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

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In photos: Protesters and police clash nationwide over George Floyd

A firework explodes behind a line of police officers next to the Colorado State Capitol during a protest over the death of George Floyd in Denver on May 30. Photo : Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Police used tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray as the protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd continued nationwide into early Sunday.

The big picture: Police responded over the weekend with force, in cities ranging from Salt Lake City to Atlanta to Des Moines, Houston to Detroit, Milwaukee to Washington, D.C., Denver and Louisville. Large crowds gathered in Minneapolis on Saturday for the fifth day in a row.

Updated 45 mins ago - Politics & Policy

George Floyd protests: What you need to know

Photo: David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

Clashes erupted between police and protesters in several major U.S. cities Saturday night as demonstrations over the death of George Floyd and other police-related killings of black men spread across the country.

The big picture: Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody is the latest reminder of the disparities between black and white communities in the U.S. and comes as African Americans grapple with higher death rates from the coronavirus and higher unemployment from trying to stem its spread.

Massive demonstrations put police response to unrest in the spotlight

Washington State Police use tear gas to disperse a crowd in Seattle during a demonstration protesting the death of George Floyd. Photo: Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images

The response of some officers during demonstrations against police brutality in the U.S. has been criticized for being excessive by some officials and Black Lives Matter leaders.

Why it matters: The situation is tense across the U.S., with reports of protesters looting and burning buildings. While some police have responded with restraint and by monitoring the protests, others have used batons, tear gas, rubber bullets and other devices to disperse protesters and, in some cases, journalists.