But in his earlier remarks to reporters, Mr. Mulvaney pointed to “three issues” that explained why officials withheld the aid: corruption in Ukraine, frustration that European governments were not providing more money to Ukraine and the president’s demand that Kiev officials investigate the issue of the Democratic National Committee server.
“Did he also mention to me in passing the corruption related to the D.N.C. server?” Mr. Mulvaney said, referring to Mr. Trump. “Absolutely. No question about that.” He added, “That’s why we held up the money.”
Democrats ridiculed the reversal.
“Mick Mulvaney was either lying then, or he’s lying now,” said Representative Ted Lieu, a California Democrat involved in the inquiry. “I think he’s lying now.”
At the White House, staff members recognized that Mr. Mulvaney had created an entirely new controversy with his remarks. Jay Sekulow, one of Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers, said Thursday, “The president’s legal counsel was not involved in acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s press briefing.”
Mr. Mulvaney’s performance headlined another extraordinary day in Mr. Trump’s presidency. Mr. Mulvaney made his remarks after he stepped before the cameras to announce that the leaders of the Group of 7 nations would meet in June at Mr. Trump’s golf resort in South Florida, even as he acknowledged the choice could be seen as self-enrichment. In Texas, Mr. Trump hailed a Middle East cease-fire that would cement Turkey’s goal of pushing Kurds from Northern Syria as “a great day for civilization.”
And on Capitol Hill, Gordon D. Sondland, the president’s ambassador to the European Union and a wealthy donor to Mr. Trump’s campaign, was implicating the president in the Ukraine scandal by telling lawmakers that Mr. Trump had delegated Ukraine policy to his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani.
Mr. Sondland testified behind closed doors for more than six hours, the latest in a series of current and former diplomats and White House aides who have provided detailed accounts of actions by Mr. Giuliani and others related to Ukraine.