Sen. Ron Johnson responds to Republican request for Ukraine information
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on Monday sent a letter to House Intelligence Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and House Oversight Ranking Member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) outlining his account of President Trump's dealings with Ukraine.
Why it matters: Johnson has previously said that he "winced" when EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland told him President Trump would likely unfreeze nearly $400 million in military aid if Ukraine announced an investigation into the 2016 election. In the letter, however, Johnson said that Trump vehemently denied there was any link between the investigations and the aid and that the president said he barely knew Sondland.
Details: Johnson, who attended the inauguration of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky along with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), said that National Security Council official Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman voiced concerns about U.S. policy toward Ukraine being connected to America's geopolitical competition with Russia.
- Johnson wrote: "I do not know if Vindman accurately stated the NSC's position, whether President Trump shared that viewpoint, or whether Vindman was really just expressing his own view."
- He continued: "I raise this point because I believe that a significant number of bureaucrats and staff members within the executive branch have never accepted President Trump as legitimate. ... It is entirely possible that Vindman fits this profile."
- Johnson said that Trump told him that he was withholding aid because of rampant corruption in Ukraine and the lack of support from Europe and that he attempted to persuade the president to lift the hold.
- Johnson also argued that most members of the administration and Congress who deal with Ukraine disagreed with Trump's attitude toward the country, but that there is nothing wrong with the president setting his own foreign policy and assigning U.S. officials to work with Ukrainians to carry it out.
The big picture: Johnson's letter condemned the impeachment inquiry for "damaging our democracy" and suggested that career officials like Vindman and the whistleblower were working to undermine Trump because of policy disagreements. Vindman will testify publicly in an impeachment hearing on Tuesday.