Mulvaney sure looks like he's on thin ice after destroying Trump's top impeachment defense
Last Thursday, "acting" White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney managed to set fire to one of the White House's top talking points in their defense of Donald Trump: In front of a roomful of reporters and on live television, Mulvaney agreed that there was indeed a "quid pro quo" linking the Trump administration's refusal to release U.S. military aid funds intended for Ukraine to an administration demand for that nation's government to investigate an archconservative conspiracy theory about a Democratic National Committee "server"—an investigation that, like the parallel Trump-Giuliani demand that the Ukrainian government launch a probe into the Joe and Hunter Biden, was based on no evidence but was designed to smear Trump's electoral opponents.
Now come the White House leaks. CNN is now reporting that "multiple sources" told them that Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and other top aides began looking for potential replacements for Mulvaney just before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi formalized the House's new impeachment inquiry. Those efforts were scuttled by the White House's resulting panic, but signals that Mulvaney was finding himself on thin ice even before being publicly enmeshed in one of the biggest presidential scandals in U.S. history.
As with all White House leaks, that this inner-circle tidbit is being leaked to the press is perhaps more interesting than the news itself. "Multiple sources" within Trump's team, likely allied to Jared of All The Things, want to let the press know that Mulvaney was falling out of favor long before incriminating Trump and other administration officials on national television. The leak itself is intended to weaken Mulvaney—and to at least pretend, if Mulvaney is forced to offer his resignation in the coming days, that his departure had nothing to do with the Ukrainian scandal.
Nobody would buy it, of course. But as with departing Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the White House will try to sell it.
In the meantime, Mulvaney continues to suck, and impressively so, at getting himself back out of his current predicament. Appearing on Fox News today to explain himself, Mulvaney insisted that he had never said what he said, leading host Chris Wallace to roll the damn tape.
EXCLUSIVE Interview: Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney joined us live to respond to his remarks on U.… https://t.co/JrVg7DSUro— FoxNewsSunday (@FoxNewsSunday)1571577587.0
He also insisted that the now-cancelled Trump plan to host the next G7 summit at one of Trump's own for-profit businesses was defensible because "at the end of the day, he still considers himself to be in the hospitality business." This is certainly true; Trump still "considers himself" to be a forever-grifting hotel and club kingpin, even while puttering at the Oval Office desk, which is why he has obsessively used his office to steer money and attention to those properties. But it is again not something a Trump "defender" ought to say out loud.
It's difficult to see how Mulvaney gets out of this one intact. Previously a House Freedom Caucus nut, Mulvaney was a partisan frother that nobody, anywhere, could have considered an intellectual giant. But he's also not likely to turn against Trump; Mulvaney is not a witness to the Trump administration's criminal extortion, but a participant.