Mick Mulvaney provided an in-depth, detailed explanation for the Trump Administration's decision to temporarily withhold aid money to Ukraine. So why is the media only reporting on three brief soundbites?
To ask the question is to answer it.
These are the only three soundbites the media has been running since Mulvaney's press conference Thursday:
1. Did he 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.
2. Reporter: But to be clear, what you just described is a quid pro quo. It is funding will not flow unless the investigation into into the Democratic server happened as well.
Mulvaney: We do that all the time with foreign policy.
3. I have news for everybody. Get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy.
Taken together, these are being used as a powerful admission of guilt--that the Trump White House just readily admitted that it was attempting to bribe the Ukrainian government to open an investigation into the son of potential Trump 2020 opponent Joe Biden by threatening to withhold $400 million in aid.
But they also lack important context, as they were part of a more than six minute answer from Mulvaney that was perfectly in line with the Trump Administration's prior explanations for the holdup in aid payment. The following is what the media has thus far refused to report (with the soundbites that are being replayed in bold):
Reporter: Can you clarify, and I've been trying to get an answer to this. Was the president serious when he said that he would also like to see China investigate the Bidens? And you were directly involved in the decision to withhold funding from Ukraine. Can you explain to us now definitively why? Why was funding withheld?
Mulvaney: Sure. Let's deal with the second one first, which is, look, it should come as no surprise to anybody. The last time I was up here ... I haven't done this since I was chief of staff. Right? Last time I was up here, some of you folks remember it was for the budget briefings. Right? And one of the questions you all always ask me about the budget is what are you all doing to the foreign aid budget? Because we absolutely gutted it. President Trump is not a big fan of foreign aid. Never has been. Still isn't. Doesn't like spending money overseas, especially when it's poorly spent. And that is exactly what drove this decision. I've been in the office a couple times with him talking about this and he said, "Look Mick, this is a corrupt place." Everybody knows it's a corrupt place.
By the way, put this in context. This is on the heels of what happened in Puerto Rico when we took a lot of heat for not wanting to give a bunch of aid to Puerto Rico because we thought that place was corrupt. And by the way it turns out we were right. All right. So put that as your context. He's like, "Look, this is a corrupt place. I don't want to send them a bunch of money and have them waste it, have them spend it, have them use it to line their own pockets." Plus I'm not sure that the other European countries are helping them out either. So we actually looked at that during that time before. When we cut the money off, before the money actually flowed, because the money flowed by the end of the fiscal year, we actually did an analysis of what other countries were doing in terms of supporting Ukraine. And what we found out was that, and I can't remember if it's zero or near zero dollars from any European countries for lethal aid. You've heard the president say this, that we give them tanks and the other countries give them pillows. That's absolutely right that as vocal as the Europeans are about supporting Ukraine, they are really, really stingy when it comes to lethal aid. And they weren't helping Ukraine and still to this day are not.
And the president did not like that. I know [inaudible] long answer your question, but I'm still going. So those were the driving factors. Did he 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.
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. By the way, there was a report that we were worried that if we didn't pay out the money, it would be illegal. Okay. It would be unlawful. That is one of those things that has that little shred of truth in it that makes it look a lot worse than it really is. We were concerned about over at OMB about an impoundment, and I know I've just put half of you folks to bed, but Budget Control Impoundment Act of 1974 says if Congress appropriates money, you have to spend it. Okay. At least that's how it's interpreted by some folks. And we knew that that money either had to go out the door by the end of September or we had to have a really, really good reason not to do it. And that was the legality of the issue.
Reporter: But to be clear, what you just described is a quid pro quo. It is funding will not flow unless the investigation into into the Democratic server happened as well.
