Nov 18, 2019

Sen. Ron Johnson responds to Republican request for Ukraine information

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

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.

Read Johnson's letter

Go deeper: Inside Republicans' defense strategy for Week 2 of impeachment hearings

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House Republicans seek Ron Johnson's Ukraine account in impeachment inquiry

Rep. Devin Nunes (left) speaks with Rep. Jim Jordan during the first public impeachment hearing, alongside GOP counsel Steve Castor. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

House Republicans are asking Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) for "firsthand information" about Ukraine-related meetings, briefings and conversations with President Trump and EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland.

What's happening: A letter from Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who's leading the GOP case, and Rep. Devin Nunes of California, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, asked Johnson for his recollections after attending the inauguration of Ukraine's president in May.

Go deeperArrowNov 18, 2019

Read Adam Schiff's opening statement in the Vindman-Williams impeachment hearing

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) set the stage with his opening statement in the House impeachment inquiry's public hearing featuring Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council's top Ukraine expert, and Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Pence.

The big picture: Schiff focused on Vindman's and Williams' firsthand knowledge of many of the events at the heart of the impeachment inquiry — specifically the fact that they both listened in on the July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Go deeperArrowNov 19, 2019

Highlights from Alexander Vindman's and Jennifer Williams' impeachment testimonies

Photo: Shawn Thew/Pool/Getty Images

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council's top Ukraine expert, and Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Pence, testified Tuesday morning as the House kicked off its second week of impeachment hearings.

Why it matters: The hearing was the first time the public heard directly from witnesses who listened to the July 25 call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that lies at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Nov 19, 2019