House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) shifted the goalposts for President Donald Trump again on Wednesday, insisting that there could not have been a “quid pro quo” in Trump’s interactions with Ukraine because Ukraine never buckled to Trump’s demands.
Speaking to reporters, McCarthy said the exchange outlined by Acting Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor in written testimony on Tuesday was not a quid pro quo.
Taylor said during his opening statement Tuesday that EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland told him that military assistance to Ukraine was conditional upon Ukraine’s president committing to two investigations: One into the Bidens and the other into allegations of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 elections.
“Name me one thing that Ukraine did to release the money. Nothing,” McCarthy said, referring to U.S. aid that Congress had allocated for Ukraine. The money was released in September after public and congressional outcry over the White House’s interference with the funds.
“To have a quid pro quo, you have to exchange, both sides, for another thing” McCarthy said. “Nothing transformed.”
Asked whether it was OK for Trump to demand investigations even if Ukraine did not comply with the demand, McCarthy pivoted to the White House memorandum of Trump’s phone call with Zelensky, refusing to speak about testimony from State Department officials.
“Nowhere in that phone call is there a quid pro quo,” he said.
That assessment is at odds with White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney’s comments during a recent press conference. Mulvaney said that Trump’s insistence on an investigation into a pro-Trump conspiracy theory was one reason the White House withheld the aid. Muvlaney soon reversed himself, and McCarthy clung to that reversal.
“I think Mick was very clear in cleaning up the statement,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy also asserted Wednesday that Ukraine had found out about the withheld aid from a Politico article in late August.
In fact, The New York Times reported Wednesday, an official from the country was told by a Pentagon official in the first week of August that the aid was being purposefully withheld.