GOP leader defends Mulvaney amid backlash over quid pro quo comments

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyHarris introduces bill to prevent California wildfires McCarthy says views on impeachment won't change even if Taylor's testimony is confirmed House Republicans call impeachment hearing 'boring,' dismiss Taylor testimony as hearsay MORE (R-Calif.) on Friday defended acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneySondland notified Trump officials of investigation push ahead of Ukraine call: report Schiff knocks Mulvaney over failure to testify in impeachment probe Lawmakers skeptical of progress on spending deal as wall battle looms 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 TrumpTrump reversed course on flavored e-cigarette ban over fear of job losses: report Trump to award National Medal of Arts to actor Jon Voight Sondland notified Trump officials of investigation push ahead of Ukraine call: report 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 RooneyBipartisan Senate climate caucus grows by six members House Democrat: Taylor's impeachment testimony made 'very clear' there was a quid pro quo New bipartisan Senate climate caucus aims to take 'politics' out of the topic 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.