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Mulvaney steps in it: Can anyone at the White House get their story straight?

Attorney Scott Pilutik wrestles with the news of the day, from a lawyerly perspective…

After Mick Mulvaney’s press conference today, the White House’s official explanations for why Ukraine’s foreign aid was held back have fully gone full circle from…

“No quid pro quo” … to

“It wasn’t the White House holding up aid, it was an ‘inter-agency process'” … to


“We were testing Zelensky for corruption” … to

“Well, yeah, of course it was a quid pro quo but elections have consequences, get over it.”

Mulvaney tried to re-frame what actually occurred by describing it as the White House withholding aid to procure an agreement from Ukraine to “investigate corruption in Ukraine” by then describing only part of what Trump was asking of Zelensky.

The strategy is to describe “Ukraine corruption” to exclude the Joe Biden conspiracy theory, and then just keep repeating that lie, adding how perfectly common this all is in politics. That’s the impeachment defense — either ignore the Joe Biden prong of Trump’s request or recast the personal request as being in the national interest. And then keep saying that everyone does it (which is only true if by everyone you include countries where corruption is the status quo).

Of course, the President is still stuck on the “no quid pro quo” phase, so there’ll be some mixed messaging going on for a bit, but he’ll catch up. And remember — quid pro quo is a red herring. The question isn’t whether Ukraine acceded to Trump’s requests, the question is whether Trump’s requests were an abuse of his office. The impeachable offense occurred when Trump ordered Ukraine’s aid withheld so that he could pressure them into conducting a sham investigation into Burisma in order to hurt Joe Biden.

Neither Trump nor anyone else involved in this shitshow is in possession of any facts which would lead a reasonable person to think that Hunter Biden’s seat on Burisma’s board was a subject worthy of criminal investigation.

Dunno whether Mulvaney’s presser was supposed to knock Sondland’s testimony down the news cycle but that’s kind of what happened, especially since Mulvaney also took time to let everyone know that the G7 summit next year will be held at Trump’s country club, which is yet more corruption.

Regarding this link: Trump advisers and DOJ enraged by Mulvaney remarks

Huh, so maybe Mulvaney wasn’t orchestrating strategy. I just figured because he’s the White House Chief of Staff that of course he’d be doing exactly that. But now the White House is pissed and DOJ is too, reportedly.

Good time to remember that Mulvaney is himself implicated in lots of the witness testimony ongoing, as is Barr over at DOJ. So all these people issuing statements without getting their stories straight aren’t at all disinterested — defending they President necessarily means they’re also defending themselves to some degree. And those defenses might conflict.

While all that was thrashing onward, Pence effectively negotiated an orderly ethnic cleansing on behalf of the Kurds, which orderliness expires after 5 days. News outlets are calling it a “cease fire” because that’s what Pence called it, but that description is way too kind.


Not going to touch that embarrassing letter to Erdogan and the Oval Office theatrics, except to say that we might start hearing more 25th Amendment chatter to rival the impeachment talk.

I still don’t think the 25th is a realistic option even if things get, say, physically violent (his enablers are craven and with respect to impeachment, just as culpable), but I do think the discussions about it will start to become more serious and considered because there’s no one stepping in to stop him from acting erratically anymore. The act will probably get worse as Syria and impeachment spiral further out of control, with the White House unable to prevent officials from testifying and unable to change the news cycles.

If I can play armchair psychologist, I don’t think he wants to be president anymore. He’s not honest enough with himself to admit it, but this is a seriously unhappy person without anything resembling impulse control. The catch-22 is that every option in which he stops being the president is objectively humiliating. Trump has a history of claiming victory even when, say, ordered by courts to pay every dime asked for plus attorneys fees, but saving face might not be possible here, and he may realize that.

So he’s stuck in a devolving loop, and the country is used to and tired of his bag of dumb tricks. But those are the only ones he knows — he’s basically Bart Simpson playing Rock Paper Scissors (“Good ol’ rock, nothing beats that!”). The only way out is through, for everyone involved.

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