Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said on Friday that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney went too far in trying to explain the Trump administration's interactions with Ukraine and "made a terrible mistake."
“His mistake was saying something that was contrary to what the president [Trump] has said. The president has said there was no quid pro quo and that’s exactly what his chief of staff should’ve said,” Fleischer told “Fox & Friends.”
Mulvaney seemed to contradict President Trump’s claim that there was no “quid pro quo” during his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky, by telling reporters at the White House Thursday that the release of military aid to Ukraine was tied to the administration’s demands that Kiev investigate purported corruption by the Democrats during the 2016 presidential election campaign.
When questioned by reporters about the administration’s decision to withhold $400 million in aid from Ukraine, Mulvaney said that Trump told him at the time: "This is a corrupt place. Everyone knows this is a corrupt place ... Plus, I'm not sure that the other European countries are helping them out either.”
Mulvaney added: “Did [Trump] also mention to me, in the past, the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that. But that’s it. And that’s why we held up the money ... The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation. And that is absolutely appropriate.”
Fleischer said there is a thin line that could have been crossed in the Trump administrations dicussions with Ukraine officials.
“If it was all about corruption and that was the only thing the president talked about and Mulvaney talked about, [it's] perfectly appropriate," he said. "But once you bring in the name of your opponent -- Hunter Biden, Joe Biden -- once you talk about the 2016 election, you’ve gone beyond corruption. You’ve made it political, personal. That was the central flaw here we’re all discussing."
Fleischer said the White House press room is the "reddest, hottest room on Earth and you don't take that podium unless you're aware of every implication of every word, every sentence that you say." Mulvaney, he added, made things worse for the White House as Democrats continue their formal impeachment inquiry.
Fox News' Andrew O'Reilly contributed to this report.