U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said “there’s nothing wrong” with a phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Dems charge is grounds for impeachment.
But a spokeswoman for the state Dem Party slammed Johnson for those comments, saying “he would rather roll over and spit out Trump’s talking points than defend the constitution he swore to protect.”
“That Ron Johnson has chosen to provide cover for a president who’s abused the power of his office and betrayed our national security interests shows just how much of a spineless partisan Johnson has become since moving to DC,” spokeswoman Courtney Beyer said.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week said the House would begin an impeachment inquiry shortly before the release of a memo detailing a conversation between Trump and Zelensky that Dems alleged showed the president pressured the newly elected leader of Ukraine to investigate rival presidential candidate Joe Biden and his family.
But Johnson, R-Oshkosh, said in an interview with WTMJ-AM’s Steve Scaffidi on Sept. 30 that “I understand where he was coming from” with the inquiry about Biden.
“He was listing a host of issues,” Johnson said. “He was concerned about Ukrainian corruption, and there’s all kinds of questions that are not answered.”
After reviewing a memo detailing aspect of the conversation, Johnson said he believed the call was “pretty gracious” and knocked Dems and “some members of the media” for “putting the worst possible construction on that phone call.”
“I’ve spoken to the president enough on the phone and in person, it’s how he approached his job,” he said. “He’s a New York business guy. He’s different than a Wisconsinite.”
Johnson also addressed a story published by the New York Times that reported the Intelligence Community whistleblower alleged administration officials were told to “lock down” all records of the phone call between Trump and Zelensky on an isolated computer system.
While a memo recounting details of Trump’s call was released by the White House, Johnson highlighted past conversations with heads of state from Australia and Mexico that were leaked to the press. He said those actions were “incredibly damaging” to Trump’s “ability to conduct foreign policy.”
“So it’s just kind of natural that the White House takes that seriously and make sure that those conversations, transcripts of those things are held in pretty high security,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”
The Oshkosh Republican added Russian President Vladimir Putin had expressed hope his conversation with Trump would not be leaked and said foreign policy required “heads of state talking candidly.”
“There’s a reason why this stuff has remained confidential and not open for the scrutiny of the public,” he said.
Quizzed by Scaffidi as to whether the impeachment inquiry would hurt Trump’s chances in the 2020 presidential election, Johnson conceded “it’s hard to say” and pivoted to expressed sympathy for what the president has faced “from his tormentors.”
“We do need to be very concerned if there are individuals in government trying to undermine the duly elected president of the United States,” he said. “I think there’s certainly evidence that that’s what is occurring.”
The appearance came after Johnson and U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, on Sept. 27 sent a letter to U.S. AG Bill Barr requesting the DOJ probe ties between Ukraine and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Johnson and Grassley said in the letter they have “concerns about foreign assistance in the 2016 election that have not been thoroughly addressed.”
See the letter here.