House

GOP lawmaker responds to Mulvaney: 'Are we trying to exculpate Russia?'

Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) on Friday knocked unproven election interference allegations against Ukraine that have been floated by President Trump and his personal lawyer recently.

During an appearance on CNN, the GOP lawmaker was asked about Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) comments from a contentious meeting with Trump at the White House earlier this week in which she reportedly said, "All roads lead to Putin."

Rooney, a member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, said he was "skeptical" about her comments but pushed back on the unproven election interference allegations from 2016 linking Ukraine to a Democratic National Committee (DNC) server.

"I've got to say, this business about the Ukraine server, which no one had ever heard about until it was mentioned recently tells me - What, are we trying to exculpate Russia?" Rooney told CNN's Poppy Harlow.

"All of our trained intelligence officials have consistently corroborated that Russia was behind the election meddling, not the Ukraine," Rooney added.

In a press briefing Thursday, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney acknowledged that aid to Ukraine was tied to Trump wanting to investigate the hack of a DNC server during the 2016 presidential election.

The White House official was referring to unsubstantiated allegations that Ukraine, and not Russia, was involved in the hack of the DNC server in 2016.

"The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the things that he [Trump] was worried about in corruption with that nation. And that is absolutely appropriate," Mulvaney told reporters at the White House.

Mulvaney later sought to walk back his remarks, saying in a statement that "there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election."

"The president never told me to withhold any money until the Ukrainians did anything related to the server," he said.

Trump has repeatedly said that there was no quid pro quo between himself and Ukraine and that his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in late July was "perfect."

During the call, Trump asked the Ukrainian leader to look into the server and the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, which the DNC hired in 2016 to investigate the hacking of its emails. The U.S. intelligence community later attributed the hack to Russia.

Outbrain