Mick Mulvaney admits quid pro quo with Ukraine

The White House acting chief of staff said President Trump ordered him to withhold military aid in part to pressure Ukraine to investigate Democrats.
6:26 | 10/18/19

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Transcript for Mick Mulvaney admits quid pro quo with Ukraine
from acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney admitting this was a quid pro quo to pressure Ukraine. That followed a brazen announcement that the president is sending the g7 summit to his own resort. Jon Karl starts us off from the white house. Good morning, Jon. Reporter: Good morning, Cecilia. Mick Mulvaney is the key player here because he is the official who the president directed to freeze aid to Ukraine, and when he responded to my questions, he was crystal clear about why he wanted him to do it. Did it relate to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that, but that's why we held up the money. Reporter: Mick Mulvaney holding up that the president did nothing wrong. So that was part of the reason he ordered to withhold funding to Ukraine? If you look back to what happened in 2016, certainly was part of the thing he was worried in part with corruption of that nation. To be clear, you described a quid pro quo. It is funding will not flow unless the investigation into the democratic server happens as well. We do that all the time with foreign policy, and I have news for everybody. Get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy. Reporter: Mulvaney's words which he later took back, directly contradicted what the president has been saying for weeks. There was no quid pro quo. There was no quid pro quo. There was no quid pro quo. Reporter: And it seemed to confuse his allies on capitol hill. He admitted military aid to Ukraine was frozen in order to pressure them to investigate the Democrats. That's what he said? Yes. I don't know what that means. Things have gone from bad to much, much worse. Mick Mulvaney said exactly what was going on. There was a quid pro quo. Reporter: All of this unfolded as the president confirmed his secretary of energy, Rick Perry, a main player in the administration's dealings with Ukraine is resigning. The reason, unclear. Rick has done a fantastic job in energy, but it was time. Reporter: About five hours after Mulvaney's press conference, he put out a written statement that effectively denied saying what he said. Mulvaney accused, quote, the media as misconstruing his remarks and then said, quote, there is absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election. That is not what he said at the press conference. In fact, when I directly asked him if this was a quid pro quo, he said, quote, we do that all the time with foreign policy. George, it was interesting that Mulvaney's written statement came after the president's outside legal team put out a statement saying he had nothing to do with the press conference. It was such a big surprise to see him say that about no quid pro quo, but this press conference was called to say the g7 was being awarded to trump. We were back in the dining room, and we had the list. He goes, what about Doral? That's not the craziest idea. It makes perfect sense. They're not releasing the paper, but this is a pretty open admission here, and it's hard to overstate this. This is something we have literally never seen before. The president warding a huge government contract to his own business. Reporter: He said they will do it at cost, and went through a process and looked at a dozen different properties and confirmed the president's recommendation to do it at his own property. It's extraordinary, and may end up being part of the impeoplement process because it's the president doing what the Democrats have accused him of, which is doing something that appears at the very least to be for his personal benefit. Self-dealing. Let's bring in Dan Abrams, and begin right there, Dan because this potentially awarding of the government contract to his own hotel potentially violates the constitution in two different ways. It's called the emoluments clause, and we have put it to the side as of late. Courts have dismissed the lawsuits base on the emoluments clause, and people say this is not what will bring down the president, but this is a direct violation of the emoluments clause. You point out two direct instances in the constitution, and that's a situation where no foreign king or no foreign state is supposed to give a gift or anything of value to anyone in the federal government without -- To the president. Right. Without congressional approval, and there's the domestic one which is more relevant here, which basically says the president's salary is just supposed to be his salary, and no federal or state officials can give him anything of benefit, and the concern was that federal officials would be trying to in effect, pay off the president, give him benefit, and that's the one where you have got the say, if this isn't an example of it, what might be? That's why it will be looked at by the Democrats in the house no doubt. Meantime, this admission from Mick Mulvaney there was a quid pro quo, this had been the main defense against impeachment by the president. Again and again, they said, there's no quid pro quo. Do you need a quid pro quo, et this isn't such a legal issue as it is an issue for congress with regard to potential abuse of power. Once you lose the quid pro quo defense, then the question is, okay. Are we simply saying it's perfectly fine to put pressure on a foreign government not for something that's in the benefit of the United States, but something that's in the benefit of the president? That's what Mick Mulvaney appeared to be saying. Get over, the question is, will all those senators in the house agree? That's the question. Watch the senators. It seems pretty clear that the house is likely to impeach. It seems unlikely the senate will convict. Keep an eye on the jurors. They're angry at the president as I would say in any jury selection, that's not a good there's not a change of venue in this trial. It's happening in the senate. Watch Lindsey graham and others like him. Dan, thanks very much. It was an extraordinary day.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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