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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

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
4 hours ago - Health

Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has picked former FDA chief David Kessler to lead Operation Warp Speed, a day after unveiling a nearly $2 trillion pandemic relief plan that includes $400 billion for directly combatting the virus.

Why it matters: Biden's transition team said Kessler has been advising the president-elect since the beginning of the pandemic, and hopes his involvement will help accelerate vaccination, the New York Times reports. Operation Warp Speed's current director, Moncef Slaoui, will stay on as a consultant.

The case of the missing relief money

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A chunk of stimulus payments is missing in action, thanks to a mix up that put as many as 13 million checks into invalid bank accounts.

Why it matters: The IRS (by law) was supposed to get all payments out by Friday. Now the onus could shift to Americans to claim the money on their tax refund — further delaying relief to struggling, lower-income Americans.

The post-Trump GOP, gutted

McConnell (L), McCarthy (R) and Trump. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Republicans will emerge from the Trump era gutted financially, institutionally and structurally.

The big picture: The losses are stark and substantial.