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Mulvaney 2nd Guessed on Trump Defense  10/21 06:08

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- For Mick Mulvaney, the hits just keep on coming.

   First, President Donald Trump's acting chief of staff stirred up a tempest 
by acknowledging that the administration had held up aid to Ukraine in part to 
prod that country to investigate Democrats and the 2016 elections. Then 
Mulvaney went on television Sunday to defend his boss in effusive terms --- and 
ended up making a new problematic comment.

   Explaining why Trump had tried to steer an international summit to one of 
the president's own properties before giving up on the idea, Mulvaney said 
Trump "still considers himself to be in the hospitality business." That did 
nothing to allay concerns that the Republican president has used his office to 
enrich his business interests.

   The bookended performances over the span of a few days were panned by the 
president's allies and cast doubt on Mulvaney's job security at the White House.

   Mulvaney denied on "Fox News Sunday" that there was any consideration of his 
resignation, "Absolutely, positively not."

   At a press conference Thursday, Mulvaney tried to put a positive spin on 
Trump's selection of his Doral, Florida, golf resort to host next year's Group 
of Seven world summit. It was also an opportunity for Mulvaney demonstrate his 
ability to defend the president.

   He struggled, in the process offering fresh fodder to critics of a president 
already besieged by an impeachment inquiry. He asserted in the briefing that 
military aid to Ukraine was delayed partly because Trump wanted officials there 
to look into a security company hired by the Democratic National Committee that 
discovered that Russian agents had broken into the committee's network in 2016.

   "The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that 
he was worried about in corruption with that nation," Mulvaney told reporters. 
"Did he also mention to me in the past the corruption that related to the DNC 
server? Absolutely, no question about that." Mulvaney continued: "That's why we 
held up the money." Trump's personal lawyers quickly dissociated themselves 
from the chief of staff's comments.

   Mulvaney's description of the administration's handling of the Ukraine aid 
amounted to a quid pro quo, though he later claimed his comments had been 
misconstrued.

   "That's not what I said," Mulvaney told "Fox News Sunday" as host Chris 
Wallace repeatedly confronted him with his own comments. "That's what people 
said that I said."

   Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refused to defend the comments in an 
interview Sunday with ABC's "This Week."

   "I will leave to the chief of staff to explain what it is he said and what 
he intended," Pompeo said.

   Mulvaney is unaware of any effort to replace him, according to a person 
close to him who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal 
conversations. The president has also expressed his support for Mulvaney to the 
acting chief of staff's team, the person said. Press secretary Stephanie 
Grisham said Sunday afternoon that Mulvaney still has the confidence of the 
president.

   The news conference on Thursday left aides in the West Wing dumbfounded at 
the former South Carolina congressman's performance and some quarters of 
Trump's orbit --- the Justice Department and Trump's personal attorney, among 
them --- dissociating themselves from his account. The president himself, 
already angry that Republicans were not defending him on Syria and Doral, was 
also displeased that Mulvaney only made the headlines worse, according to three 
White House officials and Republicans close to the White House not authorized 
to speak publicly about private conversations.

   Still, a swift dismissal doesn't appear on the horizon, according to nine 
staffers and outside advisers, who noted the difficulties Trump has faced 
attracting and retaining high quality White House staff even before the 
impeachment episode. The shortage of viable replacements has kept other 
officials in their posts months after he soured on them.

   Even before Democrats launched the impeachment inquiry, Mulvaney was on thin 
ice, with diminished status in the White House. Holding the job of acting chief 
of staff since January, Mulvaney has frustrated aides who saw him as less 
willing than his predecessors to challenge the president.

   Once Democrats began investigations meant to remove Trump from office, 
Mulvaney drew the brunt of criticism from presidential allies who felt the 
White House wasn't prepared to fight back forcefully.

   He has also clashed with White House counsel Pat Cipollone, sometimes 
mentioned as a potential Mulvaney successor, over strategy and tactics in 
response to impeachment. Mulvaney has complained that he had been iced out of 
the process, which the lawyer was treating as a legal, not political, matter.

   Trump's decision late Saturday to reverse course on his much-criticized plan 
to host the G-7 at Doral was the latest move that called into question 
Mulvaney's job security.

   Mulvaney had insisted that White House staff concluded that Doral was "far 
and away the best physical facility" and tried to push back at concerns raised 
by Democrats and some Republicans that Trump was using the presidency to enrich 
himself.

   Mulvaney said Sunday that Trump was "honestly surprised at the level of 
pushback" on his choice of Doral.

   That notion struck some Trump allies as hollow, because the uproar was 
resounding in August when the president first floated the idea of choosing 
Doral. They argued that the president's aides, Mulvaney first among them, 
either should have persuaded him not to hold it there or devised a better 
communications strategy.

   "Could we have put on an excellent G-7 at Doral? Absolutely," Mulvaney 
concluded on Fox. "Will we end up putting on an excellent G-7 someplace else? 
Yes we will."


(KR)

 
 
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