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Mulvaney's words on Ukraine undercut impeachment strategy, rattle allies

(SOUNDBITE) (English) ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF MICK MULVANEY, SAYING:

"Get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy."

The White House doing damage control, after an apparent admission from acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney that President Donald Trump wanted a political favor from Ukraine in exchange for nearly $400 million dollars in military aid.

REPORTER: "So the demand for an investigation into the Democrats was part of the reason that he ordered to withhold funding to Ukraine?"

MULVANEY: "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."

REPORTER: "Withholding the funding?"

MULVANEY: "Yeah, which ultimately then flowed..."

REPORTER: "But to be clear, what you just described is a quid pro quo. It is, funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happened as well."

MULVANEY: "We do - we do that all the time with foreign policy."

The remarks come after weeks of Trump denying there was any quid pro quo with Ukraine...

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, SAYING:

"No pro quo."

...and effectively tie Trump's decision to withhold the aid to his desire for an investigation by Ukraine into a debunked theory that a Democratic National Committee computer server was held in Ukraine.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF MICK MULVANEY, SAYING:

"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."

But after Thursday's press conference, Mulvaney tried to reverse his comments, saying in a statement "there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election."

Nevertheless, those comments left Republican allies flummoxed and frustrated, as the press briefing appeared to undercut a popular GOP talking point.

Republicans Senator Lisa Murkowski, was quoted in media reports as saying: "You don't hold up foreign aid that we had previously appropriated for a political initiative. Period."

Mulvaney maintained in the press conference that withholding the money wasn't linked to an investigation into the former vice president...

(SOUNDBITE) (English) ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF MICK MULVANEY, SAYING:

"The money held up had absolutely nothing to do with Biden."

House Democrats are holding hearings over concerns that Trump improperly pressured Ukraine to investigate Biden, and his son Hunter.

Friday is the deadline for Mulvaney and outgoing Energy Secretary Rick Perry to comply with subpoenas to turn over documents related to Ukraine. But the White House still says it is not cooperating with the impeachment probe.