The Trump administration’s upper levels are full of people who are willing to contort in service of President Donald Trump’s ego and behavior. This weekend, to that end, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin went on CNN’s State of the Union where he tried to defend his team against reporting about a whistleblower complaint reportedly chronicling a phone conversation Trump had with the Ukrainian president in which Trump asked eight times for the Ukrainians to try and dig up dirt on the Bidens. Mnuchin got so passionate in his defense of Trump that he absolutely refused to acknowledge any reporting about Trump’s behavior, insisting that it was all fake news and the real issue rested with the Bidens.
The idea from the Trump team is that as vice president, Joe Biden got Ukrainian authorities to fire a corrupt top prosecutor to protect his son Hunter, who worked with a company the prosecutor had been investigating. In reality, there’s no evidence of conflict of interest, and Biden isn’t even the only Western leader who wanted the prosecutor gone — he was widely considered corrupt.
That’s not stopping the Trump team. Mnuchin told host Jake Tapper when asked what he knew about the situation:
‘I haven’t heard that and I would say that you’re speculating on what the president said. I would say these are confidential discussions between two foreign leaders, but I think the bigger issue is Biden came out this weekend saying he’d never had any discussions with his son; his son came out and said he had had business discussions with his father. So I really think the real issue here is not what the president said but what indeed did Biden’s son do.’
The former vice president’s perspective of having never discussed the substance of the business with his son and that son’s perspective of only a very limited reference to the business are not incompatible.
Tapper wasn’t going to let Mnuchin weasel out of questions that easily and asked:
‘Is it okay with you for a president, any president to pressure a foreign leader to investigate a political rival?’
That set off a back and forth where Mnuchin refused to answer. He shot back:
‘You’re speculating that the president pressured. I don’t have any reason to believe that the president pressured in any way.’
Tapper pointed out that “he brought it up eight times,” and “that’s not speculating; it’s in The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.”
Resorting to the “fake news!” argument, Mnuchin replied:
‘So everything in The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal we should assume is always factual?.. Given everything that we have going on this week in Iran and around the world, I find it interesting that there’s so much interest in this story when again — there’s lots of people who listened to this call, it wasn’t a secret that one person was on and said something. Again, people know there were issues that Biden’s son did business in Ukraine. I for one as an individual have concerns about that. There’s really no issue here — I was in principal meetings when we discussed foreign aid to Ukraine. Nothing ever came up that there was any link or anything else. I think things are being implied that just don’t exist.’
.@jaketapper presses Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on President Trump’s call to Ukraine’s president and reports about their discussions about investigating Joe Biden’s son. “I think things are being implied that just don’t exist” #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/oni7mESXqt
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) September 22, 2019
Trump has shown no sign of being deterred.
Featured Image via screenshot