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Mick Mulvaney's deeply cringey defense of his quid pro quo comments

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney is flailing these days as he tries to appease his boss -- and keep his job -- with a series of less-than-impressive TV interviews.

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Analysis by Chris Cillizza
, CNN Editor-at-large
CNN — Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney is flailing these days as he tries to appease his boss -- and keep his job -- with a series of less-than-impressive TV interviews.

The latest and most painful came on Sunday, when Mulvaney sat down with "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace.

Mulvaney's attempt to rewrite recent history was repeatedly crushed by Wallace -- and the fact that the White House chief of staff was on video saying things just days ago that he was now trying to run away from.

The two biggest laugh-out-loud moments (in a laugh-to-keep-from-crying way) were these:

1) Mulvaney kept insisting that he, in his press conference on Thursday, had laid out two reasons for the holding-up of military aid to Ukraine: corruption in Ukraine and the fact that European nations might not be paying their fair share. But, as Wallace reminded Mulvaney, the chief of staff had repeatedly said there were three reasons for the withholding of military aid -- the two he mentioned with Wallace and, in Mulvaney's own words: "whether or not they were cooperating in an ongoing investigation with our Department of Justice. That's completely legitimate."

2) Mulvaney tried to make the case that, because he didn't actually say the words "quid pro quo" in relation to getting Ukraine to look into the whereabouts of the Democratic National Committee's server, he was in the clear. Here's that exchange:

WALLACE: You were asked specifically by Jonathan Karl, was investigating Democrats one of the conditions for holding up the aide?


WALLACE: Was that part of the quid pro quo? And you said, it happens all the time.

MULVANEY: Yes. But go back and watch what I said before that. I don't know if you guys can cue it or not. There was a long answer about corruption and a long answer about foreign aid.

WALLACE: No, you totally said that.

MULVANEY: Just like I told you then, and then I said the exact same thing I just said now, which is that he mentioned in passing yes, but the reason that we held back the aid with the two reasons I mentioned. And I can prove it to you. The aid flowed.

Again, Mulvaney's actual words in that Thursday press conference prove him wrong. "Did he also mention to me in passing the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely," Mulvaney said last Thursday about Trump. "No question about that. But that's it, and that's why we held up the money."

To which Karl noted: "What you just described is a quid-pro-quo: the funding will not flow unless you're getting an investigation into the Democratic server happened as well." Responded Mulvaney: "We do that all the time with foreign policy."

Like, come on man. This is just dumb stuff. Everyone paying any attention knows what you said. Maybe wait a week to try to walk back things when there is video of you saying the opposite?

Of course, it's obvious what Mulvaney is doing. He's performing for an audience of one -- the President of the United States.

And he is doing so under duress. According to CNN reporting, there was an internal effort to get rid of Mulvaney just before House Democrats moved forward with their formal impeachment investigation. He did himself no favors with that Thursday press conference either, and reporting suggests that Trump wasn't thrilled with the performance. (What a surprise!)

Mulvaney is trying to save his job. And he knows the best way to do that is to suggest that the real problem with his admission that there was a quid pro quo with Ukraine is to blame it all on the media: They twisted my words! I didn't say what they said I said.

But here's the thing: We can all see the receipts. Or more accurately in this case, the recordings. Sorry, Mick.

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