Supporters of President Trump are told quite often that he is corrupt, incompetent, vile and so on. There’s one place where they can go, every weeknight, to hear a frothing rebuttal of those critiques. “The call in question shows no quid pro quo. Nothing. No funds were withheld from Ukraine,” Fox News host Sean Hannity said on his Oct. 8 show, absolving the president of allegations that he pressured top Ukrainian officials to investigate the Bidens in return for various considerations.

“And, by the way, when President Trump mentions Biden, in a totally innocuous phone call, with no quid pro quo at all, then it becomes a national crisis,” he said in an edition of “Hannity” from earlier this week. “Oh, even he can’t come up with criminality or high crimes or misdemeanors because there is no quid pro quo. There’s nothing wrong with the phone call. No pressure. Everybody, even the Ukrainians say no pressure,” said the host on Oct. 4, referring to analysis by CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin that Trump’s actions don’t appear to be criminal.

No quid pro quo has turned into a mantra on “Hannity” of late, as the host attempts to sanitize the actions of a president who, in his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, lobbied a foreign head of state to “look into” a possible political rival.

Here are key moments from acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney's remarks to reporters about Ukraine on Oct. 17. (Zach Purser Brown/The Washington Post)

It’s no surprise, then, that the performance of acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney in the White House briefing room sent Hannity into a panic. In some abstruse exchanges with reporters, Mulvaney admitted a Trump quid pro quo in his negotiations with Ukraine: “Did [Trump] also mention to me in the past the corruption related to the [Democratic National Committee] server?” he said, referring to a conspiracy theory that the actual intervention in the 2016 presidential election came from Ukraine on behalf of the Democrats. “Absolutely, no question about that. But that’s it, and that’s why we held up the money,” said Mulvaney, essentially confirming a quid pro quo, though not the Biden-oriented quid pro quo that has preoccupied news coverage in recent weeks.

In any case: The very idea that Hannity had been bashing, Mulvaney embraced with attitude: “I have news for everybody: Get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy.”

On his radio show Thursday, Hannity said, “What is Mulvaney even talking about? I just think he’s dumb, I really do. I don’t even think he knows what he’s talking about. That’s my take on it.” This expert on honesty, truth, candor and forthrightness riffed some more: “I guess the truth is complicated. This is what, you know — this is why, I think, some of these people are so stupid. Read the transcript. We don’t need a non-whistleblower whistleblower. You don’t need a chief of staff’s idiotic interpretation of things, when the president and the president of Ukraine and everybody else can read it all themselves. That’s what’s amazing.”

What’s amazing is that Hannity’s world is starting to crack, just a touch.

Think of the pickle in which he found himself: If he credits Mulvaney’s explanation, he discredits the central message of “Hannity” for the past several weeks. If he calls Mulvaney a liar, well, that’s a tough one, considering that such accusation is precisely what he hurls at Trump’s opposition. So he just settled on “dumb.”

For his part, Mulvaney settled on blaming the media. In a statement released after the enormity of his blunder of candor spread within Trump world, Mulvaney explained:

Once again, the media has decided to misconstrue my comments to advance a biased and political witch hunt against President Trump. Let me be clear, there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election. The president never told me to withhold any money until the Ukrainians did anything related to the server.
The only reasons we were holding the money was because of concern about lack of support from other nations and concerns over corruption. Multiple times during the more than 30-minute briefing where I took over 25 questions, I referred to President Trump’s interest in rooting out corruption in Ukraine, and ensuring taxpayer dollars are spent responsibly and appropriately.
There was never any connection between the funds and the Ukrainians doing anything with the server — this was made explicitly obvious by the fact that the aid money was delivered without any action on the part of the Ukrainians regarding the server.
There never was any condition on the flow of the aid related to the matter of the D.N.C. server.

Even before Mulvaney’s admission-then-retraction, there was plenty of evidence that Trump & Co. had sought to tie diplomatic and aid goodies to a Ukrainian investigation of Democrats, as The Post’s Greg Sargent lays out in a timeline. Mulvaney had bumbled his way into the truth. And in the world of Sean Hannity, that amounts to misconduct.

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