GOP leader defends Mulvaney amid backlash over quid pro quo comments

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyTrump's Intel moves spark Democratic fury Overnight Energy: EPA moves to limit financial pressure on 'forever chemical' manufacturers | California sues Trump over water order| Buttigieg expands on climate plan Barr to attend Senate GOP lunch on Tuesday MORE (R-Calif.) on Friday defended acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyWhite House preparing to ask Congress for funds to combat coronavirus: report Tucker Carlson calls out Mick Mulvaney on immigration remarks: 'Dishonest and stupid' Trump furious after officials allowed Americans with coronavirus to fly home with other passengers: report MORE amid backlash over his remarks suggesting that Ukraine aid was connected to the president’s call for the country to launch a probe into Democrats.

McCarthy noted during a press conference that Mulvaney sought to walk back his remarks later in the day on Thursday, arguing the White House official "clarified his statement" and that he "takes Mick Mulvaney at his word for his clarification."

“I think Mick was very clear in cleaning up the statement, that there was no quid pro quo. Everybody has been investigated states, but more importantly, you have the transcript the proof,” the House GOP leader told reporters on Friday.


McCarthy argued that the public now has more information than the intelligence community whistleblower who filed a complaint about Trump's dealings with Ukraine, since the White House later released a partial transcript of the president's July 25 call with the Ukrainian leader that is at the center of the House impeachment inquiry.

“I know people today want to say someone's guilty until they're innocent. We know more than the whistleblower. We have the transcripts of the phone call, the American public has seen it and no one believes he used quid pro quo and there is nothing impeachable in there," McCarthy said.

When asked whether Mulvaney should step down over his comments, McCarthy said no, adding he “takes Mick Mulvaney at his word for his clarification.”

Mulvaney in a statement Thursday seeking to walk back his comments from a press conference earlier in the day blamed the media for the political backlash, saying reporters distorted his remarks as part of “a biased and political witch hunt against President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff blasts Trump for making 'false claims' about Russia intel: 'You've betrayed America. Again.' Poll: Sanders leads 2020 Democratic field with 28 percent, followed by Warren and Biden More than 6 in 10 expect Trump to be reelected: poll MORE.”

“The president never told me to withhold any money until the Ukrainians did anything related to the server. The only reasons we were holding the money was because of concern about lack of support from other nations and concerns over corruption," he said in his statement.

Rep. Francis RooneyLaurence (Francis) Francis RooneyOvernight Energy: Trump issues rule replacing Obama-era waterway protections | Pelosi slams new rule as 'an outrageous assault' | Trump water policy exposes sharp divides 2 Democrats say they voted against war powers resolution 'because it merely restated existing law' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi plans to send impeachment articles next week MORE (R-Fla.) expressed strong concerns over Mulvaney’s attempt to flip the narrative, telling reporters his initial admission of a quid pro quo with Ukraine was alarming and can’t be retracted.

“This isn't an Etch A Sketch. You cannot go revise what you say in front of the cameras and say, 'Oh actually, I meant the opposite,’ " Rooney told reporters Friday.

Others expressed frustration about Mulvaney’s messaging fumble providing Democrats with ammunition for their impeachment efforts.

“Never hold a press conference longer than eight minutes. Thirty-nine minutes was too long. And they will get you on something,” a GOP lawmaker told The Hill, stopping short of saying that Mulvaney, a former Republican congressman from South Carolina, should step down.

“I think he thought he could explain it," the lawmaker said.

One House GOP aide said that Mulvaney’s performance was “so bad that it’s plausible he was trying to get fired.”

Scott Wong contributed.