Mulvaney: Trump campaign's contacts with Russians not about ethics

White House Chief of Staff on 'State of the Union'

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Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday that when it comes to the contacts members of President Donald Trump's campaign team had with Russians during the 2016 election, "the issue is not whether it's ethical."

Mulvaney's comment was in response to statements House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff made last week about the ethics surrounding contacts Trump's team had during the election with individuals offering dirt from Russians. On Thursday, Schiff said, "I don't think it's OK. I think It's immoral, I think it's unethical, I think it's unpatriotic, and yes, I think it's corrupt, and evidence of collusion."

"Again, the issue is not whether it's ethical," Mulvaney told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union, later adding that he thinks "the voters are going to decide about the ethics and morality of the people they vote for on either side."

"People liked (former President) Bill Clinton, even though they might not have thought he was that ethical," Mulvaney said. "That's not the job of the House Intelligence Committee. It's not the job of the House Judiciary Committee. It's not the job of the House Oversight Committee."

He continued: "They're supposed to review the functioning of government. Voters make decisions about the candidates in other places. And, importantly, members of Congress, even if they are the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, don't get to substitute their judgment for the voters."

Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the election did not establish that Trump's campaign or associates conspired with Russia, according to Attorney General William Barr's summary of the report submitted to Congress last week. Mueller's investigation of whether the President committed obstruction of justice did not conclude the President committed a crime, but it also "does not exonerate him," Barr wrote, quoting from Mueller's report.

Mueller did not make the decision himself on whether to prosecute the President on obstruction. Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made the determination the evidence was "not sufficient" to support prosecution.

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