Mulvaney: We do that all the time with foreign policy. We were holding up money at the same time for what was it? The Northern triangle countries. We were holding up aid at the Northern triangle countries so that they would change their policies on immigration. By the way, and this speaks to an important ... I'm sorry? This speaks to important point because I heard this yesterday and I can never remember the gentleman who ... Was it McKinney? Is that his name? I don't know him. He testified yesterday. And if you go and if you believe the news reports, because we've not seen any transcripts of this. The only transcript I've seen was Sondland's testimony this morning.
If you read the news reports and you believe them, what did McKinney say yesterday? Well, McKinney said yesterday that he was really upset with the political influence in foreign policy. That was one of the reasons he was so upset about this. And I have news for everybody. Get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy.
Reporter: What about the Bidens?
Mulvaney: I'm talking to Mr. Carl. That is going to happen. Elections have consequences and foreign policy is going to change from the Obama Administration to the Trump Administration. And what you're seeing now I believe is a group of mostly career bureaucrats who are saying, "You know what? I don't like president Trump's politics, so I'm going to participate in this witch hunt that they're undertaking on the hill." Elections do have consequences and they should. And your foreign policy is going to change. Obama did it in one way. We're doing it a different way and there is no problem with that. [crosstalk] Yes, sir.
Reporter: What about the Bidens though, Mr. Mulvaney? Does that come into consideration when that-
Mulvaney: I'm sorry, I don't know your name, but he's being very rude. So you go ahead and ask your question.
Reporter: Just to clarify and just to follow up on that question. So when you're saying that politics is going to be involved, the question here is not just about political decisions about how you want to run the government. This is about investigating political opponents. Are you saying that [crosstalk]
Mulvaney: The DNC server.
Reporter: Are you saying that it's okay for the US government to hold up aid and require a foreign government to investigate political opponents of the president?
Mulvaney: No, you're talking about looking forward to the next election. We're talking-
Reporter: Even the DNC. The DNC is still involved in this next election. Is that not correct?
Mulvaney: So wait a second. So this-
Reporter: So are you saying you're asking to investigate the DNC, right?
Mulvaney: Hold on a second. Let me ask you ... Let's look at this.
Reporter: Is the DNC political [crosstalk]
Mulvaney: There's an ongoing investigation by our Department Of Justice into the 2016 election. I can't remember the person's name. Durham. Durham. Okay. That's an ongoing investigation, right? So you're saying the president of the United States, the chief law enforcement person cannot ask somebody to cooperate with an ongoing public investigation into wrongdoing? That's just bizarre to me that you would think that you can't do that.
Reporter: And so you would say that it's fine to ask about the DNC, but not about Biden. So Biden is now running for the Democratic nomination, right? That's for 2020. So are you [crosstalk]
Mulvaney: That's a hypothetical because that did not happen here. But I would ask you-
Reporter: No. No. On the call the president did ask about investigating the Bidens. Are you saying that the money that was held up, that that had nothing to do with the Bidens?
Mulvaney: No. The money held up had absolutely nothing to do with Biden. There's no question. That was the point I made to you.
Reporter: And you're drawing the distinction. You're saying that it would be wrong to hold up money for the Bidens?
Mulvaney: There were three factors. Again, I was involved with the process by which the money was held up temporarily. Okay. Three issues for that. The corruption in the country, whether or not other countries were participating in the support of the Ukraine, and whether or not they were cooperating in an ongoing investigation with our Department Of Justice. That's completely legitimate. Yes, sir.
Those three soundbites comprise a total of 27 seconds of a more than six minute exchange. But those 27 seconds are the only portion of the press conference that the media is focusing on so as to to advance the narrative that Mulvaney admitted to a quid pro quo when in fact he vehemently denied it.
This is one of the more noxious forms of "bias by omission," in which a news organization (in this case all of them) deprive their audience of crucial context or relevant facts in order to push a predetermined narrative, even if--especially if--the omitted context or facts tend to contradict that narrative.
Even though Mulvaney contradicted the narrative, the media has omitted nearly his entire answer on the Ukraine question so as to make it seem as if he in fact advanced it.