't really happen especially with this administration."

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