On again, off again. Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney confirmed and then denied that President Donald Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine until that country agreed to investigate the possibility that Democrats colluded with Ukraine to interfere in the 2016 election.
"Did he also mention to me in [the] past the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely," said Mulvaney during a White House press briefing yesterday, referencing an unproven theory that the American cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike spirited a server belonging to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to Ukraine to hide Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 presidential election.
"No question about that. But that's it, and that's why we held up the money," added Mulvaney. The temporary suspension of nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine, he said, was meant to compel the country to comply with Trump's demand for an investigation into this server.
This admission confirmed for many that Trump had engaged in an improper quid pro quo with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, offering aid in return for dirt on Trump's political opponents.
House Democrats have opened an impeachment inquiry into whether Trump offered such a quid pro quo to Zelensky during a July phone call. Mulvaney's statements seem to confirm much of what the legislators are inquiring about.
Trevor Noah on Mick Mulvaney admitted to Trump-Ukraine quid pro quo: "It's like the murder suspect in a Law & Order episode confessing in the middle of the scene" https://t.co/i7aRcaY0BX
— Marlow Stern (@MarlowNYC) October 18, 2019
Later in the day, Mulvaney walked back some of what he said during the White House briefing.
"Let me be clear, 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. The only reasons we were holding the money was because of concern about lack of support from other nations and concerns over corruption," Mulvaney said in a statement released several hours after the press briefing, contradicting his earlier statements.
The reversal hardly looks good for the White House. It marks yet another time that the president's defenders have vacillated between denying that Trump engaged in unseemly behavior and arguing that behavior was fine all along.
A Florida man was arrested and charged with a felony for possessing counterfeit bills—which he says were only props in a rap video.
In July, Alexander Binker, 20, was pulled over in the Miami suburb of West Kendall for reckless driving. During a subsequent search, the cops found fake bills labeled "FOR MOTION PICTURE USE ONLY" in his wallet.
Binker is now trying to get the felony counterfeiting charge against him dismissed, arguing that he never showed any intention of using the prop money to buy anything.
"It's the opposite of counterfeit money, designed with safeguards so it can't be passed off as real. You couldn't buy a jar of mayonnaise with that 'money,'" George Pallas, Binker's lawyer, told the Miami Herald.
The Oregon Court of Appeals has offered a slight respite from the vaping panic. It issued a temporary injunction yesterday that bars the state from enforcing its ban on flavored e-cigarettes and medical marijuana vaping products, according to the Salem Reporter.
A rash of people have developed lung disease, often after using black market THC vape products. So Oregon Gov. Kate Brown directed the two state agencies that regulate vaping products, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), to enforce a 180-day ban on the sale of vaping products.
Such crackdowns, as Reason's Jacob Sullum has noted, are the worst possible way to respond to recent vaping illnesses. Bans on vaping products will shift some consumers to buying black market products that are more likely to make them sick. Others, unable to get the flavors they prefer, might go back to smoking cigarettes.
The Oregon Appeals Court ruling stays only the OHA's ban on flavored nicotine and medical marijuana vaping products. The OLCC's ban on flavored recreational marijuana vaping products is not affected.
- Fighting has continued in northern Syria between the Turkish military, its allied militias, and the Syrian Democratic Forces, despite Vice President Mike Pence's announcement that a ceasefire agreement had been reached.
- Former President George W. Bush has criticized Trump for "isolationism":
George W Bush takes a direct shot at Trump: "An isolationist United States is destabilizing around the world. We are becoming isolationist and that's dangerous for the sake of peace."
— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) October 16, 2019
- Kamala Harris' failing presidential campaign got a little more pathetic yesterday after her press secretary tweeted and then deleted a badly photoshopped image of Harris in a White House meeting being yelled at by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
- George Mason University's Mercatus Center has a new measurement of almost every state's regulatory burden.
- Trump, who assures us that he is deeply interested in rooting out corruption in Ukraine, has also decided to host a G-7 meeting at his Trump National Doral resort in Miami.
- The New York Times is trying to break its bad habit of re-reporting other journalists' scoops without giving them any credit.
- California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have allowed more local governments to adopt ranked-choice voting.