Ron Johnson: Ukraine talks should never have been public

By: - November 18, 2019 12:44 pm
"Ron Johnson" by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

“Ron Johnson” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) appeared on Meet the Press on Sunday to decry the impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump, saying the whistleblower who first flagged Trump’s request that Ukraine investigate the Biden family, even as military aid to the country was delayed, “exposed things that didn’t need to be exposed.”

“Those individuals that leaked this, you know, if their interest was a stronger relationship with Ukraine, they didn’t accomplish this,” Johnson said. “Having this all come out into public, has weakened that relationship, has exposed things that didn’t need to be exposed.”

Johnson, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was on the team charged with delivering aid to Ukraine.

He told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press that he has been asked by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, which is considering impeachment charges,  to write an account of his involvement with Trump administration policy in Ukraine, and said that, while he does not expect to appear in person before the committee, he will submit his written account shortly. “I will lay out what I know,” he said.

Last week Johnson called the House impeachment proceedings “a very sad farce.” He has emerged as a chief defender of Trump, dodging questions about whether he has concerns about the president’s behavior, and saying Trump  assured him that he did not withhold aid to pressure Ukraine into conducting an investigation of Biden. Johnson used his air time in a previous Meet the Press appearance to promote discredited theories about a plan involving Hillary Clinton to get Ukraine to interfere with the 2016 US presidential election.

Ethics experts told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that, given his involvement in Ukraine, Johnson should consider recusing himself from voting in a Senate trial if the House votes to impeach Trump. Johnson responded that he wouldn’t recuse himself but that he would cooperate in a House impeachment hearing if asked to testify. 

“He became a part of this story because of a trip to the Ukraine where he got certain information,” Sen Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis) told WTMJ’s Wisconsin’s Morning News. “He has to judge for himself whether he should play any role in hearing the case should a trial be brought to the Senate.”

On Sunday, Johnson argued on Meet the Press that Democrats were out to get the president and had planned to impeach him ever since he took office. To critics of Trump’s tweet attacking US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch during her testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, he quoted Trump saying “‘My behavior is caused by you,’—the constant torment, I mean, the investigation.”

Chuck Todd read a Johnson quote from before the 2016 election in which Johnson accused Hillary Clinton of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” 

“Why shouldn’t viewers assume that you’re looking at Pres. Trump through a Republican lense here because you were already much tougher, ready to go to impeachment on Hillary Clinton with no evidence?” Todd asked Johnson.

“We are a divided nation, I am highly concerned about that, as I know you are,” Johnson replied. “We need to start undersanding the other person’s persepcteive, and that’s what’s not happening right now.”

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Ruth Conniff
Ruth Conniff

Ruth Conniff is Editor-in-chief of the Wisconsin Examiner. She formerly served as Editor-in-chief of The Progressive Magazine where she worked for many years from both Madison and Washington, DC. Shortly after Donald Trump took office she moved with her family to Oaxaca, Mexico, and covered U.S./Mexico relations, the migrant caravan, and Mexico’s efforts to grapple with Trump. Conniff is a frequent guest on MSNBC and has appeared on Good Morning America, Democracy Now!, Wisconsin Public Radio, CNN, Fox News and many other radio and television outlets. She has also written for The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times, among other publications. Her book "Milked: How an American Crisis Brought Together Midwestern Dairy Farmers and Mexican Workers" won the 2022 Studs and Ida Terkel Award from The New Press.