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Mulvaney getting second-guessed on defense of Trump

FILE - In this Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, file photo, White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney arrives to a news conference, in Washington. On Sunday, Oct. 20, on "Fox News Sunday," after acknowledging the Trump administration held up aid to Ukraine in part to prod the nation to investigate the 2016 elections, Mulvaney defended Trump’s decision to hold an international meeting at his own golf club, although the president has now dropped that plan. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — For Mick Mulvaney, the hits just keep on coming.

First, President Donald Trump’s acting chief of staff stirred up a tempest by acknowledging that the administration had held up aid to Ukraine in part to prod that country to investigate Democrats and the 2016 elections. Then Mulvaney went on television Sunday to defend his boss in effusive terms — and ended up making a new problematic comment.

Explaining why Trump had tried to steer an international summit to one of the president’s own properties before giving up on the idea, Mulvaney said Trump “still considers himself to be in the hospitality business.”

That did nothing to allay concerns that the president has used his office to enrich his business interests.

The bookended performances over the span of a few days were panned by the president’s allies and cast doubt on Mulvaney’s job security at the White House.

Mulvaney denied on “Fox News Sunday” that there was any consideration of his resignation, “Absolutely, positively not.”

At a press conference Thursday, Mulvaney tried to put a positive spin on Trump’s selection of his Doral, Florida, golf resort to host next year’s Group of Seven world summit. It was also an opportunity for Mulvaney demonstrate his ability to defend the president.

He struggled, in the process offering fresh fodder to critics of a president already besieged by an impeachment inquiry.

Mulvaney asserted in the briefing that military aid to Ukraine was delayed partly because Trump wanted officials there to look into a security company hired by the Democratic National Committee that discovered that Russian agents had broken into the committee’s network in 2016.

“The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation,” Mulvaney told reporters. “Did he also mention to me in the past the corruption that related to the DNC server? Absolutely, no question about that.” Mulvaney continued: “That’s why we held up the money.” Trump’s personal lawyers quickly dissociated themselves from the chief of staff’s comments.

Mulvaney’s description of the administration’s handling of the Ukraine aid amounted to a quid pro quo, though he later claimed his comments had been misconstrued.

“That’s not what I said,” Mulvaney told “Fox News Sunday” as host Chris Wallace repeatedly confronted him with his own comments. “That’s what people said that I said.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refused to defend the comments in an interview Sunday with ABC’s “This Week.”

“I will leave to the chief of staff to explain what it is he said and what he intended,” Pompeo said.