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

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 19,734,428— Total deaths: 728,612 — Total recoveries — 12,001,537Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 5,036,387 — Total deaths: 162,851 — Total recoveries: 1,656,864 — Total tests: 61,792,571Map.
  3. Politics: Pelosi says states don't have the funds to comply with Trump's executive order on unemployment — Mnuchin says Trump executive orders were cleared by Justice Department.
  4. Public health: Ex-FDA head: U.S. will "definitely" see 200,000 to 300,000 virus deaths by end of 2020 — Fauci says chances are "not great" that COVID-19 vaccine will be 98% effective.
  5. Schools: Nine test positive at Georgia school where photo showing packed hallway went viral — How back-to-school is playing out in the South as coronavirus rages on.
2 hours ago - World

Protests erupt in Belarus after "Europe's last dictator" claims election victory

A man lies on the ground in front of riot police in Minsk. Photo: Sergei Gapon/AFP via Getty Images

Demonstrations broke out across Belarus on Sunday after a government exit poll predicted that President Aleksander Lukashenko, an authoritarian who has ruled the Eastern European country since 1994, had swept to overwhelming victory over a pro-democracy opposition candidate.

Why it matters: It's a precarious moment for the former Soviet republic, where decades of repression and a complete disregard for the coronavirus pandemic now threaten to topple "Europe's last dictator."

Scoop: Inside Trump's debate prep

Trump and Christie. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Two weekends ago, President Trump met with a group of his closest aides in the conference room of his Bedminster golf club to discuss a subject that has been weighing heavily on his mind: the three scheduled debates with Joe Biden.

Behind the scenes: In the room with Trump were his son-in-law Jared Kushner, campaign manager Bill Stepien, senior adviser Jason Miller, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who role-played Hillary Clinton in Trump's 2016 debate prep sessions.